2018 Nantahala River
April 6-8th 2018
By: Keith Cloud
Our first visit to the Nantahala for 2018 was one of the most eagerly anticipated trips that I can remember. The trip to Bryson City has always garnered a lot of interest and Bryson City’s location offers many fishing opportunities for our crowd. Speaking of crowds, an SRTU outing can bring a crowd of attendees these days and pair that with a trip to BC, then you have what looked to be half of South Carolina in North Carolina by the time all arrived at Anthony’s Italian Restaurant on Friday evening. As I look at the history of our Bryson City trip, in the early days we did good to have 5 or 6 attendees and now we are busting out at 20 attendees. Today’s number presents a couple of opportunities for me as an outings chair. With that kind of crowd, I have to manage accommodations, riding arrangements, and as a common courtesy I always contact the dining establishments with the idea of letting them know that the SRTU gang will be in town.
This trip was quite different in the fact that the owners Tony of Anthony’s Italian and Charlene the owner of Everett Street Diner have decided to ride off into the sunset and ENJOY something called retirement. Over the years it was great to get to know these fine folks, for they always looked forward to our visits to their fine establishments. This time was my first opportunity in getting to know the new owners of Anthony’s and Everett Street Diner. Crystal and her crew did a fine job and worked hard as we took in the food at Anthony’s on Friday evening. One other thing that Crystal did was to present our chapter with a $50 gift certificate in support of our 2018 SRTU banquet. It was also great to meet Mike the new owner of the Everett Street Diner whom also presented us with a $25 gift certificate for the winner of our annual Bryson City package for our banquet.
We had a long list of names who participated on our first trip to the Nan for 2018. Take a look at these characters and maybe your name can be on a future trip to such a fantastic place. Attendees were: Bob Grimm, Mike Waddell, Ted Tsolovos, Harry Huntley, Kyle Altman, Andy Rye, Elise LaBel Rye, Mac Brown, Roy Tryon, Mike Ehmke, Gary Scott, Reggie Rowell, Keith Cloud.
Friday’s arrival to the Nantahala was a picture postcard kind of day. A bright clear sky highlighted the contour of the mountains. The leaves were not on the trees and without the leaves one can really see what’s up in those hills. I know our May visit will be much different and another type of beauty will take place as we see the fresh greenery the trees offer to the eyes. As the day progressed, there was a weather system approaching and the day would give way to the rain later in the evening. With the beauty of the day and a short fishing window; we experienced a major hatch of fly fishermen whom were attempting to beat the rain. Boy ole boy, you could hardly find a spot, but find one I did.
I decided to start with a size 14 brown stonefly purchased from Karl at Chattooga River Fly Shop with a red midge size 22 and quickly picked up a fish using my 10 foot 2 weight Syndicate Fly Rod. I stuck with that combination as I made my way to the back side of a good pool with the idea of casting into the pool and hoping to catch a pod of trout hanging out in the pool. After numerous cast, no luck for the strategy and it was time to do a bit of rock hopping in search of trout. Soon I spotted my buddy Gary Scott whom arrived to the Nan at 5 am to wake the trout up. Gary sure loves to fish the Nan and drove up from Norcross, Ga to participate on this outing. As we met, he indicated that the ole Y2K which is similar to an egg pattern was catching a majority of the trout. His tally was 12 or so and he seemed to be having a good day catching quality size trout. Naturally at that point, it was time to tie on the Y2K and begin catching. However there was not much catching for this ole boy and soon a light rain began to fall and it was time to venture back to the cabin and get a few fishing reports from the other attendees.
Once back I discovered that no one really set the woods on fire. We had a few guys (Mike Ehmke, Reuben, Mike Waddell whom floated the Tuckaseegee in Bryson City and the report from them was that it was tough fishing for the most part. We just did not get into the fish like we thought. Oh well, Saturday will be here soon and if the rains that began earlier in the day were not too bad, we could have a good Saturday.
We awoke Saturday to a soggy morning and took in our usual (excellent) breakfast at the Everett Street Diner. It was great meeting Mike, the new owner and our familiar waitress Beverly. With our bellies full, we were ready to take on the day. The forecast was for clearing skies and a windy day as the weather front passed. With the river a bit higher than the day before, this was a time to cast some big bugs at some trout. Big Wooly’s and Stonefly patterns would be my go to for the morning fishing. I started at the large parking area by the handicapped ramp, but it was quite a crowd and I had to nudge my way in and picked up a trout or two using my Syndicate 10 foot, 2 weight fly rod fishing with 5X leader and tippet.
As lunch arrived, I made the comment as I began to see the food out. “Now is time for the wind to pick up.” It seems like every trip to this spot when it is time to eat; the wind begins to blow. We had quite a crowd of folks for the shore lunch and as our attendees arrived the catching reports was not what we had hoped. Some like Gary and Mac and Harry had good reports and managed to catch several nice fish and accounted for themselves quite well. Meanwhile Dermon whom is one of our very best fishermen was having a terrible day and struggled with only two fish.
After lunch I ventured downstream and noticed a trout rising in a very familiar spot. Along the way I met a couple of folks whom indicated that they had been catching fish on emergers. One of the fellows named Seth was kind enough to give me 3 or 4 of the fly’s and I asked what they were called and his reply was a “HOT BUTT EMERGER”. The fly had a bit of yellow on the tail end and looked like a light brown soft hackle on the front side. I decided to tie on the HOT BUTT and see what happens. First cast resulted in first fish. The Hot butt was tied as a dropper behind an Adam’s dry fly. A few more cast and another fish. I thought I was about to engage into a major catching event, but that was short lived because the once feared wind began to HOWL as it made its way into the gorge. Bob Grimm joined me as we attempted to endure a major wind lashing. The trout were still rising, but getting the fly to the spot was nearly impossible. The wind would literally lift the line out of the water and all you could do was just hope the wind died down enough to get a decent drift with the HOT BUTTS. Eventually it was just time to give up and try to find a place where the wind was not as bad.
Once back to the truck, I noticed something familiar and something unfamiliar. Ted had decided to take an after lunch nap in my truck which is the familiar part. However the unfamiliar part was the different look that my truck had acquired while I fished in windville. I asked Ted what happened to my truck and his reply was that it sounded like a bomb exploded. For those whom do not know, I have a cover that covers the bed of my truck. After the shore lunch I failed to lock the cover down. Apparently there was a 50 to 60 mph wind gust and it lifted the cover and slammed it up against the cab of the truck. The result of that gust completely broke my cover in half and with that, I learned a hard lesson that I should have locked the cover before my leaving the vehicle. So now, I get to keep the economy moving upward since I get to by a new cover for the Tundra. OUCH!!!
Saturday evening supper of Fried Chicken, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, Red Potato Salad and deserts of homemade pound cake with strawberries and an apple pie greeted our cast of characters who are just as serious about eating as they are fishing. It was great to sit around and wind down the evening as we spoke about the events of the day with our cast of storytellers. For the most part, the day ended well and the fishing was excellent on the upper end of the river.
The events of Saturday fishing and my lesson learned could easily be my ‘Reference Point” how I choose to remember our trip. As I pondered what the Reference Point could be, it would not be until late Sunday evening after I arrived home that I knew I would have a different way to remember the trip. Mac had called and shared an experience as he and Roy and Dermon made their way home on Sunday. They had decided to stop off and fish the Pigeon River which is one of his Mac’s favourites. As they broke for lunch he and Roy had 7 fish each and Dermon had caught a couple. They agreed to fish till 4 pm and as they ended their meal at 2:30 pm. As the 4pm hour arrived, Dermon arrived back to the vehicle with a GREAT BIG SMILE on his face. In a little over one hour Dermon had caught and released well over 25 fish using a Carolina Peach looking fly similar to the likes of one tied by our friend Karl EkBerg at Chattooga River Fly Shop.
As I look back, Dermon had not had the best of trips. It began with a bit of misfortune in that his wife Jean took a bad fall the night before we left for the trip. He was unsure about being able to go, but Jean insisted that he go and that she would be ok. Once Dermon arrived the fishing on the Nantahala was not the best and he was struggled to catch fish and for Dermon not to catch fish, that is a rarity. At 80 years young Dermon is one of our best fly fishermen and serves as our certified casting instructor for the chapter. I titled this report “The Comeback” for I did not think Dermon would be able to participate at all. In fact, I had given his cabin assignment to someone else. With all he endured, it was great to see him and speak later with him about his excellent day on the Pigeon. His voice was filled with joy as he described one of his best fishing days ever. Things just worked out for him, I believe God rewarded this retired Lutheran pastor in a BIG way on Sunday and his fishing buddies Mac and Roy were happy and busting with joy as they shared the story with me.
Hoping that everyone gets to experience a comeback in their fishing.
Keep casting my friends,
SRTU Outings and Membership Chair