Outdoors

Mountain Heritage Trout Waters

Photograph by Jon Sailer

Asheville – Have you ever heard of Mountain Heritage Trout Waters? These designated waters run through or adjacent to cities in the mountain. The Mountain Heritage Trout Waters program is a cooperative effort between the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and local governments to encourage trout fishing as a heritage tourism activity in western North Carolina cities that are designated as a “Mountain Heritage Trout Water City.”

Currently, 17 cities are participating in the program. Each of these cities provides public access to a trout stream that runs through or is adjacent to the city. North Carolina residents and non-residents who want to fish in a stream that is designated as a Mountain Heritage Trout Water may purchase a 3-day license for $8. The license is valid only for waters that are designated as Mountain Heritage Trout Waters. Anglers with an inland fishing license can fish in Mountain Heritage Trout Waters without a Mountain Heritage Trout Waters license. The special license is only available through online or calling the toll free phone number, (888) 248-6834. The license is not available from local license agents.

Many of these Mountain Heritage streams are easily accessible from the Asheville area. In Yancey County, a stretch of the South Toe River adjacent to Toe River Campground is one. Up in Hot Springs in Madison County the section of Spring Creek that runs through town is also Mountain Heritage water. Haywood County has a couple of designated waters. In Waynesville, the section of Richland Creek adjacent to downtown is Mountain Heritage water. Over in Maggie Valley, they actually have two stretches of Jonathan Creek in the program: one paralleling Soco Road in downtown and the other along US Highway 276 north of town.

Another thing that makes this program unique is that some local governments, as part of the agreement, have fishing equipment that can be signed out by the angler. It operates like a library. You go by a designated local facility and can check out rod, reel, and tackle box for the day. An adult must accompany anglers under 18. You also
receive one-time free a mini-tackle box with an assortment of lures compliments of the WRC. 

As we escape to bonds of Covid-19 more people are looking to get outside and travel. Getting started fishing is one of those things you may want to pursue. Maybe family or friends are coming to visit and you are looking for outdoor opportunities you can all enjoy. Where do you get more information? Everything you need to know including maps of locations, link to order licenses, and a list of equipment locations is at the Commission’s website, ncwildlife.org/Fishing/Learn-Resources/Programs/Mountain-Heritage-Trout-Waters-Program. So if your family is itching to get outside, or you’ve got family coming to visit this summer and they want to try some mountain trout fishing, this may be the way to do it!

Since we’re on the topic of trout fishing, Delayed-Harvest waters changed over to Hatchery Supported on June 6th. Commission staff continues to stock streams throughout June but do decrease that in July and August. So trout fishing is heating up. Literally. With hot weather in late June, July, and August your fishing tactics need to change. Here are some things to consider before heading to the stream.

Although you can successfully fish all day, the best time to hit the streams is either early morning or late in the evening. Why? Because trout are more active when water temperatures are cooler during those times. Most anglers prefer mornings because water has had a chance to cool overnight. If fishing at midday target shaded areas out of the sun or under bridges or overhanging trees. 

Because swift water is typically cooler and more oxygenated, that may be your best bet for dry fly fishing. If that’s not working you may have to fish deeper, especially midday. Pools and deep water are typically cooler, again preferred by trout. If using a fly rod try a dry fly like an Elk Hair Caddis with a wet fly like a Bead Head Nymph as a dropper 18 to 24 inches below it. You may get strikes on either one. If you are fishing with spinnerbaits slow down your retrieve. Trout metabolism slows down as water temperatures climb.

As for the choice of fly patterns, most of the subsurface insect activity subsides during hot weather. Dry flies are successful when fishing riffles and fast water. Think about insect patterns like ant and beetle patterns. Bright color spinners will work in your favor especially in deep pools where the flash of the spinner may elicit a strike.