View Full Version : Fly fishing guides, good/bad?

02-14-2008, 02:27 PM
I recently was at a friends house who had purchased a book called "Western North Carolina Fly Guide" and after reading it made question what damage this book will do. I have no problem with the author J.E.B. Hall giving out info on the dough belly streams like the Davidson and the Tuck. Those rivers can handle the added pressure. The ones that really got to me were the streams that have fished since my childhood that are all native brookie water. I have yet to see many anglers at all on some of these streams and the thought of those fragile little gems having all the extra pressure really gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. A local newspaper here in Asheville interviewed the author and he said straight out he wrote the book for the money. I just don't think I could ever sell out these trout for a buck. I know there have been numerous books written on the smokies so I just thought I would get you guys opinion on these so called guides. Thanks

02-14-2008, 02:48 PM
I personally don't know J.E.B. Hall and will probably shoot myself in the foot with this comment; if he was any type of guide, he wouldn't have to rely on book sales for his primary income, nor would he endanger the streams with overpressure from fishing. There are a large number of "experts" in every field and fly fishing is no exception. Unfortunately, most of these same people think with their wallets and not their brains. I also fish in Western NC, including the Highlands and the Smokies. I also fish in Upstate SC which is receiving alot of pressure due to these "expert guides" publishing books and articles naming even the most isolated streams (i.e. The Gorges).

02-14-2008, 03:22 PM
All I know about J.E.B. Hall is that he is 29 yrs old and guides for the Davidson River Outfitters(hope its ok to use their name here). I figure the last thing these specs needed was weekend fly fisherman from all over the country trekking all over these waters. The author is from Bryson City and guides in Alaska as well. Just make me curious were his motives were.

02-14-2008, 03:28 PM
(Meant to title my tag, "Maybe I'm not seeing something")...but I have never noticed that much more activity after one of these books has been published. I am not saying there isn't an increase, but even if there is, I wonder how long lived such increases will be? Hopefully not enough to produce much or any lasting adverse effects!

I see some similarities between trends with fly fishing and trends elsewhere such as with golf. About the time i decided to try and actually took up golf, a Young fellow named Tiger Woods came on the scene and for the next several years here in N.E. Florida, there were many courses that you could not get a tee time on. It was as if a tidal wave of interest in the game began to swell with Tiger's introduction to the pros, and it's momentum continued for several years.

Even the decent (not so great) courses in our fringe areas seemed to stay busy and even if you got on, they were often backed up. Well it would seem that the wave crested a couple of years ago and has now even receded a bit. Several of the local courses have been closed, including one of the nicer ones in the area at which several pro and amateur tournaments had been held.

My guess is that and it has even appeared to me that, with each new book there is a bit of an on stream swell for a time, but usually it is not very long lived. There is yet another though and that is this, most out of stater's have limited time when they visit the area, and they are with families on vacation...thus limiting their time on stream. this being the case I seriously suspect relatively very few are willing or even have the time to hike in much if at all. I for one do allot more dreaming and scheming about fishing remote areas than I have yet been able to do.

In closing, do I wish that sensitive information about delicate areas were not being disclosed? I have to admit I'm a bit torn, there are many locations and even some techniques I would have never had a clue about had it not been made available to me in print. Yet on the other hand, if the health and overall quality of a stream or river is at serious risk of being compromised or damaged, I'd rather see it closed.

My simple hope is that any kind of threat such books appear to represent is a situation of it's bark being far greater than it's bite.

My effort in making this post is to try and encourage folks by saying it is my sincerest hope and personal observation that this and other such books "may" not be as serious a threat as they might appear to be.

God Bless,

PS: By the way, I have also seen far more sensitive material posted on some websites than what have read in most books. I suggest when disclosing locations in reports online that discretion might be a wise choice. I am not sayinf such information ought never be shared, but email may be a btter option that a public post?

02-14-2008, 05:39 PM

For the most part, I think you are correct. But the big caveat is the detail of the secluded streams that is often given away and the result is an increase in fishing pressure and other negatives that often goes along with additional persons (trash, etc).

Jack M.
02-14-2008, 06:11 PM
Frankly, I think it is a big myth that streams are ruined or even impacted beyond insignificance by books, articles or messageboard posts bragging up certain waters. Most people just get upset when "their" secret stream has been mentioned. The more streams that are known to provide recreational opportunities, the more the general pressure is spread out. Ninety-percent of the anglers still are not going to walk more than 100 yards from a bridge crossing or pull out. There simply is nothing to fear here but fear itself.

02-14-2008, 06:25 PM
Jack, there is a particular stream that I fish and I am pretty sure that WNCFLY has fished. It was very secluded with great stream access and quite a few native trout. A while back, an issue of Eastern Fly Fishing mentioned the stream for its fishing but also the wonderful runs for kayakers. Want to guess what happened? Not only were there more people showing up to fish, but the number of kayaks also increased, in spite of the postings prohibiting the kayaks and a few people even show up to sunbathe on the house sized boulders in the middle of the stream. When I asked one of them how they found out about the place, they referred to the article I mentioned above. Was this a coindence? Perhaps.

02-14-2008, 07:54 PM
Guys, I honestly don't think it has that big of an impact. How long ago was it when that first Don Kirk book was published, 20 years. Those books are essential to sharing the wealth of this sport with the newcomers which we all were at one time. Some people know others that are into the sport and have an inside track on good waters, but others rely on these guides. To me it is risky to only have one water that you fish or return to time after time. Doing so leaves yourself open to a bad day in the event that you show up and find another vehicle parked there. That is why I like to spread myself around throughout the year to better develop my fishing skills. That includes other species instead of trout, I just love to fly fish regardless of what I am catching. The population is ever increasing, and crowds on rivers are going to continue to grow. The days of having rivers to ourselves are drawing to a close I am afraid, so we need to adapt. The trash problem I do think is an issue. Unfortunately, today's society is not concerned about cleaning up after themselves, just leave it for somebody else. I think that we need more rangers and TWRA officers who are more willing to ticket, but that is an issue for another thread.

If the crowds are going to follow what they read on the message board, I think I may start posting about the plentiful monstrous fish I am catching on the Clinch so I can have the Hiwassee to myself. :biggrin:


02-14-2008, 11:10 PM
a book can not bring 1/2 as much pressure on a stream than a post on a internet board

02-14-2008, 11:32 PM
Whenever a book is published I'd have to guess the intention is to make some $$$. I ran into JEB Hall at the fly show last weekend, I asked him why he wrote the book. He mainly said there was nothing like it....I agreed. Although I don't own a copy it does look like a good looking book. I skimmed the section for the area in which I live and he did not mention any of the little "gems" I love to roam. Just the obvious. I did want to ask if he had actually fished all these streams........

02-15-2008, 12:34 AM
I've looked at a copy of Hall's book, it's no worse than Rutter's books, i liked the format a little better on Hall's book, it gave a little more info on the streams, didn't tell you how to fish them though.
The books won't bring any more pressure than they already recieve, heck if you can't get out of the car & walk into the water, most folks aren't going to pursue them & if there's a gravel road, they won't get their SUV's dirty, what would that do to their image:eek:


02-15-2008, 07:31 AM
I agree on both fronts. It does irritate me when a stream that i worked hard to find is suddenly revealed for the whole world to find out about. To me, part of the thrill of fly fishing in these parts is finding these streams. I mean doing all the research and scouring for information and then the actual adventure of getting to the stream is exhilirating to say the least when you stumble across that little gem of a stream. Of course, more often than not i draw a blank rather that hit the nail on the head, but that's part of what makes this sport great.

I can also see, however, that most people are still not going to get out and walk to these streams. This is fine by me and i hope that it stays that way. I have this book as well and find it a decent read. If i remember correctly, all of the brookie streams that it describes don't require TOO much effort to get to. It does, however, mention one of my favorite ones so i feel your pain. That's what i love about the smokies. There are numerous books written on all the streams in the park, but some of them are so isolated that you can't find any information about it. Heck, if someone has got the guts to follow me in the woods for 10 miles, then they deserve to know about a stream just as much as i do.

I guess for me it's an aggrevation just simply because i put in the effort to find this stream and others are getting it handed to them. I am really afraid of one book that is coming out in the near future that is exclusively about brook trout streams in the smokies and immediate surrounding areas. This book promises to cover all of the brook trout water and honestly, kinda makes me mad. I can't speak for everyone else, but to me, finding and fishing for these brook trout is kind of like the holy grail of fly fishing. It's not the size of the fish, but the adventure and hard work that goes into it that makes it all worthwhile and makes it special. I sincerely hope that books such as these don't increase pressure, though, as that would be a shame.


02-15-2008, 09:50 AM
Let me put another spin on this topic. What do you think of guides who will ask fly fishermen (and ladies) questions about their particular "gems" and then overtake those same stream locations with their clientele? I have had it happen more than once, and not just in the Smokies.

02-15-2008, 09:56 AM
I am really afraid of one book that is coming out in the near future that is exclusively about brook trout streams in the smokies and immediate surrounding areas. This book promises to cover all of the brook trout water and honestly, kinda makes me mad. I can't speak for everyone else, but to me, finding and fishing for these brook trout is kind of like the holy grail of fly fishing.

This sort of changes my perception on the whole topic; prior to this, I could say that I really appreciated the guide books, because, as one who doesn't live in the mountains (at least not yet, but that day is coming ;)), and who has three kids and a limited amount of time on our trips, I have relied on such books to help me over the learning curve. All the books I have focus on the major streams for the most part, so there are no secrets being given out. However, a book focusing on brookies and bluelines is a horse of a different color - I feel exactly the way you do about these little jewels...they're the native fish, and that makes them extra special in my eyes. They're just now making a decent recovery in the park - I guess we can hope their overall average small size and the difficulty in reaching some of the better streams will keep the pressure off.

02-15-2008, 12:00 PM
IMO... I think these books are great for bringing new participants into our sport. When I first started flyfishing, I was POOR. My flyrod was a combo set purchased from a flea market for about $25. Even though I grew up in a family that fished, I didn't know anyone who flyfished. I could never have afforded a guide. One of these books is what helped me get started. Without it, I may have become frustrated and quit. So, if it gets more people on the water, then I am all for it.

I enjoy fishing the blueline streams away from any trail, however my wife doesn't. She would rather just fall out the truck door and land in the water. Our favorite roadside stream that we enjoy fishing is in one of Rutter's books, and we have never run into another fisherman along the stretches that we fish.

02-15-2008, 12:11 PM
This sort of changes my perception on the whole topic; prior to this, I could say that I really appreciated the guide books, because, as one who doesn't live in the mountains (at least not yet, but that day is coming ;)), and who has three kids and a limited amount of time on our trips, I have relied on such books to help me over the learning curve. All the books I have focus on the major streams for the most part, so there are no secrets being given out. However, a book focusing on brookies and bluelines is a horse of a different color - I feel exactly the way you do about these little jewels...they're the native fish, and that makes them extra special in my eyes. They're just now making a decent recovery in the park - I guess we can hope their overall average small size and the difficulty in reaching some of the better streams will keep the pressure off.

I think it takes a special kind of person (someone that is at least half nuts), to want to hike 5 miles up a mountain, getting stuck in thickets, fighting off rattlesnakes, to catch a 3-7" trout. I've got Rapalas bigger than most of the Brookies I've caught. A book about Brookies may increase the pressure at some places, however these are the same fishermen that would be fishing for them somewhere else. So, those streams would recieve less pressure. That is just my opinion, I am no expert in any aspects of fishing and fishing pressure.

02-15-2008, 12:18 PM
In the smokies there are over 700 miles of fishable streams. Add to that the surrounding areas in NC, SC, GA and TN that have fishable waters and regardless of how large a book you could write, there is no way that anyone could visit anything but a fraction of the water listed in any book, unless they give up all of their current destinations.

Just because a stream is included in the book does not mean that it will suffer any adverse effects due to fishing pressure. After all, many of the Brookie streams require quite an effort to get to. And if someone is going to make the effort to get there, that still doesn't guarantee that they will find any "Honey Holes". Even if they did, some thinning of fish populations is actually a good thing. It helps the other fish get larger. Many of the streams in the backcountry are overpopulated.

These kinds of books were not really meant for the serious Brookie hunters (like Craig). They are too vague and too obvious to put many of the fish in any danger. An example: in Don Kirks book, he lists Hazel creek above 3000' as some of the finest brookie trout water in the park. How many of us have been there? Not many. Why? Well, its more than 10 miles up the Hazel Creek trail, or if you are crazy (slightly...sorry Craig) you could hike down from Clingman's Dome. Now, not all streams are that hard to get to, but many of them are. Not many folks get into stalking Brookies. Many of the better waters are too hard to get to, are nearly impossible to cast into or require mountaineering skills to traverse the stream, once you are there. Add to that the majority of fish are awfully small and only the hardiest of souls would even be interested in it.

The books are really for folks who live outside of the area or are beginners who want to learn more about the area before go to the Smokies and trying to catch a fish. Let's face it: We need more fisherman not less. As much as we may think thats a bad thing, two things are very important to our fisheries 1) we need to get more people into fishing and 2) we need to keep bringing tourists to the area to support our local businesses. Without those two things wild trout in the park will become less important and fishing could eventually get outlawed (thank you PETA).

As for trout mortality, as much as we would like to think we really "kill'em" when we're out on a Brookie stream, the fact is, angling pressure has very little negative impact on the mortality rate of fish. There are numerous examples of this, that have been written about on this board and in other places. Environmental factors are much more important to fish mortality. Now, if some of the easier to get to places are getting fished more and that causes a destruction is the stream habitat (trash, foliage being destroyed, etc) because of a book, then obviously that is bad. But if a stream is easy to get to, its hard to say that any book may have pointed more people to that destination and degraded the quality of the stream. Look at Tremont, everyone knows its there, its easy to get to, and yet the fish are still there. And as someone pointed out just as much, if not more, information gets relayed on boards like this than in any book.

It time for me to get off the soapbox...but to summarize, I think that the book may make some of us feel uncomfortable, and others a bit cheated out of the "private" stream label, in general, if a book brings in a few more folks to our sport, thats a good thing...

btw: I have not read the book yet, but I can tell you that there are absolutely no fish in Road Prong or Deep Creek, so don't waste your time at either stream (in case they are mentioned in the book)

Update: Buzz jumped in front of me with a more succinct version of what I was trying to say...kudos to Buzz!

02-15-2008, 12:25 PM

Are you calling me nuts??

I know that i am, but it really means something coming from someone else........haha


02-15-2008, 12:32 PM

Actually when you get to your secluded spot and look down and see boot marks, those are probably mine.

02-15-2008, 12:34 PM
I think a lot of this depends on the stream in question, and the factors involved in getting there, etc. Take for example what is probably my "home" stream - Cosby Creek. It's mentioned in every book I have seen and it is incredibly easy to access (you can start catching brookies right below the parking lot). I like it so much, I bought property in the area, just outside the park boundary. I've posted on this board about the stream a bunch of times, and so have others. In all my time fishing up there, I've seen a grand total of one other person, and that was a guy with a zebco rig, complaining that the water was too shallow to fish. Other than that, I am far outnumbered by the hikers, who look at me like I'm a bit strange, I think. Anyway, my point is, that stream doesn't attract the numbers because it is a bit off the beaten tourist track, and the casting conditions are tight to say the least, which is fine by me. However, that might not be the same situation on other streams. I guess my big fear is not other fly-fishermen, but a gang of illegal bait guys hitting one of these small streams - they could wipe out a section of stream in short order with bait.

02-15-2008, 01:03 PM
Most of this is on public land and the trail maps and streams are already published. If anyone thinks they're the first human to set foot on one of these streams they're wrong.

I don't see what another book is going to do any different than the trail and fishing map you get from the park service at the visitor center. There are hundreds of maps around that show the streams and access points. All people are doing is repackaging what's already out there in a slightly different format.

That's my .02 worth.


02-15-2008, 01:43 PM
I don't believe that anyone thinks that they are the first person to ever set foot there. I know that there have been many hearty souls that have tried it long before i was ever a thought.

And like you said, there are plenty of maps out there that show the streams and trails. However, you can't tell anything about the fishing from those maps nor can you really tell anything about the stream (how big it is, casting conditions, etc.). That is where these books come in handy, as they at least tell you the author's experience on the stream. That is the big advantage to some of these books.

There is nothing wrong with these books, the author's aren't breaking any sort of ethical code or anything i guess that deep down we all (or i do at least) like to think that we have found this one great place that not many people have yet ventured; that we somehow, put forth the effort and somehow managed to find this one great stream that you will be telling stories about for years and years. Now we all know this isn't true, but it sure is nice to think it!

But like it has been said many times over in this thread, you still have to get out and walk to these places and how many people are willing to do that? You and i probably are, but most won't.


02-15-2008, 02:52 PM
I was not referring to you or anyone else on this board. I've seen the discussion before on other boards and among local fishermen with whom I've talked. Some guys seem to think they're the first human to ever set foot on a stream and that it's some sort of secret.

I was talking to a guy this summer who was telling me about a great stream he found. He was so secretive about it that telling me the location was like giving up the password to his ATM card. Come to find out, as he started telling me where the stream was, it was a tailwater below a local dam. About a hundred people can be found on that stretch of water on any given weekend day.

With the possible exception of remote wilderness areas, I doubt if there are any "new" streams left to discover.

Like most here have said, if you get more than 500 yards away from the road, one still has the Mountains to himself. It is always amazing to me to figh the traffic in the Smokeys and think it looks more like New York City at rush hour than a park. Then, I get out of the car, walk 200 or so yards back a trail or a couple hundred yards up a creek and there's not another human being in site (other than my son who is usually with me).


02-15-2008, 03:32 PM
This is one of the livelier topics I have seen on here in a while. I really like how civil a controversial topic can be addressed - something that is uncommon on the other boards that I follow.

Let me say that I tend to come down on the side of Pete and Buzz and a couple others. Wanting to increase participation in our sport seems counterintuitive considering the ever increasing pressure on our scare resources. Nevertheless, the health of our sport supersedes the interests of each of us as individuals.

I see this in my other pastime as well - bowhunting. Getting permission on a suitable property in East TN to bowhunt is like getting Rosie O'Donnell away from the buffet - dang near impossible. And the numbers of hunters are shrinking because of lack of access and when you find a property to hunt - public or private - the last thing on your mind is finding someone to share it with.

In the end, 10% of the fisherman will continue to catch 90% of the fish (and 10% of the bowhunters will kill 90% of the deer) no matter how many locations, techniques and "secrets" are publicized. It still takes work and a tad of intelligence. I take some solace in that. I seem to catch enough fish and kill enough deer to keep me happy. And every now and then I take someone flyfishing or bowhunting that has never been. I think it's a good thing.

Of course my opinion is completely unencumbered by facts. ;-)

02-15-2008, 04:33 PM
Thanks guys for all the input on the subject. I am still not sure that its a good thing having these books. My grandpa and dad have fished these streams for over 70 yrs. They have a very special place in my heart. From what I understand this book by Hall is the first true guide to WNC. There was a book I read by a man named Jacobs about all of the streams in the southeast. but he had no clue what he was talking about. The guy was talking about streams being to bushy for a good cast that most of us locals could cast with our eyes shut. I guess the one river in Halls book that irked me the most was one that I caught my first brookie on some twenty yrs ago. Its in the Pisgah national forest and very easy access from the parkway. Most of the regulars on here probably know what I am talking about. The place is crawling with hikers and tourists. I have fished this river hundreds of times and done good almost every time. Maybe in twenty yrs I have seen 15 fisherman up there. I have a bad feeling that this spring I park the truck and walk down to the stream to and see two, three or more guys working this stretch. Maybe I am just jumping the gun, but it does worry me. One thing that was said before is right, that it still takes the skills to catch the fish. I guess I can fall back on that one. Well I would love to get more input on this subject.

02-15-2008, 05:03 PM
Jeff, didn't mean to sound like i took that in a negative way because i most certainly didn't. I think there are pros and cons to both sides, just like there are in all controversial topics. I'll be honest though, i am probably guilty of trying to keep some streams as secret as possible, but if someone asks who i know is a responsible fisherman then i have no problem telling them.

Another issue that i have with these books telling about these streams is that, theoretically, the more people that fish a stream the more chance there is for trash to start showing up. Now i know this is all just theory with a little dash of a biased opinion thrown in for good measure, but it makes sense to me. I know that on some larger streams where people visit more frequently, you can often see some form of trash on the stream banks pretty often, whether it be line on the ground, drink cans, etc. I know that the park service tries to keep a handle on this and i believe that they have people that clean up in those areas (i could be wrong), but if trash begins to show up in some of these more remote areas then what are the odds of it gradually increasing since it would be harder to get someone to do trail maintenance? I don't know, this just popped into my head, maybe it wouldn't be that big of a deal.

WNCFLY, by the way, i know the stream you are talking about and i have only seen one other fisherman there since i've been going there. That is a beautiful, and treacherous, stretch of water and with the nature of the river during that certain part i think only a few, the fanatical and therefore slightly dumb fisherman like yourself and i, would attempt it. Even if you wanted to do it, that section of the river honestly REQUIRES you to be in somewhat good physical condition to maneuver even remotely safely. I wouldn't worry too much about it.......


02-15-2008, 05:30 PM
There was a book I read by a man named Jacobs about all of the streams in the southeast. but he had no clue what he was talking about. The guy was talking about streams being to bushy for a good cast that most of us locals could cast with our eyes shut.

I have that book, and I noticed the same thing - I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed that. He rated Cosby as "poor" because he only considered the stretch downstream from the campground as "fishable". I guess our definitions of a "cast" are different - if I can get my fly in the water, it's a cast, even if I'm only casting leader.

02-15-2008, 05:43 PM
I remember going to WTL in my teen's and enjoying the solitude of the streams and the native brookies. At that time, it was a random encounter to meet another fisherman. After numerous publications about the area, the number of those vying for the streams has increased. Although I don't mind hiking the extra inclines to fish the upper streams, it is not as easy in my mid-40's as it was in my teens. It gets down to the streamstide privacy and the inconsiderate nature of some who will "crash" on the section of stream you are fishing instead of hiking a little distance for separation and to make the experience successful for both.

02-15-2008, 08:04 PM
It's cool. I just didn't want you to think I was picking on you or any of the guys here. This is by far the most civil message board I've ever participated in. Heated discussions are handled with civility and tact and that's a rare thing on the internet these days.

As for the topic in this thread, there's plenty of room on both sides of the discussion for everyone to be right to a degree.

There's no excuse for leaving trash behind at a lake or stream. I just cannot understand what goes on in someone's mind who would just toss something on the ground and walk away. I've always had a policy to take at least one more thing out of the woods than what I brought in and I've been teaching my son that same lesson.

The same goes on encroaching on a stretch of water that another fisherman is working. Simply inexcusable. Sometimes accidents happen and you don't see the other guy until it's too late. In those times, a simple apology and back out as quietly as possible to leave him or her to the water is the only option. There's just no excuse for rude behaviour.