Watauga River in NC and TN

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by Michael&Tanner, Apr 11, 2008.

  1. Michael&Tanner

    Michael&Tanner Sir Real

    Jan 7, 2008
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    Seattle , Wa
    I spent a week in the Appalachians, from 4/2 to 4/8, mainly in the Boone, NC area.

    Although we fished quite a bit of the local water, most of our time was spent on the Watauga. Who know NC & Tenn had such great trout water.

    Saturday was spent with Joe, a guide from Appalachian Anglers, on the Tennessee section of the Watauga. The weather was damn near perfect. Overcast with a light drizzle, but no wind. Just enough rain to break up the surface tension and knock a few bugs off the tree edges into the water.

    We left the guide shop in Joe's suburban about 6:30, with the raft trailered behind us. It was about an hours drive to the put in, just below a bottom release dam, and below the confluence of the Watauga and Doe Creek.

    We hit the water at 7:30. I landed my first fish, a respectable brown, at 7:32. Our first three fish were a brown, a brookie, and a rainbow. Perfect.

    The guide service was amazing. Joe knows the river intimately, and put our boat right where it needed to be. There were fish everywhere there should have been fish, and they were eager to take a well presented fly. A good mend is essential on this river. These fish have seen a lot, and unwanted drag caused my heart to sink more than once as nice fish took a look at my presentation, only to turn away at the last minute.

    Still, we caught more fish than I could count. A group of four anglers out with Joe the previous weekend had landed 200 fish during the day. One member of that group hit 70. We didn't hit those numbers, but we each landed over 20 fish. If I counted my well-executed LDR (long distance release), my numbers would be even higher.

    The trip included a shore side lunch, and we expected sandwiches and warm soda. We got grilled salmon, cooked on the banks, with soda, chips, coffee, brownies, potato salad, and cole slaw.

    And … get this… the cost for that day was $400. For two people. $200 a person for a full day of guides service, transportation, boat, everything. I came fully geared up with rods and flies, and did use my gear, although Joe provided the local favorite flies, and had an arsenal of Sage, Loomis, and Winston rods at our disposal.

    It was one of those days when everything worked, from Olive Wooly Buggers twitched across the current, to a nymphing rig fished low and slow, to wet flies twitching in the current. Everything hit. And throughout the day we say hatches of caddis and baetis coming off… sometimes at the same time on opposite sides of the river. A quick switch to a dry with a small WD-40, or CDC Emerger dropper just nailed em.

    Of course, the best part is just being on the water with friends. But catching that many fish sure doesn’t' hurt.


  2. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Nov 14, 2004
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    Olympia, WA
    Sound like a great day on the water: pretty river, good company, knowledgable guide, and cooperative fish. I have never fished Wautaga, but I've heard quality reports similar to your experience. The fact that its a bottom-draw system is likely a major contributor to sustaining this fishery.

    I made several trips to the Boone area from Greenville, NC when I lived in that part of the U.S to fish some of the smaller creeks. In the spring, the fishing can be a blast, for both hatchery trout and naturalized trout. One of the most interesting local wrinkles is how they set their catch and release seasons. Up through early summer, many of the stocked streams are governed by catch and release regs. They then switch to catch and keep regs, in part because few of these fish will survive the high summer temperatures anyway.

    The diversity of fishing opportunities in North Carolina is amazing: quality river and creek fishing for trout and smallmouths (as you described), reservoir fishing for largemouth bass and sunfish, coastal rivers for shad and stripers (and bass, sunfish, and perch), marshes for speckled trout, redfish, and flounder, the Outer Banks for the former three plus little tunny and bluefish, and offshore for spanish mackeral and mahi mahi.

  3. John Hicks

    John Hicks Owner and operator of Sea Run Pursuits

    Jul 23, 2005
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    excellent report and way to go. I love the Wautaga. It really reminds me of some of the western rivers.
  4. scottflycst

    scottflycst Active Member

    Mar 31, 2007
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    Ozark Mtn springwater
    Great report Michael! Was in Boone a couple years back but only had time to fish one small creek outside of town. I sure like that area. Hot as hell in the summer though.
  5. seanengman

    seanengman Trout have no politics

    Jun 13, 2006
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    davenport, wa
    Nice looking fish.

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