I’m not a fly fisherman, but when EJ Stern of Raleigh Flyfishing invited me along to sample the fly fishing on the uppermost reaches of the Neuse River, I gladly accepted. I figured if I was going to go fly fishing for the first time, I might as well do it in an unlikely place to fly fish. I’m glad I went.
“We’ve got a lot of great places in the area to fly fish, and a lot of people just overlook it while saving their fly fishing trips for the mountains, or out west. Most fly anglers just want to catch trout, but I say we might as well catch what’s available, what’s local, and this part of the state has some great fly fishing just minutes off the interstates. We don’t have trout, but we’ve got plenty of other fish that will take a fly,” said Stern.
Handing me a 4-weight Mystic Au Sable fly rod, Stern pointed at a small pool of calm water that was just on the edge of some running current spilling in from a narrow passage of rocks. “We’ll catch fish here,” he said. And catch fish, we did, at this hole, the next hole, and the hole after that.
These weren’t large fish, but what they lacked in size, they made up for in variety. Chubs, redbreast, bluegill, and largemouth are a sampling of what we caught, and we came to expect those and more in each fishing hole we tried.
We caught our fish on streamers, nymphs, and floating terrestrials. “We’re at the tail end of the floating fly season, so it’s a little surprising to catch so many on them today,” said Stern, who doesn’t just show his clients good spots to fish, but also offers them any instruction they need. I won’t win any flycasting awards after my trip with him, but he was able to coach me into almost doubling my casting distance by the end of the day, and to detect strikes on sinking flies with more proficiency.
And he’s excited about fly fishing in the Raleigh-Durham area. “Trout fishing out west is a lot of fun, and I love it, but trout are a lot more picky and wary than the fish we have in this area. These fish are a lot more forgiving when your cast isn’t just perfect, and these fish aren’t as critical of every detail like trout are,” said Stern. In short, these fish are easier to catch.
“The rivers in this area are so full of fish. If you see a log in the water, there’s fish on it. If you see a big rock or stump in the middle of a river, there’s fish on it. And if you make what you believe is a less-than-perfect cast, don’t be too critical. Just go ahead and work the fly like you normally would. It might not be the perfect textbook cast, and it might not work out west on trout, but you’re gonna catch fish here no such casts,” Stern said.
Stern said common places to find fish on the Neuse and other nearby rivers include rock overhangs, standing vegetation, submerged logs, the edges of current, eddies, and all around bridge pilings. The water is just now getting too cold for wet-wading, so Stern recommends a pair of good waders for this time of year.
“Don’t worry about hitting the river a first-light. The water has cooled quite a bit, and the fish have been biting considerably better once the day warms up a little,” said Stern (919-605-8844), who offers flyfishing and light tackle instruction on any of the local rivers, and can be contacted at www.raleighflies.com.