The famed Russian novelist and philosopher, Leo Tolstoy, once wrote that, “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” In other words, Tolstoy never experienced a day of fly fishing on the East Fork of the French Broad River followed by a few hoppy refreshments from Oskar Blues Brewery.
The East Fork is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina a mere twenty minutes or so from the town of Brevard. For anyone who's never been to this part of the country, it's home to some of the most incredible mountain scenery east of the Mississippi, and it's highly worth a visit.
Even if fishing isn’t your forté, the mountains of North Carolina will keep cyclists, hikers, trail runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts entertained for quite some time. Simply put, it's one seriously awesome area just teeming with ancient mountains, diverse forest biomes, rolling roads seemingly designed specifically for cyclists, and unrivaled mountain biking and hiking trails.
Oh, and of course, world class trout streams.
While the Davidson (another river in the area) is commonly referred to as one of the most iconic trout streams in the nation, the East Fork is a much more forgiving river for those who have not yet perfected the “art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o’clock” (forgive me for the rather cliché quote from A River Runs Through It, but I’m pretty sure it’s a requirement for all things fly fishing).
Don’t think, however, just because it's a little easier to fish means the fishing isn’t superb. Both seasoned anglers and first timers (who catch more branches than fish) can be found standing knee deep in the chilly currents of the East Fork, reeling in a plethora of rainbow, brook, and brown trout. If you do happen to find yourself among the latter category, check out Headwaters Outfitters to replace those flies that were claimed by branches and get some helpful advice.
Aside from the local expertise that the guys at Headwaters can provide, here are few additional tips for fishing the East Fork:
You’ll want to bring a fairly lightweight rod and line (probably somewhere in the 4-6 weight range). The fish don’t seem to be particularly picky as far as fly types go, though anything bright seems to produce more results than a less colorful equivalent. As with any trout stream, fish the holes at the bottom of rapids and eddies that form alongside the fastest moving part of the river. Short casts work just as well, if not better, than longer casts on the East Fork due to its somewhat small size. If you do find yourself needing more distance in your cast than what is allowed by the size of the river, a decent roll cast will keep you from having to move and spook the fish, making it a valuable skill to bring when fishing this river if you’re lucky enough to have enough space to need a longer cast.
The one downside of the East Fork is that it can get a little bit crowded, especially on weekends with good weather. Fish there are aplenty, but it is not uncommon to wind up sharing your fishing spot, so bring a friendly smile (a nice Dale’s Pale Ale will do the trick just as well) and be ready to make some new friends while you fish.
There aren’t a lot of experiences that can rival the elation of pulling in that first fish of the day, and the East Fork of the French Broad River is a great place to do so. What its fish may lack in size, they more than make up for in number, and what the area may lack in rugged wilderness, it makes up for in serene and tranquil scenery. By the time you wade out into the cool waters of the East Fork and begin chatting with your new fishing buddy about the absurd number of fish you’ve already caught that day, you’ll start to appreciate just how close this river is to pure perfection.