Step into the Davidson River with a fly rod, waders and a net and you're bound to meet some beautiful fish.
Fly-fishing guide J.E.B. Hall of Davidson River Outfitters in Brevard just might know these Western North Carolina fish better than anyone else.
The 10th-generation Bryson City resident, who penned the Western North Carolina Fly Guide and also has his own independent guide service, boasts an astonishingly comprehensive knowledge of and experience with the local fish. He can tell you precisely what the fish are eating on a given day, where they hang out in different sections of river and how the most recent rainfall will affect them.
Hall's passion for the sport is contagious (the true sign of a good instructor): Even as a complete stranger to the fly-fishing world, not once did I feel it was too complicated for me to grasp. Fly fishing, it turns out, combines all the elements outdoors enthusiasts seek: connecting with nature, the adrenaline rush and, of course, the cool gear.
Closely studying the current while standing in a creek, you begin to think like a fish. You find a rhythm in casting your line and discover that patience elicits an even deeper awareness of your surroundings.
Suddenly there's a pull on your line!
Your concentration quickly narrows to the flailing thingamabob as you pull the line sharply to snare the fish, then more gently as it tires.
Eventually the fish lands in your net — sometimes with ease and sometimes still fighting. Allowing it to drink a bit after a taxing struggle, you admire the beauty of your catch.
"The French Broad through Asheville is one of the best places in the area to fish," notes Hall. Despite having fished streams all over the region, he maintains that the smallmouth bass fishing here is incomparable.
But it doesn't stop there, notes Davidson River Outfitters owner Kevin Howell. "There are very few places in the world where you have so many miles of trout stream in such a small geographic area," he points out. "We have nearly 500 miles of public trout water in the greater Asheville area, not including the additional 700 miles that are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park."
To help fly-fishing enthusiasts navigate these riches, Hall's guidebook details more than 75 fishable reaches in seven different areas. Maps and photos further whet the reader's appetite for getting out there, making it the perfect companion for local adventures.
The guide is available through Brushy Mountain Publishing both in print and as an e-book, and Hall has plans for a navigational component that will provide daily updates on local fishing conditions.
These passionate mentors know full well how lucky they are to call these streams home.
"Once you can master fishing in the small confines of WNC streams and catching Davidson River fish, you can catch trout in any river in the world," proclaims Howell.
[Asheville resident Susan Hollingsworth writes an outdoors blog at http://SusansEvolution.blogspot.com.]