Cherokee fly fishing museum sets opening day, fundraising dinner

fr flyfishingIt’s been two years since Alen Baker, the self-described “instigator” of the effort to create the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians, sent an unsolicited pitch to the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce. But now, the building is renovated and the chamber has moved its offices into part of it. Opening day is slated for May 1, and the museum will hold its first annual fundraising dinner Nov. 1 to gather funds to purchase and display fly-fishing memorabilia from across the region. 

Reeling in Appalachia

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.

Mastercast: The perfect cast is an elusive catch

out frWhen I finally roll up Pavilion Road for my casting lesson, I’m nearly half an hour late. A wrong turn had set me back, but Mac Brown seems pretty unperturbed. He’s standing in the field uphill from the Swain County Pool, directing a bright orange fly line in swirls and waves that look alive against the green lawn. 

“This isn’t any accident,” he says as the line lands without a kink. “I can do this a thousand out of a thousand times. Why? Because I’ve practiced it so much.”

Flying high: Cherokee fly-fishing museum gets the green light

fr flyfishingThe path to a new fly fishing museum in Cherokee has been cleared of a final hurdle after the Cherokee Tribal Council last week upheld a contract to lease the old Tee Pee Restaurant building to the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce. The Cherokee Business Committee had signed the lease earlier this spring, agreeing to let the chamber of commerce use the building for $1 per year for 25 years.

Hooked for life: Mills reels in memories with artisan rods

out frThere’s nothing abnormal about the pair of armchairs in Jim and Baraba Mills’ living room, or about the television — the old tube kind — and wooden entertainment center that they face. Typical, too, is the hodgepodge of DVDs and VHS tapes filling the shelves and the pictures of kids and grandkids covering the top. 

But even a cursory glance reveals Jim’s true passion. A trio of mounted trout — one rainbow and two brown — hang on the wall above the TV, and a fly-tying station crammed with every color and weight of thread imaginable stands in front of the ceiling-high shelf filled with old glass medicine bottles from Jim’s days as a pharmacist with the U.S. Public Health Service. Fly rods, either sheathed in protective cardboard tubes or laying out to dry on a jerry-rigged rack of cardboard boxes, fill every corner of the room, and a stool sits in front of the pair of thread spools that Jim is using to create the wrappings on his most recent angling project. It’s more than a living room: it’s a fly rod shop of the most unique variety. 

Plans unfold for fly fishing museum

out frBy Colby Dunn • Correspondent 

Each year, an estimated 50,000 people visit Cherokee looking to hit it big, but instead of casting lots at Harrah’s, they’re casting lines into the miles of stocked and protected streams that flow through the Qualla Boundary. 

While the casino remains the dominant moneymaker in town, the town’s reputation as a fly fishing destination is gaining an economic toehold in the tourism business here. With fishing waters open year round, tournaments and derbies to choose from in every season of the year, and a stock of 400,000 trout poured into the ponds and streams annually, Cherokee can offer more than a few incentives to entice a fisherman seeking a new venue. 

Smoky Mountain anglers gain toehold in competitive fly fishing scene

travel fishingLike New York is known for its basketball legends, and Texas is known for its football stars, Western North Carolina has become one the big names in a slightly less conspicuous sport: competitive fly fishing.

Fly fishing was long dominated by regions in the Rockies and Sierras out West. But the sport has seen a shift in both interest and talent to the Southeast — and specifically the Smokies.

Jackson towns tout new ‘trout city’ status

out frMore than a third of the tourists who come knocking at the Jackson County visitor center these days have trout fishing on their mind.

A push in recent years to market the county as trout paradise is clearly paying off, and now the string of towns in Jackson County that claim the Tuckasegee River as their backyard have yet another tool to lure fishing aficionados.

Mountain anglers gain toehold in national fly fishing scene

coverLike New York is known for its basketball legends, and Texas is known for its football stars, Western North Carolina has become one the big names in a slightly less conspicuous sport: competitive fly fishing.

Fly fishing was long dominated by the western territory of the Rockies and Sierras. But the sport has seen a shift in both interest and talent to the Southeast — and specifically the Smokies.

WCU students help children with autism

A local fly-fishing guide and recreational therapy students at Western Carolina University teamed up recently to provide a fly-fishing outing for children with autism.

Jennifer Hinton, WCU associate professor of recreational therapy, organized the event. Alex Bell, retired principal of Smoky Mountain High School and the owner of AB’s Fly Fishing Guide Service, served as “coach” on the project, working with the class throughout the semester.

Through the Adaptive Fly Fishing Institute, Bell teaches adaptive fly fishing and also teaches fellow instructors in the practice. There is limited research on adaptive fly fishing, Hinton said, but the WCU students theorized it would benefit children on the autism spectrum physically, psychologically and socially.

The fly fishing was adapted to the children’s abilities. For instance, when teaching the children to cast, the instructors asked them to aim for hula hoops on the ground rather than the more typical method of using numbers on an imaginary clock face.

“It was amazing the difference once we put down a visual cue. It improved their focus so much,” Bell said.

Autism affects the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function, according to the National Autism Association. Individuals with autism can show marked differences — thus, they are on the “autism spectrum” — but typically they have difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities. The NAA reports that the disorder affects one in 150 people in the U.S. and is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls.  

In honor of the event, staff of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission stocked a section of Cullowhee Creek with about 40 brook trout from the Bobby N. Setzer State Fish Hatchery in Brevard.

“We’re here to provide angling opportunities for various people, and we were proud to step up and make that happen,” said David Deaton, a WRC fish production supervisor.

A week later, Kathy Ralston said her son Isaac was still talking about it.

“He’s looked forward to fly fishing since we moved here,” said Ralston, who with her husband, Bill, an orthopedic surgeon at MedWest Harris, and their four children relocated to Jackson County from Kansas City, Mo., in August 2010. Though it’s unusual for children on the autism spectrum, the Ralstons have always had Isaac, their oldest child, participate in group activities such as organized soccer.

But participation has gotten more difficult as Isaac has grown older and the physical and emotional disparities between Isaac and his peers have become more pronounced. Ralston and other parents expressed a desire for more recreational opportunities for their children with autism spectrum disorder, such as the fly-fishing event.

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