By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
A good friend and local fishing guide taught me the saying “tight lines and bent rods”. It is a saying among fisherman to wish a good fishing trip to someone. “Tight lines” is all about hooking trout and “bent rods” is a reference to the size and strength of the fish.
Cherokee is known as one of the premier trout fishing destinations in the world. Indeed, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Fisheries and Wildlife Management Program in recent years has grown its capacity for hatching trout from thousands to hundreds of thousands of fish. Brook, Brown, Golden and Rainbow Trout may be found in the cool, pristine waters of the Oconaluftee River and its feeder steams. In fact, the Fisheries workers stock these waters regularly with a quarter of a million fish each year.
Fishing the waters of the Qualla Boundary can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be. Each year, the Tribe and other civic/business organizations sponsor the Talking Trees Children’s Trout Tournament. The event is staffed with Fisheries personnel and volunteers. All expenses for the actual event are paid for through donations and tribal funding. Kids who attend the event in the past have been given a pole, bait and tackle. A prerequisite for registering is that an adult family member accompany the child throughout the event, but only assist the child as needed when it comes to the actual fishing. I witnessed 5 and 6 year old boys and girls pull 18” to 20” trout out of the water and proudly display their prize fish during this event.
On the other end of the spectrum, professional trout fisherman have long considered the waters of the Qualla Boundary to be some of the best trout fishing. The Commerce Department, Cherokee Chamber of Commerce and Tribal Fisheries partner each year to present four adult fishing tournaments that feature a hunt for tagged trout with prize purses ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. An additional fall tournament, the Rumble in the Rhododendron, highlights the tribal catch and release waters. This fly fishing-only tournament brings top anglers to Cherokee who enjoy the challenges and rewards of our trophy trout waters.
Many of the local businesses sponsor their own fishing tournaments throughout the year. Even the Cherokee Welcome Center gets into the act with a weekly “How Long Is Your Trout” contest.
Local guides are available if you prefer a guided fishing trip. Pond fishing and specially crafted handicapped fishing piers are available as well.
If you stop by the Welcome Center or any of the other 22 authorized locations that sell fishing permits, they will get you set up to enjoy the amazing fishing experience that waits for you on the Qualla Boundary. By the way, the Fisheries Program would like for you to know that the water temperature in the 30 miles of great Cherokee fishing waters will be an optimum 54.6 degrees on average and they recommend a Light Cahill fly for your fly fishing pleasure in May. There is more great information about Cherokee fishing at FishCherokee.com. I wish you tight lines and bent rods.