Best Adventures in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Words and Photos by: Caleb Adcock
The Blue Ridge Mountains that wind through Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and Northern Georgia are truly something special. While there aren't massive peaks and glacial rivers, the accessible outdoor recreation that sits in between those connected ridges is what allows you to experience them in their fullness. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway are most known in the area when it comes to getting outside, however, the southeast holds quite a bit more.
1. An Unlikely Hiker's Mecca
Many times, the southeast isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of outdoor recreation, but man are those people missing out. The Appalachian Trail, Mountains-to-Sea Trail and other local trail systems throughout Western NC are prime opportunities for hikers to get out in the wilderness with some incredible views. The ease and accessibility to different trailheads is incredible for first timers out for an overnight or for the more experienced hikers taking a few weeks to check off sections and enjoy the simplicity of living out of a backpack.
2. A Budding Kayak Scene
Western North Carolina is also home to the Green River Narrows Race, a white-water kayaking race that features racers from across the country that come to compete each November. If you’re a part of the whitewater community or from the Southeast, you’ve probably heard about it before and maybe even attended but if you’re not in those circles, it might come as a surprise to see such an event hosted outside a small town in North Carolina.
3. The Fly Fisher's Paradise
If you’re on the other side of the water-based community in the fly-fishing world, you may have heard of the South Holston or Watauga rivers that wind through the mountains of Eastern TN. Most known for their prime trout fishing in the southeast, these rivers hold some of the most scenic floats that allow you completely different experiences depending on the season.
4. Enjoy and Leave No Trace
Whether you go to fish, hike or simply enjoy the view - the Blue Ridge Mountains hold more outdoor recreation than you probably think. It’s crucial that we leave the places we explore better than we found them. So, if you’re summiting a peak in Colorado or paddling the Watauga, make sure you do your part and help educate others to do the same.
Life's just better lived in a pair of waders, and for me, there's no greater reward than doing so safely and sustainably every time I hit the water.
The past decade of my life has been spent fly fishing for trout. I was fortunate to be educated on the proper ethics of fishing early on in my angling journey, and catch-and-release practices quickly became second nature. I hope that by sharing some tips, whether you’re a conventional or fly angler, a newcomer, or an experienced pro, you’ll be sure to incorporate proper fishing techniques every time you hit the water. The best part is you don't need expensive equipment or a lifetime of knowledge to start now; with a bit of guidance and taking action, these techniques will undoubtedly become second nature for you too.
1. Awareness is Key
As extreme heat continues to sweep across the west along with drought, it's not uncommon to hear others talking about catch-and-release angling or water temperatures. Many of you might already be in the know (great!), but as fishing continues to grow, there will be more folks who need to hear this information. I hope you’ll help them get their feet wet the right way and share your knowledge of proper fishing techniques.
2. Know Before You Go
The age-old wilderness preparedness saying "know before you go" certainly applies to fishing as well. I typically have a plan in place before heading out of the day, along with a backup plan. I'm often traveling outside of my local waters to fish, so I make sure that I'm aware of specific regulations to any area I intend to wet a line. Regulations can include size limits for keeping fish, river closures, protected species, and trust pass laws. A quick google search with "your county fishing regulations" is an easy way to get in the know. You can also visit a fly shop in the area you intend on fishing for the most up-to-date information.
Along with regulations, it's essential to check the weather and river conditions before heading out. I'm a big fan of the Weather Underground App and River App, free to download and provide accurate data.
Lastly, I make sure my fishing license hasn't expired and that I have a paper copy or a digital version that is easy to access should I need to show it. Purchasing a fishing license goes directly to support conservation efforts, so why not buy one?
3. Catch-and-Release Techniques
First off, let's clear up what catch and release fishing means. When not keeping a fish, you immediately release fish unharmed back into the water where caught. By following these techniques, we are helping to support the survival of future fish populations one angler at a time.
Keep this checklist on your phone:
- Check water temps (if above 67 degrees, this temp is too stressful for trout), stop fishing.
- Use barbless hooks
- Bring the fish to the net as quickly as possible; try fishing with heavier leaders & tippet.
- Avoid contact with the bank or gravel as this removes protective slime
- Use a soft rubber net to protect the protective coating of the fish
- Keep the fish in the water & handle as little as possible with wet hands
- Do not squeeze the fish
- Remove the hook using forceps if necessary
- Release the fish by pointing its nose into the current so that water is flowing over its gills
- Kindly support the fish until it swims away.
4. Adjust Fishing Habits
While these techniques are essential for every fishing outing, it is vital to be extra mindful during certain times of the year, especially in summer when drought and extreme heat come into play. Temping the water often is crucial to know when to stop fishing for the day. To be safe, get a reading before fishing and on the hour until you leave. Remember that any temp above 67 degrees is too hot for trout.
Inherently as anglers, we are often the first ones to the river, and this should especially be true during times of heat. Montana developed Hoot Owl regulations that put closures on certain rivers between 2 pm and midnight. Not every state puts closures on rivers, but that doesn't mean you can't adopt your regulations and encourage friends to do the same. But what happens when it's still too hot? Now is an excellent time to find cold water, high country lakes, and creeks or target warm-water species, such as bass or carp that thrive in warmer conditions.
As if bettering the future of fishing wasn’t enough of a reward, I'd say practicing the following is pretty dang good fish karma too. The fish and fellow anglers thank you!
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Be in the know on the latest stories, special offers, and more.