By: Chris Shaffer
The Davidson River’s hatchery supported section is one of the most heavily fished two miles of river in Western North Carolina. A favorite of day users, campers, hikers and locals, this popular section of river that rests below the fly only water gets hammered by anglers. Depending on when you arrive fishing can be excellent or terrible.
Only yards from Brevard, roughly and hour from Greenville/Spartanburg and two hours from Charlotte, the creek is stocked often by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (weekly oftentimes) from roughly the Sycamore Flats Recreation Area through Davidson River Campground and a few more spots upriver before the fly water starts.
There’s always trout around through this section, but pressure takes a toll. It depends on which day the river is stocked as to how many fish are left over for weekend anglers (NC allows anglers to keep seven trout per day) and how many trout are planted. Late week plants leave better fishing for weekend anglers, normally.
For example, the river was stocked last week on Thursday morning. When we arrived to fish the afternoon bite we ran into a lot of frustrated anglers. The river saw a light trout plant (in fact, we walked in the water from the bridge at the campground up for a half mile and spotted a mere three trout) and old timers who fished the bridge said they only tossed a half net full in there (and normally stock tons). Oddly enough, only one hole saw a strong stocking in the picnic area last week. This week, nevertheless, could be a different story.
However, sometimes when the river is heavily planted late in the week fishing remains good through the weekend. This is when anglers can find trout throughout the entire hatchery supported stretch. Rainbow, brown and brook trout are planted and while most run 10-12 inches we saw trout greater than four pounds caught in the picnic area last week (our largest was a bit better that three).
We arrived at the Sycamore Flats area in late afternoon and found a half dozen people pinned in one of the better holes. Rather than clogging it further we migrated downriver and fished more than a quarter-mile without a bite. The river was already cleaned out. By late afternoon many of the anglers fishing the few holes that did have trout left out of frustration. While the bite was good in the morning the midday and afternoon was plagued by trout that had seen every bait found in a sporting goods store.
With the hole now open we set up our cameras to film Pautzke Outdoors and grabbed a few different jars of our Balls O Fire salmon eggs. I positioned myself to record Pautzke owner Casey Kelley pitching toward the heavily pressured trout. He slid a Gold Label salmon egg on a No. 10 single egg hook and caught a rainbow on his first, second and third cast. Then, he switched to Natural Deluxe and caught one before catching another on Silver Label, Chartreuse Garlic and Pink Shrimp. The lockjaw hole yielded six trout in 30 minutes on the eggs.
The trick was being versatile. Once the trout became conditioned to one egg we switched to another Pautzke egg and saw immediate results. After Kelley caught and released his limit (we weren’t planning on eating any so we released most) he called one of our local buddies over who guided two Gold Label eggs on a hook and yanked out a three-plus pound bow.
Trout fishing will be solid for the next few months on the Davidson. The key to success is coming with four-pound test (or lighter line), small hooks (size 10-16) and an assortment of eggs. These fish are heavily pressured. Show them a color they haven’t seen and they’re likely to feed instantly as you’ll see on a future edition of Pautzke Outdoors.
Editor’s Note: Pautzke owner Casey Kelley joins Team Pautzke on one trout trip a year. This year he chose to cast a line in Western North Carolina for the first time. For updated trout stocking information please visit http://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Fish/Trout/TroutFishing.aspx.