Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Davidson River Clearly Among Top 100 Trout Streams in U.S.


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Vivacious-flowing, pristine-watered Davidson River offers fly fishermen many moments of clarity, after being recently rated as among the nation’s top 100 streams for “clarity.”

Clarity involves being clean and flowing well enough so fishermen can better see the fish they are after. The coldwater conservation group Trout Unlimited (TU) included Davidson and Nantahala rivers as the only two in North Carolina on its list of top 100 clear streams nationwide.

“The Davidson is justly famed as one of North Carolina’s premier trout fisheries,” John Ross wrote in TU’s America’s 100 Best Trout Streams. Its water remains crystal clear even after hard rains, retaining visibility for anglers.

Davidson is hailed as among the nation’s best streams for fly fishing, and for abundance of wild brown and rainbow trout. These fish reportedly average a foot to foot and a half long, with some two feet long and weighing six pounds. The largest fish are near the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery, which pumps leftover trout food, chronimid worms into the river.
The river is classified as catch-and-release, restricted to fishing with artificial flies, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. It is within a half-hour or hour of many Asheville-area anglers, just over an hour drive for Upstate South Carolinians.

The Davidson, a tributary of the French Broad River, flows through Pisgah National Forest along U.S. 276 to Looking Glass Creek and much of scenic, hilly northern Transylvania County. Forest Service Road 475 by the hatchery is a good path to the river. The half-mile stretch below the hatchery accounts for an estimated 90 percent of fishing on Davidson River.

The hatchery stocks area streams, including the Lower Davidson. Yet many wild trout populate the Upper Davidson, above the hatchery leading upriver to headwaters by Avery Creek.

Ed Dahling of Mills River, in Henderson County, loves the Davidson River for catching trout. He describes the river’s scenery as “exquisite” and therapeutically relaxing, with many rocks and being nestled in the woods of Pisgah National Forest.

Area rivers vary in the velocity of their flow, he noted. The Davidson below the hatchery has a fairly strong, steady flow normally and moreso in what was a very rainy summer. Flow is crucial to fly fishing, Dahling noted. The faster the flow, “the less time the fish has to react to the lure.” That favors the fishermanbecause the fish is more apt to think the lure is real, and to bite.

River flow is less and water shallower by the hatchery, with much water diverted through the facility. Many consider the slower Upper Davidson River ideal for spotting many trout in many large pools of water, also long runs with pockets and eddies.

“Desperation Pool” behind the hatchery is so nicknamed for big, evasive trout frustrating anglers. These fish are savvy, not so easily fooled by the many flies cast their way and especially on busy weekends. Evasion tactics include hiding beneath sunken tree trunks.

Anglers can counter with a fully drag-free draft, using a unique fly such as size 8 or larger instead of the more common sizes 20 to 30.

Fly fishing tactics should be adjusted for conditions. When the river runs higher after much rain, it helps to use a 5X tippet to catch big trout. Some suggest a light 6-8X tippet 9 to 12 feet long, treating the Davidson like a spring creek. Other ideas include a large point fly, and small midge or mayfly nymph. Yarn strike indicators also help, anglers further suggest.

Seasonal changes factor in. Trout spawning starts soon in late fall and lasts to early spring on the Davidson. In January and February, water is colder and insect snacks fewer at the surface which makes an alluring fly stand out more. Yet fish tend to cluster down deep by rocks in larger pools looking for food, at heads of fast current, veteran angles note. A pool is a sunken stream bed that slows current. Its head has trout food, dislodged from rapid water upstream. Anglers suggest wading close to such chutes, for more accurate closer casting across all slots with less drag.

The Hunting & Fishing guide is included in this week's IWANNA.

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