Archived Outdoors

Filming on the fly

By Sarah Kucharski

Standing in the shallows of the Tuckasegee River between Webster and Dillsboro, cold water flowing around the ankles of his waders, longtime fisherman Steve Henson asked fly-fishing guide Roger Lowe what they could expect from the day’s upcoming fishing trip.

Lowe, perched just off the shore line in an almost trademarked pose with his hand on his hip and one foot propped on a log, rattled off a weather and fishing report. It was an overcast morning in early March; temperatures were in the low 40s. The catch-and-release waters would rise later in the afternoon as a dam release was scheduled, which would allow the fishermen to switch from wade fishing to drift fishing.

Henson, executive director of the Southern Appalachian Multiple-Use Council, and fellow fisher Larry Tombaugh, Dean Emeritus of the College of Natural Resources at N.C. State, nodded their approval and the trio turned to wade toward deeper waters.

“Good, now try not to look at the camera when you walk away,” said Joe Albea, host and filmmaker for Carolina Outdoor Journal, a popular fishing program broadcast on UNC-TV.

Anything but natural-born actors, the trio sighed and settled back into place for another take of what would be the show’s introduction, as Albea adjusted the backpack like contraption that held thousands of dollars of camera equipment above his shoulder and allowed him to film while standing mid-river. It took them three tries to get it right.

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Wading out for the first cast of the day, Lowe led Tombaugh to a wide hole below a small rock island where a pair of Canadian geese were nesting. An inexperienced fly-fisher, Tombaugh listened in as Lowe explained the sport’s graceful whip-like motion used to entice trout to take the bait. Within minutes Tombaugh hooked a small native trout, turning to good-naturedly boast to Henson, a long-time friend, that the river would be fished out by the time it was his turn to cast.

This type of success is what Lowe specializes in.

“They get a fish on there and get some confidence,” Lowe said.

A guide for 14 years, Lowe opened his own fly shop in Waynesville after the plant where he worked shut down.

“I worked there at Dayco Southern for 15 years and I tied flies for a lot of people in a lot of stores on the side,” Lowe said.

After the plant closed, Lowe capitalized on his hobby. Now, Lowe Fly Shop is a full-service shop offering gear, licenses and fishing trips, making it one of few of its kind.

“I’ve been in a lot of them and they have one of the better ones,” Albea said of Lowe’s shop.

Lowe’s fishing buddy, Henson, recommended him to Albea as a potential subject for an episode of Carolina Outdoor Journal. One might say Albea took the bait.

“His reputation precedes him,” Albea said of Lowe.

Out on the river, Lowe doesn’t fish alongside those he’s guiding. He waits patiently, coaching fishers through the motions, keeping an eye on what types of flies fish are naturally feeding on and pulls a bait fly from a plastic box tucked in his vest pocket to match. Special sunglasses allow him and his fellow fishers to spot trout in the water and cast for a particular fish, rather than throw out a line and hope.

“If you’ve got those glasses it actually allows you to see under the surface a little bit,” Lowe said.

As he and Henson moved upstream, past the nesting Canadian geese and a small cadre of four mallard ducks, the sun began to break through the clouds and small swarms of tiny flies buzzed above the river’s surface. An accomplished fisher, Henson smoothly cast from mid-river toward a long hole near the shore, just under the tree line. With a trout on the line, Henson reeled in and Lowe netted the fish, reaching in to gently wrap his hand around its mid-section.

Trout in hand, Lowe used a pair of calipers to grasp the embedded hook and pull it out. Ceremoniously, he leaned down to release the fish back into the Tuck.

Releasing the fish is something fishermen watching fishing programs often look for — it is an acknowledgement of the more esoteric side of fishing, of the free and the wild. To capture this moment, Albea recently purchased a camera with underwater capabilities.

With about three hours of wade fishing and more than 10 fish caught on film, Lowe and crew set about hooking a few more to get those underwater shots. Lowe’s fellow guide, Dave Clancy, wading nearly hip deep on the far bank of the river, hooked one, calling out to the rest of the crew.

“Fish on!” he exclaimed, walking the trout through the water up to where Lowe and Albea stood waiting.

Lowe unhooked the trout, letting it sweep through his fingers, and away down the river.

Back on dry land, as the fishermen packed up for a late lunch, Albea reviewed the footage, each fisher crowding around to peer down a tiny screen where shimmering trout darted across the Tuck’s rocky-bottomed landscape.

The footage will make up Lowe’s first professional quality fishing show. He’s been featured in amateur works, but nothing like Carolina Outdoor Journal, which airs not just in North Carolina but across the Southeast. The show should be part of next year’s 15-show season.

’ve had worse jobs,” Lowe said.


Roger’s Quick Tips for Spring Trout Fishing

• On warmer days use a floating fly that will mimic trout’s natural prey. Try to match your fly to the specific type of fly the trout in your area of the stream are eating in terms of size and color.

• On cooler days, when natural prey would not be hatching, use a sinking fly — one that is tied with a heavier hook or possibly weighted.

• When considering your rod, reel and line, remember the line is the most important part as it has the most affect on the fly’s action.

For more information about guided fishing trips and daily fishing reports visit

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