Standing in the river on a guided trip a few days ago I noticed the arrival of a cool breeze and saw a few leaves slowly fluttering toward the ground. I thought to myself… finally, fall has arrived. That means some of the best trout fishing of the year is just around the corner. Summer heat slows the metabolism of trout making them very inactive during much of the day. As much as I love chasing smallmouth or exploring high altitude streams during the heat of summer, the arrival of fall always brings with it a comforting knowledge that the fishing is about to get even better. Delayed harvest streams like the East Fork of the French Broad, West Fork of the Pigeon, and Tuckaseegee will soon again be full of fish. Stocking begins around the first of October and those streams will be catch and release only from the first Saturday in October until the first Saturday in June.
The Tuckaseegee, or “Tuck,” as it is often referred, provides a Western-style feel for anglers looking to fish from a drift boat or raft. Fishing from a boat, in my opinion, is the best way to explore a river, particularly wide rivers like the Tuck. Anglers have the opportunity to cover miles of river in a single day from the comfort of a seated position. Drifts seem endless because the angler is moving with the water. Even on slow days of fishing there is something special about navigating a boat down the river; carefully reading the water, picking the best lines, and gliding through water that would be too turbulent to wade.
I was fortunate to be part of many float trips while learning the art of fly fishing during my years in Crested Butte, CO. My fly fishing mentor, Jason Becker (to who I am forever grateful), basically introduced me to the sport from his fully outfitted 14 foot raft. He patiently dealt with my initial ineptness and taught me much of what I know about the sport. I distinctly remember one of our earlier outings in which I had a picture perfect simultaneous rise by two fish on my double dry fly rig. In my uncontrollable excitement I set the hook way too violently, (classic move from transitioning bass fishermen), and broke both fish off instantly. I remember Jason laughing hysterically as I tried to re-rig, my hands shaking from the excitement. Even more patience was required on his part when I took the oars for the first few times. I did 360s – not for style points, ran the raft aground, and worst of all mowed over the most “fishy” looking water while getting the feel for maneuvering the boat. Gotta start somewhere, right?
My boatmanship has improved greatly since those early days and I love guiding clients down the Tuck in a raft. Whether by boat or foot, on a guided trip or not, on public water or our private water, I would highly recommend checking out the fall fishing here in the Blue Ridge. The fishing is great and the scenery is unbeatable with a full palate of fall color as the background. Take advantage!