stood alongside me knee-deep in the Oconaluftee River, a gem for trout just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the outskirts of Swain County, North Carolina.
Eugene Shuler has been a fly fishing guide nearly all his life.
has been a fly fishing guide nearly all his
Tight-lining for trout is a technique he
often uses on North Carolina streams, and it works in a variety of situations.
Shuler, owner of Fly Fishing the Smokies guide service, had invited me down to this far western edge of the Tar Heel State to investigate the county's fishing options-and in particular to catch trout.
and I had fished the Tuckasegee River the day before and landed some nice rainbow trout and a few bass; today I was going to be schooled on tight line trout fishing.
, who has been a fly fishing guide nearly all his
adult life, walks softly and carries a big accent.
But don't let his
Western Carolina drawl fool you.
Whether it's fishing, local and federal government operations, or the needs of small business owners, Shuler
"Keep an eye open for snakes," Shuler
reminded me as we scooted down the side of a steep bank to make our way to the middle of river we'd be fishing.
"They're a part of fly fishing out here," he
said as he
scanned the bank, "but I hate snakes, myself."
My sentiments exactly, I thought, following Shuler
carefully and doing my best to walk in his
footsteps, even after we entered the stream.
We'd begun fishing in the late afternoon; now the setting sun and the low light that snuck past the tight canopy of cover overhead gave the impression that we were fishing in early evening.
The conditions were perfect for snaring wary trout.
"Take your indicator off.
You don't use those in tight line fishing," Shuler
I tossed my fly pattern out in the direction that Shuler
suggested, and I let the fly sink.
"OK Beau, keep your leader tight by lifting all the fly line out of the water and not allowing even the leader to float on the water's surface."
This proved much harder to do than I expected.
I watched my leader and was surprised when Shuler
said, "You just missed a fish, Beau."
"I don't think so, Eugene
I think I must have hit bottom or something."
replied, "OK, try again, only this time, really keep the leader tight and don't even think about the fly at all.
Simply concentrate on the leader, and if you see it move, set the hook."
I'm sure that Shuler
could tell I was becoming exasperated, as we'd been fishing for nearly 20 minutes without a bite.
said as my rod bowed over with the weight of the fish.
had won me to his
cause: tight line trout fishing was legit.
And the truth is that anglers can catch everything from smallmouth bass, crappie and bluegill to coldwater species using this technique.
Over the course of my visit, in addition to teaching me the light line technique, Shuler
introduced me to hundreds of North Carolina river miles.
All the eager angler has to do to take advantage of that bounty is head to Swain County (www.greatsmokies.com/) with a state fishing license and a little bit of patience.
When you go, I highly recommend that call upon Eugene Shuler
to teach you the finer points of tight line fly fishing.