Well folks, that was an interesting couple of weeks here in Western North Carolina. A year of record rainfall culminated with some of the highest water levels we have seen in a long time during the last week of 2018. Given the abundance of precipitation in previous weeks, the water levels remain much above average, even after a relatively dry week. Area rivers and streams are fishable, but take caution wading out there. The forecast doesn’t call for a lot of precipitation this weekend so water levels should become more favorable into next week, just be aware of slick spots on the road if venturing out in the next few days.
North Fork of the French Broad
As the water has gradually receded the North Fork is currently at a fishable level for those with strong wading skills. Heavy nymph rigs have brought the most success on these warmer, sunny days. Clarity is quite good so a big attractor nymph with something small and flashy makes for a good place to start. Think big stonefly with a rainbow warrior, or other small attractor nymph or midge and plenty of weight to get the flies down. If heading to the North Fork, or any other medium/large sized stream this weekend, streamer fishing could be good under cloudy skies.
East Fork of the French Broad
The East Fork is fishing typical for this time of year if not a little better than average with the higher flows. You are no longer dealing with naïve stockers, these fish have spread out and naturalized at this point. Be assured, there are still plenty of fish, they just require a little more tact. Baetis nymphs along with little black stones and midges will out-fish a squirmy worm these days. Try to execute a stealthy approach and a good drift on every cast for success.
The big D has been fishing quite well with elevated water flows. At current water levels, the hatchery is a good destination for less skilled waders and fish have been taking a variety of midges on 6X, (as opposed to 7X), tippet. Cloud cover and adverse weather might make for some excellent streamer fishing this weekend for those willing to play the game. Keep in mind, streamer fishing is usually about quality over quantity so be patient and fish hard if you’re looking to land a beast.
Small streams have actually been fishing okay of late, probably due to warmer than average temperatures. Also, higher water has these fish less prone to spook. It looks like old man winter has returned for a little so explore a small stream during the warmest hours of the day and with the knowledge that there is great value in landing even a couple wild fish in such beautiful surroundings.