published Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Western Carolina ‘trail’ for trout


by Dan Cook
  • photo
    Photo by Dan Cook Fly-fishing for trout long has been popular in the Toccoa River, shown here, as well as other streams in Georgia, East Tennessee and western North Carolina. Now Jackson County, N.C., has a “trail” for trout anglers.

Fly-fishing for trout had been around long before the 1992 movie “A River Runs Through It” hit the screen. Yet the Robert Redford film featuring Tom Skerritt and Brad Pitt has had a big impact even in the South — far from the movie’s setting in Montana.

North Georgia, East Tennessee and western North Carolina in particular are popular for fly-fishing. But much of the soil in those areas is calcium-deficient, unlike in Montana, where the environment is more conducive to natural trout reproduction.

So state wildlife agencies in the three states annually stock streams with thousands of brown and rainbow trout.

The mountains of Georgia have 4,000 miles of trout streams attracting more than 100,000 anglers annually, and several years ago the Peach State produced a publication entitled “Trout Streams of Georgia.” Copies have been made available at the state’s welcome stations and at Georgia Department of Natural Resources offices.

Many of Georgia’s trout-fishing rivers, such as the Jacks of the Cohutta Mountains and the Toccoa, flow through the Chattahoochee National Forest not far from Chattanooga.

Now Jackson County, N.C., which includes Sylva and part of Cherokee, has developed its own distinctive approach to fly-fishing for trout. That’s the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail — the only one of its kind, according to Craig Distl, Jackson County public relations director. It provides a map of fishing streams plus information on lodging and dining in the area and details of other attractions.

Begun in 2009, www.flyfishingtrail.com had more than 21,000 visits the first year. A total of 14,000 free water-resistant maps were distributed as a result.

The trail concept came from avid angler Bobby Kilby of Pawley’s Island, S.C.; Sylva fishing guide Alex Bell; and Jackson County tourism director Julie Spiro. Kilby has caught trout in more than 1,060 North Carolina streams, according to Spiro. Bell, a retired high school principal, operates A.B.’s Fly Fishing Guide Service.

A highlight of the trail is the Tuckasegee River, which flows through downtown Cherokee and has five of the 15 listed fishing spots. The Raven Fork trophy water on the Cherokee Indian Reservation was added this year.

Distl is one who believes the effects of the movie are still a catalyst in the rising interest.

“It sort of romanticized it, capturing the grandeur and solitude,” he said. “We still feel an impact. And we have a lot of water here that’s public access.”

The tour has just been another good means of stream promotion.

“It’s sort of like a Robert Trent Jones golf course tour for fishermen,” Distl said.

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