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2019 Nantahala Trip

Trip report 

May 17th-19th, 2019 

Big Brook Home W Fork Pigeon.jpg

**Déjà Vu All Over Again**

By: Keith Cloud

If someone looked at the March 2019 Nantahala visit they would see this line beginning the trip report. “Our first visit to the Nantahala for 2019 was a visit like none other.” So now to fast forward to our most recent May visit, I have this to report. Our second visit was just like the first. So how’s that to surmise of the most recent May Nantahala report? Yep, the high water flows had returned to the river which is the focus of the trip. It’s called the Nantahala trip for a reason and now on both occasions we have been turned away by the high water releases courtesy of first maintenance on the upstream dam and now a weekend scheduled release for kayakers to have the ability of to float the upper section of the river.

As I arrived to Bryson City on Friday, I once again

received the news regarding high water.

Although I schedule the trips out about nine

months to a year in advance, the reality of high

water really put a damper on our trip for the

weekend and once again the focus of the trip was

to find fishable water.

Our attendees for this one were:

Mike Ehmke, Fred Johnson, Mike Waddell,

Reuben Chandler, Mac Brown, Ted Tsolovos,

David Smith, Rich Gale, Bob Grimm, Mark Vedder,

Mike Strong, Gary Scott and yours truly Keith Cloud.

Quickly and very quickly we began to ponder where to go fish. Soon the decision was made and it was best to not concentrate on one particular fishery. Therefore the decision was to split up and hope that wherever we went would be a productive fishing adventure for all. Some (Rich Gale and Gary Scott) decided to venture to the Nantahala to attempt to fish the high water. Others (Mike Ehmke and Fred Johnson) chose to fish the Tuckaseegee in Bryson City. Reuben Chandler and Mac Brown decided to check out the Cheoah River for smallmouth bass. The Tuck was running high as well, but Bob Grimm decided to fish it around Dillsboro NC. As for me, I decided with the assistance of my riding partner David Smith to make an attempt to find Snowbird Creek; a creek that I never laid eyes upon. I first heard of Snowbird about 10 years ago when a young fellow first asked me if I had been to Snowbird and in the years since I’ve always heard good things about its delayed harvest fishery. The drive to Snowbird would take me thru Robbinsville which was about a 45 minute drive from Bryson City. Once at Robbinsville, it is still another 45 minutes or so to the delayed harvest section or so we were told. Finally after miles and miles of travel and looking for the turn to Snowbird; it was obvious (even if we did find it) we were going to run out of time and not be able to fish. To sum up for my first day of fishing; I still had not laid eyes upon the delayed harvest section of Snowbird and that was a bummer.


In keeping with the now theme of our recent visit to Bryson City strikingly resembling the first; I can safely say that Friday evening’s meal at Anthony’s would be GREAT as usual. I once again ordered the Mama Viscue’s Pasta and was very pleased and as I looked around the table I laid eyes upon a wide variety of wonderful looking dishes. Seemed like our guys were quite hungry and as the fishing reports began to be revealed, it was a tough day for all. Bob Grimm probably had the most productive day as he fished the Tuck and managed to hook and bring to the net a massive brown trout. Yep, Bob thought he was hung on a log and then the log decided to move and at that point, the battle and hopes began. As the fight continued; all he really wanted was to just catch a glimpse of the fish. In fact, Bob had very little belief that he was going to be able to get the fish to the net. Eventually after several good runs and doing what big brown trout do (and that is to hug the bottom), Bob was able to land the fish and remove a perfectly set fly from the mouth of the fish.  


On the previous trip I wrote of this regarding fishing the Nantahala. “Those fishing the Nantahala would have to find a small area to fish and try their best to not make a mistake in the river. One wrong move and it could be bad news.” Well, now to fast forward to this trip and Rich Gale and Gary Scott unlike the previous trip would make that one mistake. Rich would take a good spill and sustain a few battle scars and bruises along the elbow, shins and legs. Gary would sustain a big fall into the river and would fill his waders with the fast flowing water of the Nantahala. After disrobing he discovered his fly boxes and fishing vest were also drenched and while on the way back to the cabins, Gary did something that will go down as a first for any trip in my 20 years of Saluda River Trout Unlimited outings. Gary took a visit to a local laundry and placed his waders, vest and clothes in the dryer and prepared in advance for our Saturday fishing adventures.


It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Bryson City. Many of our attendees decided to take advantage of the opportunity to pack a nice streamside lunch for the day of fishing. As part of the trip; we offer our attendees the opportunity to make sandwiches for their day of fishing. At the end of the previous evening (with eyelids a bit on the heavy side) we pondered on the one key question before us. Where were we going to go fishing? As for me, I thought after a good night’s rest that I would wake up and have no doubts about where I was going to fish. Unfortunately I woke up just like I went to bed and quite frankly I had no idea of where I wanted to fish. My disappointment with the flow in my favorite river had me quite bummed; so I decided to take in a nice breakfast at the Everett Street Diner and then forge thru the day with my buddy Ted as my fishing partner. Yep, this was going to be a day that everyone would venture separate ways once again. I sure hated it, but it is what we had to do in order to catch fish.


With a great breakfast of French toast, my decision was made and a repeat attempt to fish Snowbird was going to take place. I have to say that part of my decision was based upon not  laying eyes on Snowbird. The second part of my decision was that Mac Brown, Reuben Chandler, and Mike Waddell also decided to go to Snowbird and with these 3 Amigos who had fished Snowbird back during the winter, how could I not decide to go? Their winter trip had yielded fantastic results and they knew how to get to Snowbird and with that I was excited and set to fish. Or so I thought.


Soon we were driving down Highway 74 and with the weekend traffic, I lost visual contact with Mac. With about 1 bar of cell coverage I was able to determine he veered left when I veered right. Eventually I turned and was able to locate him. Soon I discovered we are driving the same route I had tried the day before and yes on the day before; I had been unsuccessful at finding Snowbird. Finally I see the spot that I had abandoned my search the day before and about 200 yards later, Mac turns onto a small gravel road. Upon seeing that; I realized I was just a short distance away when I abandoned my search.


Down the gravel road and onto a paved road and back onto a gravel road and around curves and switchbacks and finally to a dead end and stop. “Are we there yet?’ asked Ted. NO we are not there, I said. I see no signs of a river as we (Mac and I) position our vehicles so we can roll down the windows to speak. It was at this time that Mike Waddell informs me that part of the reason for the failure to locate Snowbird lies in the fact they (Mike, Reuben and Mac) stayed up till 1:30 in the morning discussing the Big Bang Theory over a few drinks after returning from last evening’s meal at Anthony’s. Soon after Mike shares the story and quite a few BIG LAUGHS about BIG BANG; Mac was able to locate the turn that would eventually take us to beautiful Snowbird.


Before starting to fish; we each made sandwiches. Due to BIG BANG; some folks moving a bit more slowly than others. According to my fishing buddies we were going to need all the energy we could muster up for all the trout we were going to catch. Mike Waddell finished his sandwich first and ventured down to the spot where on their previous trip caught well over 100 fish. “Got one Got one, it’s a Nice one” said Mike. I looked down and sure enough the rod had quite a substantial bend and with that, I knew Mike was correct and it was indeed a nice fish. We watched from above as the fish made its run on a couple of occasions and succeeded in net avoidance tactics. Finally into the net laid a beautiful 22 inch rainbow trout and with that; the cameras were out to catch a glimpse of Mike’s fish.


Seeing Mike catch that fish sure put a hurry up on eating my sandwich. It also light a fire in Reuben, Mac and even Ted and I could not get my waders on fast enough. Once suited up I quickly moved to a fishing spot. Sure enough and after a few cast Mr. Tan Mop fly had quickly caught the attention of a big FAT 17 to 18 inch Brook Trout and like Mike, the battle was on. As the day progressed; we sure caught a lot of fish out of this one spot and everyone got to share in the fun. Eventually I decided to go downstream and found my own little private honey hole where I pulled out another 10 to 15 fish. The day at Snowbird was coming to an end and to sum up; it was well worth the wait. I can’t believe it took so long to get there. In my case; it was a 10 year wait.


For a trip such as this; I most often find it difficult to find a Reference Point (how I chose to remember) the trip. Our trip was barely halfway over and after hearing and taking part in so many good stories; privately I was thinking of which story or event would eventually make the cut for the all-important now Famous Reference Point. Saturday evening’s meal would easily become the way I chose to remember this edition of the Nantahala Trip report. Over the years each trip to Bryson Patch cabins we invite Gregg and Debbie Livingston the owners of Bryson Patch Cabins to our meals. On many occasions they participate with us and enjoy our meals just like we do. It could be a meal at the cabin or Anthony’s or the Everett Street Diner. For this trip; the Livingston’s wanted to return the invite (so to speak). With a meal time of 7:30 our gang ventured up the driveway to their home. Entering the door; we were met with a welcoming greeting and the smell of oven roasted Prime Rid permeated the senses. As I peeked into the oven I noticed 3 huge prime ribs glistening in the light of the oven. In another oven the sight smell of baked potatoes made my belly growl. You sure can work up an appetite when you have the kind of day that I had fishing.


The nice dishes were out and it would not be a paper plate meal for the SRTU gang this evening. Prime Rib, Baked Potato, French bread, and the now famous SRTU salad (prepared by Sherie Cloud) would be the meal served. After snacking on a few appetizers we gathered in the kitchen and sang an excellent rendition of a song called “Happy Birthday” for Mike Ehmke who celebrated his 70th birthday. Always a blessing having Ehmke on the trips. Followed by that; we said a prayer for the blessing of the meal. We lifted up our buddy Gary Scott who had to leave the trip due to his father being admitted to the hospital and in intensive care. We also gave thanks to the Livingston’s who graciously opened their home to us and had been so good to our chapter over these many years of memorable Nantahala trips. Soon and very soon Gregg was serving the prime rib and quietness overtook sound for a brief period of time. Eventually as the meal wound down; Debbie asked an all important question. “Who wants dessert?” and with that, the chatter began again as she filled our plates with our choice of key lime pie and cheesecake. I am not ashamed to say that many of our folks chose both for desserts. Um-good and a fitting way to end our evening.


Sunday packing up for the return home I decided to take a venture to the West Fork of the Pigeon. Saturday evening I discovered that David Smith had yet to catch a fish and upon hearing that news; I knew we had to get David a fish. On the previous day David had ventured to the high water of the Nantahala and found it difficult to fish much less catch trout. Mike Strong and Mark Vedder fished the (West Fork) over the past couple of days and had great success. I knew that Mike Strong would venture to a little spot that he and I had fished on a previous trip in early April. We sure had a great time catching many trout in April and my hopes for David was that he would be able to pick up where we left off in early April.


As David and I reached the spot on the Pigeon, I encouraged David to tie on a Pat’s Rubber Legs and fish his way to a spot across the river. By fishing to a spot, what I mean is that you do not just wade out and thru the river. Fish the entire river and by doing that, David was able to pick up a beautiful fighting brown right next to the shore on the side that he waded in upon. Mission accomplished, let’s catch a few more. Eventually as we looked at the far side of the river, there was a nice undercut bank (where the current runs under a subsurface rock formation). My thoughts were to get David to make a cast and get the fly to drift (under the undercut) so to speak. After many attempts, I realized it was a tough cast for a right hander to make. David just could not quite get it to where it needed to be and after cast after cast, David encouraged me to give it a shot. I kind of hated it, but I knew if I could get the fly to the spot, that I would catch a fish. With David’s encouragement, I spooled off enough line and made a left handed (perfect cast). Immediately the fly got bit and the fight was on and eventually a nice 17 to 18 inch brook trout was in the net and posing for a picture with yours truly. It was a fantastic way to end the day and head to Columbia.


 Till we meet again!!!




Keith Cloud

SRTU Outings and Membership Chair




Cost of the trip: $127 Two nights’ accommodations and sandwich items on hand for Saturday and Sunday fishing.

Big Brook Fly West Fork Pigeon.jpg
May 17-19th, 2019 Nantahala Group Pictur
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