Bugging on the Davidson River

Anglers catch plenty of quality fish on the Davidson River in January by downsizing their flies. (Picture by Headwaters Outfitters)

Downsize your lures to catch winter trout in western NC

The Davidson River is one of the most crowded areas of North Carolina’s mountains from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But this month, anglers have plenty of elbow room, and plenty of hungry fish waiting to bite.

Don’t let the cold keep you off the water; this is a great time of year to catch trout.

Patrick Weaver at Headwaters Outfitters in Rosman (828-877-3106) said January is one of the best months to guide on, and to fish, the Davidson. Part of that reason is because the crowds of tubers, kayakers, swimmers, and fair-weather anglers have checked out until May. But that’s not the only reason.

“The Davidson is famous for its midge and blue-winged olive hatches. And these bugs come off fabulously all winter long,” he said. “If you can handle temperatures in the mid 40s to even 60 on balmy days, the Big D offers a winter fly-fishing getaway unparalleled in the East.”

Weaver strongly suggests using small flies this month.

“The flies typically range from a No. 18 to a No. 30. Such small flies require a 6X, 7X or even 8X tippet. These are fragile and can easily snap off if one strikes too hard, or plays a fish too roughly,” he said.

A standard rig this month, said Weaver, is a No. 22 to 24 midge larva in red, olive or brown, weighted with a few microshot, and a midge pupa dropper in olive, brown, gray or black.

“These are fished under a small strike indicator along the bottom, or close to it,” he said.

Weaver suggests anglers try the lowest mile of water on the Davidson, between Avery Creek down to the Forest Service boundary.

“It’s the most heavily stocked mile of water in the state, receiving 1100 trout per month from March through August,” he said.

And while many of those fish are harvested between April and February, when anglers are allowed to keep seven fish per day, Weaver said very few anglers fish here in January.

“This stretch supports a large number of holdover fish, as well as wild, stream-born trout. It’s often overlooked by fly-fishermen because it is not catch-and-release like the rest of the Davidson River, and is pounded by bait and hardware fishermen during the summer. But winter is a different kettle of fish,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@carolinasportsman.com.

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