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Fishing and Hunting Report for December 1 to December 7

‘Tis the season for awaiting that target eight-point buck while younger ones traipse past the blind. In the forest, alone with our thoughts, we’re blessed with nature’s offerings, breathing the seasonal aroma of decaying leaves and other detritus shed by the Smokies’ flora and fauna.

‘Tis the season for chasing Thunder, our reserve world champion Mountain Cur, as he bursts into action near the Tsali Trailhead, pursuing squirrels through miles of naked trees. Visibility is crystal clear on these brisk, late-fall afternoons accompanied by echoes of crunching leaf litter and still silences, broken by our buddy’s frenzied excitement while we lumber along behind him. Thunder lives for these moments. He can’t get enough of them. Neither can we.

‘Tis the season of the unexpected when the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) rolls at 5570 cubic feet per second (cfs)—much too perilous for floating now, but hopefully the upcoming weekend will offer safe cruising and clearer water.

‘Tis the season of priceless rewards from treasured outdoor pastimes.

Have wonderful weekends!

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Fishing and Hunting Report for November 24 to November 30

This week the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) rewarded our angling efforts with a couple of humongous brown trout, each measuring 23 inches! We caught the first fish on a frigid early-morning float in Bryson City where evening lows left frost-covered banks. Upstream in Dillsboro, another brown with a 12-inch girth struck later that afternoon. The only item on the menu was Girdle Bugs which also tempted scores of rainbows over 13 inches. Trout thrive in gelid water, so we’ve got to face the wintery weather and meet these fish in their abode!

Fallen leaves made the squirrels much easier to spot in the barren woods. While roaming U. S. Forest Service game lands, Thunder, our reserve world champion Mountain Cur, treed 9 of these critters, and we bagged 5 hearty ones. Better visibility improved our shooting, and Thunder—always the affable host—seemed proud to accompany us!

This weekend pack a rain jacket if you plan to hit the water or woods. We’re expecting afternoon highs in the low- to mid-sixties, and for trout fishing, we’d suggest sticking with Girdle Bugs, eggs and streamers.

Have wonderful Thanksgivings!

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Fishing and Hunting Report for November 17 to November 23

Replenished by much-needed rain, the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) offered favorable floating once again. In Dillsboro, we cruised a steady 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) and landed more than a dozen brookies and rainbows feasting on Girdle Bugs, eggs and streamers. Further downstream, the flow rate more than doubled in Bryson City where the water color resembled sweet tea. The fish didn’t seem to mind. We caught several trout measuring 15 inches or more.

Off-river, Thunder led us on a 6.1-mile journey through National Forest Service game lands and treed 18 squirrels. But those wily critters weren’t easy to see in late-fall foliage and ankle-deep leaf litter, so one hunter put his gun aside and became a dedicated spotter. In the end, we left with 15 squirrels to add to a holiday feast of fried hindquarters, gumbo and Brunswick stew.

Be sure to bundle up this weekend. The water will be cold due to low evening temps, but the days should be sunny with highs in the mid-forties. With water levels up, you’ll cover more of the river floating, and the trout should be hitting Girdle Bugs, eggs and streamers. Hunters, dust off your rifles. Gun season opens for deer on Sunday.

Have wonderful weekends!

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Fishing and Hunting Report for November 10 to 16

For unrivaled outdoor adventures, there’s no place like the Great Smoky Mountains! This week, trout swarmed the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) for eggs and Girdle Bugs, in addition to expressing a keen interest in olive Woolly Buggers when we fished them like streamers. At the Dillsboro headwaters, brooks and rainbows kept us busy as we drifted a lethargic 250 cubic feet per second (cfs), but downstream at Bryson City, a more favorable flow brought us into the company of 30 fish, all rainbows.

While roaming National Forest Service game lands, Thunder, our canine comrade, treed 22 squirrels, though nearly half of these stealthy beasts stayed hidden, leaving us with 14 for the day. Later in the week, we returned to a forest of brilliant afternoon sunlight and striking autumn colors, accompanied by a husky racoon snoozing in a tree. This evocative scene inspired Thunder to lead us on an eight-mile trek that left precious little time to enjoy our surroundings. That day, our buddy treed 14 squirrels and although several of these creatures remained invisible in the foliage, we bagged 7 of them. Finally, enough squirrel meat for gumbo!

This weekend, we’re expecting rain on Friday with possible showers on Saturday which could bring the water up and affect its clarity. If you decide to fish, keep an eye on water levels and stick to egg patterns.

Have wonderful weekends!

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Fishing and Hunting Report for November 3 to November 9

Memories were made on the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) during our float from Webster to Dillsboro where we landed 25 northern-strain brook trout! One fish measured over 14 inches with the rest falling in the 10- to 13-inch range—far beyond the size of our native Southern Appalachian brookies. All along, these wild fish seemed spellbound by our double-nymph rig—an olive Zebra Midge and white egg thrown under a strike indicator. Low water had us creeping along at about 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) and although we got stuck a few times, we left the river with stories for our grandchildren.

Later in the week, flow releases brought our floating up to 800 cfs on our cruise from Grumpy Bear Campground to Deep Creek. Our buddy’s custom fly—a Jumpin’ Jack Flash—was a big hit with the rainbows most of which measured 12 to 13 inches.

Off-water, we wandered the picturesque rolling hills of Brush Creek with Thunder, our canine companion who ran us ragged chasing a squirrel for 350 yards. In the end, Thunder treed four of these wily critters whose moxie kept them well-hidden by the dense foliage. We saw two of them and bagged one—nowhere near enough for Brunswick stew, but a start, no less.

We expect the Tuck to be crowded this weekend around the Bryson City area which was stocked on November 3. Hopefully, evening flow releases will result in better floating. Daytime temperatures will be in the mid- to high-seventies and with showers in the forecast, you’ll want to pack a rain jacket.

Have wonderful weekends!

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Bowhunting with James Lambert

One hundred yards up from ground level, I spotted the deer blind nestled in the edge of a steep slope. Halfway there, my legs turned jelly-like and my breaths shortened to rapid staccato gasps. Unfazed by the climb, my buddy James Lambert—a hunting guide with Katala Outdoors—stopped to spray a tree with doe urine.

“Take your time,” he said. “These leaves are slick and you don’t wanna slip and tumble. It’s a long way down.”

I wasn’t carrying much. Just a crossbow and a small backpack containing water and a jacket. We’d have only one shot at a whitetail, and James wanted me to take it.

Further ahead, a rope dangled from a tree adjacent to the blind, freefalling down the steepest part of the hill where the grade shifted straight up to the plateau, our final destination. I’d have to pull myself up without losing my crossbow and pack in the process.

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Deer survive on their sense of smell with around the same number of nasal receptors as a bloodhound—almost 300 million. Humans possess only 5 million of these receptors. A whitetail’s brain also contains a section for analyzing scent that’s way more sophisticated than a human’s, storing memories of threat-related odors, resulting in olfactory capabilities 500 to 1000 times more powerful than ours. Although there’s no way to mask all of your human scent, you must eliminate as much as possible to have a chance at even seeing a deer.

A week before we met in Bryson City, James gave me the preparation details which mostly involved covering my scent. This required washing my hunting clothes in a special detergent and packing them separately from what I would normally wear. Three days before the hunt, I bathed nightly in scent-killing body wash and relied on a similar deodorant during the day. Three hours from entering the woods, we took showers and aired out our clothes which were sprayed multiple times with another odor-killing substance.

This was my first time using a crossbow. I practiced several shots at James’s place where he used a digital range finder to measure off sixteen yards—the exact distance from the blind to where the deer would step out for a clean shot. Once I got comfortable with the weapon, we suited up and headed out to the blind made of camo netting strung between trees with an incision for shooting.

We settled down behind the cover and waited.

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I’m just your average outdoor enthusiast with limited hunting experience. But like most, I’m happy spending time in the woods or floating a river, wading a stream. Even when I get skunked pursuing fish or game, I welcome nature’s nurture and protection from destructive industrial noise and the stultifying routine demands of daily life. I’m at peace in the natural world, enveloped in its beauty, molded into something much more significant than me. I’m awash in the unique, unrivaled comfort of still silences with sudden interruptions of breezes rattling leafy branches or the scampering pitter-patter of wild game.

I barely moved for the first two hours. Tense with anticipation, I didn’t want to ruin our chances of bagging a deer.

“You know, you can stretch your legs if you want,” James chuckled, handing me a candy bar.

We saw falling leaves and acorns. We grooved on hoot-owl sounds. We ate beef jerky and drank ice-cold well water. James occasionally broke the silence with buck and doe calls. Soon, bucks and does appeared in the distance—just mirages, though they seemed authentic at the time.

“We’re in their space,” James noted. “And this breeze isn’t helping us. It’s carrying our scent in the same direction the deer travel.”

When the air stilled, James’s demeanor reflected the wisdom and optimism of the late, great Andy Griffith.

“We’ll get you one soon enough. We just gotta be patient.”

 

 

Please come join us soon!
Patrick Ambrose

James Lambert’s Venison Backstrap

When it comes to deer meat, venison backstrap is the most prized cut—a bona-fide filet mignon equivalent, no less. There’s a variety of ways to prepare and cook backstrap, but simpler is best so not to override the meat’s inimitable earthiness and tenderness. James had two cuts, so he grilled one and fried the other.

Ingredients:

2 venison backstraps
Texas T Bone’s seasoning
Weber’s Montana Steak seasoning
1 cup of flour
2 eggs
½ of a Vidalia sweet onion cut into half-inch chunks
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Steps:

First, cut each steak into slices half an inch thick.

Grilled backstrap:  Dust each side of the venison slices with the seasonings. Grill covered, 3 -5 minutes per side without drying out the meat. Serve immediately.

Fried backstrap:  Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté the onion until soft.

Add black pepper and salt to the flour. Whisk both eggs in a mixing bowl. Dip each venison slice into the egg wash, then smother in flour. When the onions are ready, fry the venison slices with them until crispy golden-brown. Serve immediately.

We enjoyed our backstraps with a side of Taters made with fried potato and onion chunks, seasoned with salt and black pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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Fishing and Hunting Report for October 27 to November 2

Crowds descended on the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) this past Saturday when leaf season reached its peak. Fishing-wise, low water levels persisted, leaving roughly a third of the anglers wading while the rest floated at 450 cubic feet per second (cfs). One member of our crew caught a couple of lovely rainbows measuring 12 to 13 inches.

The following day, we returned to the Tuck despite the low flow rate and landed two rainbows in the morning and more than a dozen after lunch. We stuck to nymphing with Girdle Bugs and olive Zebra Midges.

Early this week, we took a day off from work and hunted squirrels at the Tsali Trailhead in Nantahala National Forest. Joining us was 2020 Thunder, our reserve world champion Mountain Cur, who treed squirrels in five different areas covering a total of 5.2 miles; only one squirrel was treed at less than 100 yards! In the end, we bagged three, and as we left the forest, Thunder was the only one smiling. The rest of us were completely exhausted. One hunter summed up the mood:  “I wish I had gone to work today.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, there’s a water release scheduled for October 28 at West Fork which might bring the Tuck’s water up a little. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is scheduled to stock the Dillsboro area of the Tuck on November 2 with Bryson City scheduled for November 3. We’ve got showers in the forecast, so bring along a rain jacket if you’re planning to hit the river or woods.

Have wonderful weekends!

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Fishing Report for October 20 to October 26

Pleasant surprises await you on the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) despite low water levels and the trout’s sudden bizarre tastes in flies. Early in the week, these fish had us digging deep into the tackle box for something to interest them until finally our Rainbow Warrior and Sexy Walt’s Worm landed us scores of rainbows. All of this action was on the bottom of the river, so we stuck to nymphing, creeping along at 450 cubic feet per second (cfs).

Another Tuck adventure found the river boiling with bows, smacking the surface amidst an unidentifiable flotsam that didn’t match anything in our fly collection. Plodding along at 450 cfs, we rifled through our tackle, attempting to dredge up any single-hook lure that might distract the hungry horde from their frenzied feast on the Unnamable (apologies to Mr. Beckett). Just for kicks, we threw out a buddy’s custom fly—a Jumping Jack Flash—and landed a hungry rainbow. But in the end, a Blue-Winged Olive (#18) was the momentum shifter that granted us the dry-fly action we so desperately craved. All of these fish were within the 11- to 13-inch range.

West Fork flow releases should increase our floating speed this weekend. With daytime highs ranging from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies and the fall foliage at its peak, many anglers will enjoy unforgettable experiences.

Now that squirrel-hunting season is underway, we’ll be building those memories, too! We’ve already taken several squirrels with the assistance of 2020 Thunder, our reserve world champion Mountain Cur, and our crew looks forward to a weekend feast of fried hindquarters! Be sure to book trips with us soon to get a piece of this action!

Have wonderful weekends!

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Fishing Report for October 13 to October 19

With Delayed Harvest in full swing, there’s myriad opportunities for the trout fishing experience of a lifetime! This week, we caught lots of fish in the Tuckasegee River using Squirmy Worms, egg patterns and Mop Flies. Near the headwaters in Dillsboro, floating wasn’t an option with a flow rate of 70 cubic feet per second (cfs). But wading was. These days, the water is cold—60 to 62 degrees—so put away your river shoes and wear felt-soled waders so you won’t slip into the frigid drink!

Further downstream in Bryson City, the water remained low, but floatable at 450 cfs. We opted to wade instead and fought a mess of browns and rainbows. All of these fish were between 11 and 13 inches.

There’s a flow release scheduled for Friday, October 14. A water-level boost and daytime temperatures in the mid-70s should make this weekend an excellent time to drop a hook in the Tuck. Kick off your Delayed-Harvest experience with Girdle Bugs, eggs, Squirmy Worms, and Woolly Buggers (black, olive).

We’ll be doing some squirrel hunting next week when the season opens on October 17. Please join us by booking a guided trip now! And with perfect water temps for trout fishing, start booking those trips with us, too!

Have wonderful weekends!

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Fishing Report for October 6 to October 12

What a week for anglers! So lovely that some of us took a day off to wade the Nantahala River where we landed over 20 trout—brookies, browns and rainbows—in less than two hours! One brown measured 19 inches! We stuck with Euro nymphing and relied on egg patterns, Squirmy Worms and Girdle Bugs. One of our crew tied Zirdle Bugs—Girdle Bugs with tails—and this fly proved irresistible to the fish!

We saw lots of top-water action on the Carolina side of the Smokies. At Deep Creek, beaucoup browns and bows struck our Elk Hair Caddis which, along with our Thunderheads, excited the trout over in the Oconaluftee River (the Luftee) as well.

Critically low water in the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) had us drifting a mere 580 cubic feet per second when normally, we’d be cruising at a steady 1500 (cfs). Fortunately, there’s an upcoming flow release scheduled for the Tuck just in time for Delayed Harvest.

The initial Delayed-Harvest stocking is scheduled for Friday, October 7 when the Tuck will receive its first round of brookies, browns and bows. The colder water temperatures will ensure that these fish survive and thrive. During Delayed Harvest, anglers fishing the Tuck must use single-hook artificial lures and abide by catch-and-release rules.

Squirrel hunting season begins on October 17, but you can start booking guided trips with us now. Also, since trout are happiest when the water is cold, now’s the time to book fall and winter fishing trips with us, too.

Have wonderful weekends!

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Fishing Report for September 29 to October 5

It’s that perfect time of the year to float eastern Tennessee’s South Holston River, a cornucopia of gargantuan brown trout and husky rainbows. Armed with 7x tippets and Pheasant Tails (#20, #22), we cruised ten miles nymphing all the way and caught plenty of fish, including a brown measuring over 25 inches! At one point, an otter seemed to be following us till a closer look revealed another brownie well over 30 inches!

On the other side of the border—in the Smokies—we waded the Oconaluftee River (the Luftee) where the browns and bows struck our Thunderheads and Elk Hair Caddis. All of the action was on the surface of the river, and we pulled fish from both deep and shallow pockets wherever the sun hit the water. Overall, the Luftee was a little low, but that’ll change this weekend when Sir Ian brings showers our way. This week’s good fortune whetted our appetite for what’s in store for us beginning on October 7 when Delayed Harvest begins.

Yes, folks, we’re less than two weeks away from a marathon of non-stop excitement when the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission begins stocking selected rivers and streams across twenty counties. It’s an angler’s dream! And for most of the fall and winter, you’ll find us floating the Tuckasegee River (the Tuck) seeking a healthy mix of brookies, browns and bows.

We should add that the best time to fish for trout is when the water is cold. To be successful, we must bundle up and meet these fish on their terms. Now’s the time to start booking fall and winter trips with us. Plan on dressing in layers, and stock up on girdle bugs, mop flies and egg patterns. We’re going to bump up our tippet sizes to 4x or 5x and turn our attention to the river bottom. If you’re also a hunter, then book our Cast ‘n Blast option—a morning of hunting geese and an afternoon of trout fishing with an expert who knows the woods and water better than anyone!

Have wonderful weekends!

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