Erynn and I spent the weekend in northwest North Carolina for our anniversary. We stayed at the Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, NC. On Saturday we booked a fly fishing guide to teach us how to fly fish and then on Sunday spent a few hours driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weekend we chose was near the end of the fall season when most of the leaves were yellow and deep red. At the highest elevations most of the leaves had dropped, but below about 2,500 feet everything was in full fall glory.
Erynn did some research on the interweb and we booked a guide through the Foscoe Fishing Company, which as you might imagine sells a bunch of Orvis fly fishing stuff.
Our guide Randy started fly fishing at 13 and now guides full time in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. He has his own company Troutfishers Guide Service and he offers a number of half-day and full-day packages. We spent the entire day with him and he taught us the basics, fed us lunch and took us to three spots to catch trout. All in all it was a fantastic day and if anyone is looking to fly fish in the area we'd definitely recommend Randy.
Our first stop was at the Valle Crucis Community Park, which is owned by the local community. Within the park is the Watauga River that's stocked with trout monthly (if I remember correctly). This was also Erynn's first ever time in waders, and she liked very much the sensation of walking waist-deep in water and not getting wet. Once we got settled into the first fishing hole Randy showed us again what he was trying to explain on shore.
Randy was a good, patient guide. He kept it fun and interesting all day. As you'll see in all of the photos, the weather was absolutely fantastic all weekend with temperatures in the 60s. We got really lucky, because the weekend before it was really cold and overcast.
For an hour or so after we started fishing we saw a guy further up stream landing a bunch of fish. No fish were biting in the hole we were working so when he left we took over. After he landed about five fish we had our doubts whether the fish were still biting. Almost immediately though I got a bite and landed a nice ten inch rainbow trout. You can watch the video that Erynn took.
Erynn was up next in exactly the same spot. Within minutes of her first cast into this new whole she was getting bites and ultimately landed a very nice looking rainbow trout that was getting ready to spawn. I took a video of Erynn's first-ever fish caught with a fly rod for your enjoyment. We released both fish back to be caught and enjoyed again.
Did I mention that Erynn really liked her waders and boots?
The Valle Crucis Community Park is very beautiful as you can see. It's not a public per se. It is supported by private donations from local citizens and businesses. After catching our fish, we set up lunch in one of the picnic shelters and Randy warmed up some fantastic homemade chicken noodle soup for lunch. The park is conveniently located and while we were eating we saw truck after truck pull into the parking lot. Everyone pulled out fly fishing gear. Erynn and I had picked up the casting motion sufficiently that he decided to take us to some other, hopefully less crowded, streams in the area.
Randy took us to a couple other streams that were not stocked. We were hoping to catch some wild Brown or Brook trout, but since they are wild are much harder to catch and land. At our first hole Erynn spotted a Brook trout deep in a hole in the middle of the creek. Erynn was in stalking mode while Randy brushed a nymph over the fish's nose. It wasn't biting so we moved on.
Randy showed us a bunch more techniques throughout the afternoon in various locations. He also taught us how to fish certain terrain and parts of the river. Always remember, "foam is home".
Near the end of the day I was fishing a series of runs. Randy was pointing the way and we hadn't caught any fish for a couple hours. Then he told me to take a step and cast into a new area. Immediately my dry fly disappeared, but I was still shifting my feet. I saw the fly disappear and pulled too hard. The fish flopped out of the water then released the hook. The look on Randy's face was priceless. I had just lost a ~15 inch brown trout!
Apparently, brownies are one of the hardest to catch, and I had one on my hook. And not just any brownie, but a real keeper. The fish eventually went back to the same hole and we could watch him with our polarized glasses. We tried three different flies and countless casts to get him to bite again, but he was too spooked. Oh well, the one that got away...
We spent a couple nights at the Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It's a pretty touristy area near Boone, Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway. After a hard day of fishing we cleaned up and went out for an underwhelming dinner at the Six Pence Pub. I guess we became a little snobbish after a couple years living in Britain so we were rather unimpressed by the "traditional" fare served at the Six Pence.
The resort itself was nice enough. It had a nice bar though the rooms were a little dated. They appeared to be building a new wing so possibly they'd focus on the original rooms once done. The only real factor that would prevent us from recommending the place was the breakfast. Just a normal breakfast at a Holiday Inn was better than this place. The selection and service were quite poor. Breakfast seating was in the Manner House, which we figured was a nice, more upscale joint in the evening. However, in the morning you got eggs, sausage, maybe oatmeal and a poor selection of cereals. Nothing much in terms of fruit and you had a wait on an inexperienced, inattentive wait staff for anything to drink or to turn in your breakfast coupon. All in all, not a bad place, but not really in line with the cost per night.
More photos from the Chetola Resort...
A very popular trip is to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway from Boone to Asheville or vice versa. We were in the area at the tail end of when the leave had turned for fall. At the higher altitudes the leaves were mostly gone, but nearer sea level the forests were still a radiant orange and red. The above photo was taken at the Heffner Gap at 3,067 feet.
The first stop on our trip out of Boone was the Moses Cone Mansion. The house featured a bunch of local artist's work for purchase. The property also featured a long series of trails that people were using to walk, jog and ride horses on. I just can't imagine walking out on to my porch and having that view!
Our next stop was the Linn Cove Viaduct, which was a first of its kind in the US. Even though the Parkway was started in 1935 it wasn't finished until 1987. The last major obstacle stopping completion was the section that was to skirt Grandfather Mountain. The bridge was built in pre-cast sections and erected in place with almost no contact with the mountain itself to preserve (as best as possible) the integrity of the environment. I encourage you to click on the viaduct link, because it is truly an engineering marvel.
The left hand photo is my poor attempt at photographing the bridge. We didn't find out until later that there was a path from the Visitor Center that led to a more desirable location for photographs. So I took a photo of a poster that was in the Visitor Center from the construction.
Our next stop was Linville Falls. After parking at the visitor center it's a short hike to the easiest access to the falls. On the way I had Erynn point out a couple signs. Randy had told us all about the trout notification signs the previous day so we stood by the water and tried to pick out where the fish were. Then we passed a directional sign that pointed to Erynn's namesake. The spelling of her name isn't "normal" and many people confuse it by saying "Erwin". I guess it's an inside joke...
Some more photos from the hike.
Here we are at the falls themselves. As you'll see from the video, the viewing deck affords a nice view of the falls. However, at this point you're actually in the upper part of the falls. As the water disappears through the hole it makes another large drop. Many of the postcards of the falls are quite dramatic, but I suspect it would have been a much longer hike to get the money shot. Dare I say... Erwin's View.
After visiting the falls we pulled off the Parkway to grab some food. At milepost 316.4 just east of the Parkway we ate at the Spear's BBQ & Grill. It was a cozy little place with great sandwiches for lunch. We didn't partake, but they appeared to have a very good wine selection if you were in the area for dinner.
Another fun stop along the way was the Orchard at Altapass where Erynn (aka Erwin) bought some baking apples. I just liked these photos because they give a sense of how beautiful the day was. The weekend previous was apparently better for leaves, but the weather was terrible.
The last stop on our Parkway drive was the Museum of North Carolina Minerals. Not terribly noteworthy in and of itself, but it marked the farthest you could realistically drive on the Parkway without a detour. However, I now know that minerals are EVERYWHERE! You could go a bit farther, but then you'd have to back track. There's a large section of the Parkway being worked on and it'll be closed for a couple more years. Instead of having to do a bunch of detour driving, we just hit the interstate and headed back to Raleigh.
© 2008 Doug Rathburn