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When people praise the Smokies, it’s often the area’s status as a four-season bonanza of beauty that spurs the discussion. From snow-blanketed winters to vibrant-leafed autumns, these mountains dress to impress year-round.

People sometimes wonder if the prehistoric Cherokees used any sort of poisons on their blowgun darts. These darts (slivers of black locust, hickory, or white oak) were from 10 to 20 inches long with thistledown tied at one end to form an air seal in the blowgun (a hollowed piece of cane cut to a length of seven to nine feet). The Cherokees were accurate with these weapons up to 40 or 60 feet, especially when shooting birds, but there is no evidence they used poisons of any sort on their darts.

All of Western North Carolina is renowned for its fly fishing, and its reputation continues to grow. Jackson County has developed the first official, mapped fly fishing trail, and that has been emulated by Swain County. And of course there are plenty of outfitters and guides ready to take visitors to the best fishing holes in the mountains.

Below are just a few of the stops on Jackson County’s Fly Fishing Trail. For more information, visit www.flyfishingtrail.com.

Scott Creek

• The Stretch: Roughly 10 miles from headwaters near Balsam down to Sylva

• Access Point(s): Parking and access available via several pull-off areas along U.S. 23/74

• Type of Water: Hatchery supported

• Noteworthy: Stretch also includes North Fork Scott Creek and Buff Creek, which are very scenic

Caney Fork

• The Stretch: Roughly 10 miles from East Laporte Park to headwaters at fork of Mull Creek and Piney Mountain Creek

• Access Point(s): Access via Caney Fork Road (SR 1737), avoid posted land

• Type of Water: Undesignated

• Noteworthy: Respect private landowners

Tanasee Creek

• The Stretch: Roughly 2-3 miles from Tanasee Creek bridge up to headwaters

• Access Point(s): Parking and access available at bridge on Tanasee Creek Road (SR 1762)

• Type of Water: Wild Trout

• Noteworthy: Very scenic stretch in the Nantahala National Forest

Panthertown Creek

• The Stretch: Entire stream, roughly 3 miles

• Access Point(s):  Parking and access at end of Breedlove Rd (SR 1121), with 2-mile walk to creek

• Type of Water: Catch and release single hook artificial lure

• Noteworthy: Located in Panthertown Valley, which is known as the “Yosemite of the East” because of its bowl shape and rocky bluffs

Raven Fork

• The Stretch: Starts at Blue Ridge Parkway bridge near Cherokee and goes north for 2.2 miles

• Access Point(s): Parking and access via several pull-off areas along Big Cove Road; paths run along stream

• Type of Water: Catch and release fly fishing only

• Noteworthy: Cherokee Trophy Water; Cherokee annual permit and daily permit required

Whitewater River

• The Stretch: Roughly 2-3 miles from N.C. 107 down to the South Carolina state line

• Access Point(s): Parking and access along N.C. 107, a few miles south of Cashiers

• Type of Water: Wild Trout

• Noteworthy: Flows into Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi

West Fork Tuckasegee River

• The Stretch: From small reservoir at Thorpe Power House upstream several hundred yards

• Access Point(s): Parking and access available both sides of N.C. 107 near Thorpe Power House

• Type of Water: Hatchery supported

• Noteworthy: Although hatchery supported, this has nice concentration of stream-raised fish

Tuckasegee River

(East Laporte Park to N.C. 107 Bridge)

• The Stretch: Roughly 2-3 miles from park to bridge

• Access Point(s): Parking and access available at East Laporte Park and pull-off areas along Old Cullowhee Road

• Type of Water: Hatchery supported

• Noteworthy: East Laporte Park has picnic tables and public restrooms

Savannah Creek

• The Stretch: About 10 miles from headwaters in Pumpkintown into Tuckasegee River

• Access Point(s): Parking and access available via several pull-offs along U.S. 23/441

• Type of Water: Hatchery supported

• Noteworthy: Access limited the closer you get to the Tuckasegee River

Tuckasegee River

(NC 107 Bridge to Dillsboro park)

• The Stretch: Roughly 4-5 mile stretch from bridge to the riverside park in Dillsboro

• Access Point(s): Parking and access available via numerous pull-offs along North River Road

• Type of Water: Delayed harvest

• Noteworthy: Best place to achieve the Tuckasegee Slam (catch all three species in one spot)

Greens Creek

• The Stretch: About 3-4 miles from Macon County line to Savannah Creek

• Access Point(s): Various places along Greens Creek Road (SR 1370)

• Type of Water: Wild Trout, undesignated, hatchery supported

• Noteworthy: Portion of the creek flows through the Nantahala National Forest

Tuckasegee River

(in Dillsboro)

• The Stretch: About 1 mile from Dillsboro park through town

• Access Point(s): Various places between park and Best Western River Escape Inn

• Type of Water: Hatchery supported

• Noteworthy: Includes two lodging options: Best Western River Escape Inn and Dillsboro Inn

Lower Tuckasegee River

(Barker’s Creek Bridge to Whittier)

• The Stretch: Roughly 8-10 miles from bridge to Whittier

• Access Point(s): Parking and access via pull-offs and businesses along U.S. 19/74 freeway

• Type of Water: Hatchery supported, undesignated

• Noteworthy: The stretch is also home to smallmouth bass

out frJackson County is on its way to becoming the trout capital of North Carolina after county leaders unveiled a plan last week that’s been in the works since last summer. 

“Anything that we can do to encourage tourists to come to Jackson County we ought to try to do, and I think we already recognize that we have this remarkable resource in Jackson County — the public waterways. It’s already being utilized and is such a treasure in Jackson County,” said County Commission Chairman Brian McMahan, who spearheaded the effort with Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Director Julie Spiro. “It just makes sense to try to do what we can to further enhance it and to promote it.”

law enforcementFour men from Buncombe and Henderson counties are facing a slew of Class 3 misdemeanor charges after officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission caught them fishing Lake Waterville using gill nets.

Cherokee will institute a two-week fishing season closure each March beginning in 2016 after operating under a year-round season since 2011. 

“We decided to open it up to year-round just to provide more fishing opportunities during March when the state fishing waters were closed, but we decided to go back to a compromise with a two-week closure in March to allow our operations to catch up for the opening day and allow a new level of excitement for the opener, knowing the waters haven’t been fished for two weeks,” explained Mike Lavoie, fisheries and wildlife program manager for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Walleyed mercury

It’s probably best to avoid eating fish out of Lake Glenville. At least the walleye.

“I’d like to tell you I know what a walleye is,” said Paula Carden, health director for Jackson County Department of Public Health. “I think it’s a bass.”

out frBryson City will soon have another feather in the cap proving its worth as an outdoors Mecca. If all goes well, the town will get its name added as a Mountain Heritage Trout Water City by the time summer rolls around again. 

“Trout fishermen come and they stay a while,” said N.C. Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, who filed the original bill calling for the trout city designation. “They stay in your bed and breakfast, they eat at your restaurants and often they bring their other family members.”

tg troutA seemingly dead-end situation became a life-changing moment for Alex Bell.

“We came back to school from a tournament and they said our program had been cut,” he said.

out frIn the early 1900s, Florence Cope Bush, author of Dorie: Woman of the Mountains, described native brook trout as being so numerous that it was near impossible for her mother to dip a wash pan in a mountain stream without it filling with their small, brown and orange speckled bodies. Bush’s mother grew up on land that was taken to form the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but her experience with the fish is common to the region.

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