Ask any fisherman what their favorite stretch of stream is and you may as well be asking for directions to the moon.
They might tell you what stream they frequent, but as for an exact spot — well, that’s between them and the trout.
For out-of-town fishermen wanting to snag a mountain trout on their vacation who don’t have hours to hang around a fly fishing shop prying locals to reveal their coveted fishing holes, the new Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail Map and Guide is just the answer.
The fly fishing trail spans 15 fishing spots in Jackson County, from wide valley rivers to narrow mountain creeks.
The trail guide was created by the Jackson County Travel and Tourism Authority and Jackson County Chamber of Commerce — with the help of some knowledgeable fishermen.
The trail guide doesn’t go so far as identifying the best spots on a creek, but does get the fishermen in the right vicinity.
“This way they may discover their own special spots,”
said Alex Bell, one of the authors of the trail map and a fly fishing guide. “We wouldn’t want everyone going to the right side of the creek bank 100 yards up. But as a fly fisherman you are able to read the water and look at the surroundings and you can figure out where the trout are most likely to be hanging out.”
Usually, fishermen just need to know where there is a good roadside pull-offs to access a creek without trespassing on private property. Otherwise, out-of-town fishermen are left studying dozens of blue squiggly lines on a map wondering which ones they could actually reach.
“Even if someone tells you such and such creek, you may have passed by it but they aren’t marked,” Bell said.
The other author behind the fly-fishing trail, Bobby Kilby, is famous in trout fishing circles. He’s caught trout in more than 85 of the named creeks in Jackson County. Kilby’s record makes the 15 spots selected for the fly fishing trail sound like child’s play. But Bell thinks they arrived at a good mix: relatively easy access, a variety of water and a good geographic spread across the county.
Bell, 54, retired as the principal of Smoky Mountain High School two years ago. While he now has all day to loaf around on rivers, during his career he snagged whatever fishing time he could. Thanks to the Tuckasegee running through town, he could steal a few minutes on his way home from work.
“I tell people all the time it was my chief therapy,” Bell said. “I had my stuff in the back of the truck and whenever my day finished I would head to the river. It was a way to decompress and relax.
“With fly casting it is all about rhythm and tempo. They always say there is an art and science to it and the combination of the two is very relaxing,” Bell said.