From Hendersonville to the Davidson into the Pisgah National Forest

| February 12, 2013

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… Continued from “Carolina on My Mind

I wandered the streets of Hendersonville, North Carolina, in amazement. The wise people who redesigned the downtown area have done things that would have once been equivalent to blasphemy in a historical downtown setting. Apparently, there was so much room from one side of the street to the other that they decided to create a meandering two lane (a single lane each way) that slows traffic and gives huge amounts of real estate to pedestrians. I felt like a foreign tourist. Bike racks. New trees and planters. Benches, chairs and seating everywhere.

Finally, I regained my senses and made my way into the Mast General Store. Downstairs it was much like a modern general store – everything under the sun. Looking upstairs, hiking boots, tents, backpacks and probably the best place for local information. And from the beginning of Texas Fly Caster, that’s what we have always been after.

The information seemed good once I defined the time I had and the road tripping nature of just passing through and not being around at sunset. “Go out Hendersonville Highway (64) all the way to and the last business on the left before you actually enter the Pisgah National Forest is the fly shop – Davidson River Outfitters. They will tell you what’s going on,” he said. It’s reassuring to hear that a fly shop will share information with someone passing through.

Once inside Davidson River Outfitters, (I think the name was) Ken was nice enough to pull out a map and mark off the different areas along the Davidson up to the hatchery. The place was full of fly tying supplies, but a note board caught my eye, with what looked like a couple of huge joke-sized flies hanging off each side. Suddenly it hit me; muskie! Not only do they have trout and smallmouth, they have muskie around here somewhere! “Our best months are June, July and August. That’s when it’s all happening,” he said. There’s also small stream stuff if you are willing to get off the beaten path.

As usual, I stocked up on fly tying materials I have never seen anywhere else, and purchased a ten day out-of-state license for the two hour sojourn. I had the suspicion that the $10-dollar price tag online was too good to be true, and it was – double that 10 for a trout stamp, and suddenly things were feeling a bit extravagant. I can only justify this by going back while the stamp is good – for another ten-day-ten-dollar license. Still, not a big deal.

– My research the past few days told me that they were at least four weeks from starting their spring stocking. –

When they told me this was the last place before the Pisgah National Forest, that is the absolute truth! As I worked my way up the road, the road wandered closer and further from the Davidson. Curves and undulations in the topography left the water with rapid areas, rocky rapids and jade green pools. The mountains of North Carolina are much less severe than the Rockies, and vegetation is everywhere. All of the pools seemed to have potential, so I decided to turn out on one curve that I could see a couple of jade green pools from the road.

Two things became apparent. One, the water was crystal clear, and, two, I couldn’t see any fish. You know how it is when the conditions are like this … maybe a rise off in the distance, a movement along the rocky bottom, a trout moving into and out of current – all visible to you, and you (the stocker fishing Texan) all visible to them. I took cover, and settled in to the moment.

Nothing before, and nothing after the moment mattered. The sound of the water and the life in the air. Nothing was falling off overhanging vegetation, and nothing was dappling the surface on wing. Still no movement that caught my eyes, and I could see clearly down to the four foot deep level with my sunglasses perfectly dialed in, even if I wasn’t. No signs of fish life.

I worked up the turns, getting good drifts in the slow current. I moved on, and began working my way through the common flies. The habitat was perfect, nothing came to look, bump or otherwise give me confidence. I knew the hatchery was up the road a ways, and after all .. IT’S A HATCHERY! I loaded up and went for broke.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but I had so little time. The hatchery was huge, with a huge parking lot and building. The river here is wide and flat bottomed, and runs along a pretty well beaten down shoreline that includes handicap spots (like the San Juan), and the parking lot was virtually empty. As much as I wanted to tough it, and as much as dkkdkd at the shop played it down, it didn’t matter. I could see fish darting out from the undercuts and laying up behind rocks in the middle of the riverbed.

I went as far down as I could to give me good timing going back up toward the lot, and dropped in. Within five minutes waves rippled by me from some unseen force. I moved up so I could see around the turn, and a hefty sport sausaged in his waders was stomping across the shallow flat bottom. I’ve seen smaller waves from barges along the intracoastal waterway.

I pulled out again, and dropped even further down to see if I could escape the human tsunami. The fish, at such a populated location and pressured as they are, may be easy to find, and they certainly see you easily, but finding something they would eat proved (with my lack of knowledge) impossible. I did have one little nibbler come out from a turned tree root ball, but it shocked me more quickly than I could react.

Each cast was a new moment, a new opportunity to see what worked and how it worked. And while I didn’t catch a fish in the two hours I had to fish, I feel like I blazed a new trail that I will retrace sometime soon. Imagine a place with smallmouth bass, muskie, fast river, jade pools and mountain streams. I know I am going back, how about you?

… to be Continued in Asheville, NC

Fly Shop – Davidson River Fly Shop
Fly Shop Newsletter Signup
Fishing License – North Carolina
Stocking Information for Transylvania County

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Category: Culture on the Skids, Destination Fly Fishing, Fishing Reports, Fly Fishing for Trout, Fly Shops, Technique

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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