Mystery of the Davidson River NC
Time and again I’ve heard it is hard to catch trout in the Davidson River NC regularly. Maybe it gets fished heavy being it’s a premier trout water in NC. My son and I have fished the Davidson a few years back. That I recall we may have only caught 1 trout each during a long day of fishing.
It is a beautiful mountain stream that flows through a forest of laurel and hardwoods. The stony river bed, like most mountain streams in NC, comes alive under the sun showing off brilliant colors of rocks and stones along with sparkling sediment. There are plenty of shaded areas as well, against the cliffs and heavy canopy. Maybe cause it runs so clear the trout are able to see a great distance and are fishermen shy. They definitely appear to be line shy. The few trout I have caught in the Davidson are fat compared to other mountain streams. Even so these fish appear to be a mystery to catch to some of us fishermen. When I’m in Western NC I just always have to give these river trout a try and break the mystery.
I fished the Davidson three times while in Western NC in February. The first time out I came to find rising trout in the afternoon to BWO’s. There had to be at least a dozen or so picking off BWO’s like a young child picking out the Lucky Charms in a a bowl of cereal. I had, with me, 1 fly box I had just tied up before leaving for NC from PA. for this occasion. In the box I had a dozen of BWO’s in #18 and #16 sizes of Catskill ties and CDC para duns. I knotted one on and watched trout after trout picking off the fluttering or drifting BWO’s naturals off the surface. I watched one BWO drift into my own imitation and a trout rose and appeared to gobble both up. Not sure which one he was after but I reared back on the rod and my line tightened. He fought and struggled like a child caught taking his younger brother’s toy and not wanting to give it back. When I netted him I saw my BWO imitation in the side of its mouth.
The CDC wing of my BWO was well drenched so I knotted on another. Trout were still rising for the naturals but wouldn’t touch any of my imitations. I watched two trout on two separate occasions rise to mine and inspect it as if they were gemologists looking through a magnifying glass to see if the BWO was real or fake. They both refused it and dropped out of sight. I wasn’t sure if they were seeing my 6x tippet or somehow knew it wasn’t real. Either way I didn’t catch another. Soon the BWO’s quit and I moved downriver.
In a long deeper stretch I was stripping buggers when one trout rose to the surface in the distance. I was in the middle of the stream already up to my thighs. I knotted on a BWO Para Dun with dark CDC wings. I was pretty sure the trout had no idea I was there being he was pretty far downstream holding in deep water just out from an overhanging branch. Being I was in the middle of the river I had nothing behind me to hamper my back cast. I made a long cast just short of his last rise and let the BWO drift into his zone. He rose and grabbed it like it would be his last meal of the afternoon. I reared back in anticipation and the line tightened. Another brown trout came to net with my BWO pierced in its jaw. I didn’t catch anything on a dry fly after that one.
I did catch one more trout on a nymph before taking off.
A few days after that I returned waiting for trout to rise for a BWO hatch. Well, it never really happened though very few trout did rise on occasion. It was suppose to get warmer in the day but with the cloud cover it never felt like it. The wind picked up making it hard to cast the small dries. Along with the windy conditions it got so cold my fingers stiffened to the point I couldn’t tie any more flies to my 6x tippet. I had to call it quits.
The third day I returned I was more prepared and the temp’s were to be in the upper 40’s. I brought with me a fly box filled with BWO’s I had tied some time ago with different variations and shades. There was nearly a breeze and I couldn’t wait till noon for the BWO hatch.
I got there early and started nymph fishing the faster riffles first at the beginning of the long pool. Water gushed over a stony and rocky shallow section and emptied into the somewhat deeper water wavy against the far bank. I knotted on a little olive nymph and dropped a black stonefly below. I added a little weight to the leader to get the combination down fast. I began to nymph fish my way downstream to where the trout were rising earlier in the week. In a shallow run, near the far bank, I cast upstream and held the 7’1/2” rod level with the water following the indicator drifting in the slower wavy current. The indicator went under and I instinctively set the hook with a sharp wristing tug. The line tightened, I felt an instant jolt on the line and a fish pulled down stream arcing the 4 weight in a good bend. Tension line ran through my fingers and line spit out of the reel. I knew I had a dandy.
He fought downstream with healthy jolting tugs swimming back and forth covering the full width of the narrow river. When he started to swim towards me I was able to see his long fat body just below the surface water. He stopped short of where I stood and took off towards the far bank beneath the wavy current. I had a tight grip on the cork and if the cork was any softer I would have left finger impressions in it. The trout battled as the rod tip flexed with each jolting tug. Nearer to me I got my net out and was ready to net him if he got closer. He swam upstream a bit, passed me and tried to hold in the faster current. I moved the rod, as he swam up river and kept side pressure on him. I didn’t force the issue though because I was using 6x tippet. He finally turned with the current and swam downstream. After a few more skirmishes I got the big beautiful butter belly brown in the net safely. He had taken that little olive nymph.
Well, with that catch I definitely deserved a cigar. I took out a Ramon Bueso toro and lit it up. The Habano wrapped cigar and long fillers hit the spot!
After a few enjoyable puffs to get the cigar heated and burning even I fished the same combination down river catching only one smaller rainbow in a deeper hole on the little olive nymph.
I fished an assortment of nymphs, keeping the little olive nymph on, in the pool where the trout rose in the past without a strike. When I saw a few, very few, BWO’s drifting down the stream I knotted on my own imitation. There were a couple trout rising seldomly further down river in the shallower tail out but none in front of me. Even so none were coming up near me I casted and drifted my BWO imitations time and again in the deeper water near me. Maybe I drifted my imitations enough that one trout thought the hatch was on. On one drift through a trout rose, briefly looked at it and sucked it down like a preteen slurping the tiny marshmallows in a cup of hot chocolate. I reared back the rod and set the hook. The trout darted about trying to shake loose but couldn’t free himself before I netted a nice healthy looking brown trout.
I moved downstream some within casting distance of the shallower water. I watched trout rising to the few BWO’s fluttering time after time but wouldn’t touch mine. When the actual big hatch started the trout rose and I watched them picking off BWO’s one by one. I casted out and showed the trout just about every shade, size and style in the next hour or so without a take. You would of thought I was trying to get the trout to taste spinach or brussels sprouts.. When the hatch quit so did the rising trout. (An after thought was maybe I should have went down to 7x tippet?) I fished nymphs till I decided to call it a day without getting another strike. I was pretty frustrated over not catching more on the dry but the big brown made my day a happy one overall.
I would say I never did conquer the mystery fully but the few trout I did catch left a lasting impression. Heck, maybe some consider three netted trout on the Davidson River a really good day.
“Maybe next time” as they say.
I lit up an AB Magic Toast Robusto for the drive back to my sons place.