Friends, Fishing and what do you mean I need permission once I'm in the streambed.
So, last week I got to go on a pretty special trip, and before I get started I need to thank one of my buds for hooking me up, Thanks Jake Storey. I think NC fishermen know about the "club waters" in NC, esp. in the High Country. (which is hard for me to wrap my head around since I live in Tenn.....more on this later!) I got offered by Jake to have a guided trip through the heart of Linville on fishing club waters, that most people never get to fish. Jake is from Avery Co., as a little boy his dad would drop him off at Faye's Store while he went to work. He grew up fishing the streams of Avery Co, hanging out in Faye's Store and eventually guiding some of these rivers as young man. Jake wanted to take me and show me his roots, where he learned to fish, and the store that influenced him when he was learning to set a hook.
Jake had somehow secured us a 2 bead trip on the Linville, and off we go to Avery Co. I didn't know what to expect. Private waters is something that I am not accustomed to at all, and have never fished. We arrived at Faye's Store which I think has to be the oldest operating fly shop in the High Country. And I have to say I was a little sad to see the boutique fly shop posted up right in front of Faye's. Anyway, as we walk into the store, I was transported back in time at least 40 years. The smells, the layout (chaos), the fact that you can buy some of the most beautiful hand tied flies I have ever seen, or a that you can have Paul's (the owner and fly tier) daughter fix you a fried bologna sandwich while you talk about what the fish are hitting and picking out flies. The man has tied every pattern I could ever think of. I was able to stock up on Tennessee Woulff's (fyi I can't find them in TN and have to go to NC to get them), but you better know the name of the flies you want, there is no rummaging around fly bins like in most shops today. These jewels are keep in a glass case, 1950's era fly cards labeling the who tied them, what they were and the size. And there were hundreds. You could poke through custom hand tied leaders, rods, you name it.......and the bologna sandwich was pretty damn good with a cold beer, too.
We meet our guide, drove to our bead and in the water we went, a beautiful creek up on the mountain, with plenty of fish that could easily be sighted and cast to. It's still a little chilly up there, water temp is still in the upper 40's......maybe lower 50's.....and a small hatch to boot, so its sub surface fishing all day. The fishing was great! Beautiful Rainbows and Browns were caught all day. We laughed and gave each other shit and it was a trip that I would do again in a heart beat. Thanks Jake, that meant a lot, I hope I can repay you one day! It did start me thinking, a lot.....about private water.....I have to say I'm in a conundrum, well not really, maybe it just feels that way.
There is a huge debate in our country, esp. out past the big Muddy, about public lands, water rights, streambed access, etc. I know that New Mexico just passed some pretty harsh laws restricting access to the waters there. I know that there is debate all over the west about this. One of my closest friends, lives in Durango, works as a hydrologist and faces the water issues everyday. We have discussed it, and I have formed an opinion about it, but I don't think I ever had a understanding of how it works until I found it....here....on my home turf. And it sorta bothered me.....I have spent days processing it, and trying to cover all sides of it in my head. And the thing that gets me the most is that its not just one or two stretches of a river or creek, But alot of the water in Avery County, and probably Watauga Co too, are closed to 99% of the people. Now there is the benefit that these waters are well maintained, have beautiful fish, that crowd control is greatly regulated. Anyone who has been to the Boone area during the summer knows what I mean by crowds, the fisheries would be donkey punched to say the least. But these are the only positive points that I have found. Through lease agreements and property purchase a tremendous amount of water has been taken away from us, for a select few, who can afford to pay $5000 dollars a year and have been chosen to be part of this club.
I live just over the state line in TN, where if you can get into the streambed, and its considered "navigable" you are pretty much good to go. Just stay off peoples property and there is no problems. I quickly learned on this trip that over in NC that's not the case. That day caused me to ask myself to many questions about river access. I mean I get and support property rights, but......this seems..... Maybe it's time, as a fishing community, to start finding smart solutions and a reasonable way to address this. I am scared that we could loose a generation of new fishermen, because they have nowhere to fish or the room they need to stretch their young legs, and get out there. They...we...need places to disappear to, to turn over rocks, bust our asses. To learn, we need open, wild spaces.....
Anyway, maybe I listened to too much Woody Guthrie growing up. It was a great day, great fishing with a good friend....That's what its all about.