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Fly Fishing the French Broad

Photos and Commentary by Waitsel Smith

Lake Toxaway

Last November, seven buddies and I went to Lake Toxaway, NC for a fishing trip. We form a discipleship group at our church, and this was the first time all eight of us had ever been able to go off on a weekend trip together. The weather was gorgeous. We went north on Interstate 85 out of Atlanta to Hwy 11, then Hwy 281. At Hwy 64, we turned right, heading east. (Commercial photo.)

Lake Toxaway Country Club

Our chalet was located on the fabulous golf course at Lake Toxaway Country Club. That was just where we slept. Our real destination was the French Broad River, about 10 miles away to the east. I'm not a fly fisherman; but it was a real treat for me to watch the guys who are get their gear ready the night before. (Commercial photo.)

Scenic Highway Along French Broad River

The fork of the river that we were on ran along a back road, which we followed for a ways. There were other fishermen already on it, spaced 100 yards or more apart, so we kept driving. It reminded me of when I was a boy, bird hunting with my dad, how we drove until we found a bean field free of other hunters. Finally, we came to a scenic highway where there were as yet relatively few other fishermen, and got out.

French Broad River with Tree

The river was a nice mix of rapids and gentle sections, and extremely cold. I had never worn waders before, so I put on one of the extra pairs the guys had brought and went out into the middle of the river. It was exhilarating.

Race Fly Fishing French Broad River

It didn't take the guys long to stake out their territory and get to work. The river had been stocked recently - as a matter of fact, the guy who stocked it was just up the river fishing - so the fish were biting.

First Catch of the Day Made by Race

First catch of the day for our guys, made by Race.

Kirby in Aggressive Section of French Broad River

One of the more aggressive sections of the river...

Kirby Fly Fishing French Broad River

... and one of our more aggressive fishermen, Kirby.

Eric Fly Fishing French Broad River

Here's a more serene section; and, I think, the fisherman to match it.


Serenity paid off, because Eric had the most catches of the day, including this beauty.

Scott Fly Fishing French Broad River

One of the least aggressive sections of the river was further downstream, below the bridge we had crossed over to get there.

Scott Making a Catch

Scott, our host, occupied that section of the river and I believe he's got one.

Wildlife Manager Fly Fishing and Making Catch

After a while, I decided to walk on up the river to see what some of the other fishermen were catching. This is the wildlife manager that stocked the river a day or so earlier.

Clarity of French Broad River Water

You can see how clear the water is. It's funny how the fish in this river all seem to look alike.

River Philosopher George Wilson of Raleigh

Further on up the river, I met this gentleman: George Wilson from Raleigh. He was fishing with his son. He said he was 86 years old - same age as my mom - and that he had been a professor of philosophy at one of the colleges. I guess you could call him a river philosopher. We talked about how times had changed and both bemoaned the fact that they had not changed for the better.

George Wilson Presenting His Catch - Same Fish?

Wait a second, George: your fish looks like everybody else's! Could it be that everybody was catching and throwing back the same fish?!

Buddies Expressing Opinion: "Sounds fishy."

I asked some of my buddies what they thought of that theory. They said, "Sounds fishy." Oh, well.

If you get a chance to fish the French Broad, it's definitely worth it. But try to go on a weekend right after they've restocked the river: the fish won't realize what they're biting into, and you'll be in a fisherman's paradise.


Waitsel Smith, May 9, 2013

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Photos (except for top two) and Text © 2013 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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