Heavy rains in recent weeks in the mountains have made fishing difficult in bigger rivers, but small-stream trout fishing, especially in delayed-harvest streams, has been good.

"The New River isn't good right now for float trips," said guide Marty Shaffner of Elkin's Tri-State Angler Service, pointing to the river's stained to muddy water.


"We've been doing our trout fishing at delayed-harvest streams because the river is so high and off-color," he said. "But delayed-harvest regulations end May 31, then the streams become hatchery-supported on June 1.That day only kids under 16 get to fish until noon, then fishing opens for everybody."


The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission manages 64 miles of mountain trout streams and two lakes under delayed-harvest rules.


Shaffner (336-902-0044) said his three main delayed-harvest streams for trout have been the Mitchell River in Surry County and Ashe County's Helton and Big Horse creeks. His clients have landed a few brook and brown trout, but, he said, "It's mostly rainbows."


Ideal fly equipment is an 8½- to 9-foot, 5-weight rod with "plenty of split shot so your lure will bump the bottom a little," he said.


He favors a tandem rig with a Prince Nymph or egg "that gets their attention, then a Pheasant Tail or Hare's Eye behind that."


Fly sizes are generally from 14 to 18.


"Trout are averaging 10 to 12 inches, but last week I had a lady hook a 20-inch rainbow," Shaffner said. "It jumped right in front of us, but it circled and she didn't let it run and it snapped her leader."


The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission stocks delayed-harvest streams with hatchery-reared trout of many sizes, but during delayed-harvest months (Oct. 1-May 31) anglers must release all caught fish and use only artificial lures with a single hook. From June 1-Sept. 30, anglers may keep a limit of seven trout of any size and use any lures or baits.


The Commission stocks delayed-harvest waters fall through spring to increase anglers' chances of catching trout. But when summer arrives, waters become too warm for trout to survive, so rules allow keeping trout because the trout likely won't survive. Delayed-harvest trout waters are posted with diamond-shaped, black-and-white signs.