January Newsletter

On The Fly South January 2022

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Here’s what’s coming your way later this month in the January edition of On The Fly South.

With the approach of winter weather, this month we take a look at places to take advantage of some good angling options, but also noting a couple where the breezes just might turn out to be a bit balmy.

Leading off this month’s coverage, Polly Dean gives us a look at the winter redfish action on the Texas coast around the island village of Port Arnasas, featuring on the water action with Capt. Jeff Johnson. From there we next head to Sebastian Inlet on the Florida east coast for a potpourri of saltwater angling. Rounding out the fishing, we venture to the delayed-harvest waters in downtown Bryson City, North Carolina on the Tuckasegee River.

Additionally, we have reports on inns, fly fishing gear, a fly tying article and an End of the Line watering hole. As always, subscriptions to the web journal are FREE, but having you sign up insures we can keep publishing. Look for the sign-up option on our homepage and join our list of followers.

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Around the South:

North Carolina/Virginia Trout Streams Destroyed

Blue Ridge NC Trout Unlimited

Sometime last year, Bottomley Evergreens & Farms, Inc. and Bottomley  Properties NC  LLC  (Bottomley  Companies) started clearing land in Alleghany and Surry Counties along Ramey creek off the Blue Ridge Parkway. They claimed this an agriculture operation, which in North Carolina exempts them from the requirements of the Sedimentation Pollution Control Act. This exemption means they do not need to file any erosion permits, place any erosion controls, or leave any trees standing anywhere.

The exemption however does not provide a free pass on complying with North Carolina’s water quality standards.  The Division of Water Resources issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the Bottomley Companies in November 2020 and asked them to correct the situation.

The company agreed to fix the problems, but meanwhile continued clearing more, and more land along the parkway, without making any changes to erosion practices. By April of this year (2021) complaints were coming into North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission from many sources concerning  the massive land clearing spreading for miles. Unfortunately, by that point most of the trout habitat in Ramey creek, Roaring Fork Creek, Big Pine Creek had been destroyed.

Ramey Creek and Roaring Fork are (or were) some of the most pristine waters in the state. Classified as Trout Waters and High-Quality Waters, they held a unique southern brook trout population that the state has used to stock other streams devoid of brook trout.

With spring and early summer rains, and given the substantial clearing activities, Ramey Creek and Roaring Fork filled up with sediment anywhere from six inches to two feet deep. State agencies worked hard monitoring the streams in the field collecting turbidity and benthic macroinvertebrate and sediment data over several months. The populations of brook trout declined so fast that the Wildlife Resources Commission had to mount a rescue operation in June to remove as many brook trout as possible from both streams before they all perished.

On June 30, DWR issued a new NOV to the Bottomley Companies for failing to comply with the first NOV issued in Nov 2020 and for causing new violations. DWR asked the Bottomley Companies to put remediation plans in place to correct the situation or face fines and referral to the state attorney’s office if they don’t comply. Nevertheless, as of June 30th the land clearing has continued.

The Bottomley Companies have put a small herd of cows on a corner of the property, fenced it and seeded it with grass. The rest of the site looks like mountain top removal mining with steep hills denuded of life.

A big concern is Bottomley Companies can use this land for agriculture for few years and then turn it into a real estate development, circumventing all the permitting process, erosion control and scrutiny for such a huge development along the Blue Ridge Parkway. If that happens, other companies may mimic the same tactic: buy a huge swath of land, clear it, put in some cattle or a cornfield to avoid inconvenient environmental rules, and later turn it into multimillion-dollar houses. As long as the agriculture exemption to the Sedimentation Pollution Control Act is on the books, government agencies will find themselves hamstrung to do anything, except possibly notice violations once the damage is done. This big bowl of deforested land, full of loose soil and rocks on top of the mountain, is at high risk of landslides and mudslides that may threaten properties and communities below. The next time a hurricane or tropical storm passes over the area, it could bring destruction as Hurricane Florence did in 2018. That storm destroyed the dam on the Mitchell and devastated roads and communities below. The Ramey Creek drainage is the next slope over from the Mitchell, and has been deforested with nothing holding the soil and rocks back. This could become the bigger tragedy. The Blue Ridge Chapter is committed to avoiding this outcome.  At this time, we are working with other organization to:

  1. To make as many people and organizations as possible aware of the situation and the harm this agriculture exemption is doing to the environment.
  2. To start a writing campaign to legislators and senators, and the governor to overturn or fix the exemption rule.
  3. To send letters to the state attorney’s office and all involved agencies to provide support and to ask them to enforce the laws of the land and not compromise on mitigation controls.
  4. To support an amendment to repeal or change the agricultural exemption in the Sedimentation Pollution Control Act.  Blue Ridge TU needs members to help on the Ramey Creek committee along with volunteers to pursue these goals, organize and coordinate with others so we can have the most effect in changing the situation. Please contact us through our website blueridgetu.org, send us an email at blueridgetuws@gmail.com, or volunteer at any of our events.

Little Fisher River, Virginia

The NC Department of Environmental Quality – Water Resources Division has issued another violation to the Bottomley Companies for destruction of tributaries of the Little Fisher River.

The Little Fisher River, from the Virginia state line to the N.C. 89 bridge, is a 7.8-mile hatchery-supported stream stocked with brook, rainbow, and brown trout between March and July. Anglers can harvest up to seven trout per day on hatchery-supported rivers from April until the end of February. Hatchery-supported trout waters are open from 7 a.m. on the first Saturday in April until one-half hour after sunset on the last day of February the following year. 

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Sarasota Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing School

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, 1249 Stickney Point Rd, Sarasota, FL has announced the date for their Orvis-Endorsed fly-fishing school for January. Located on Siesta Key, named Best Beach in America, the school will be January 15, 2022.

The course, designed for beginning and intermediate fly casters, will focus on basic fly-casting principles, improving casting skills and correcting faults.  Instructor Capt. Rick Grassett will also cover saltwater fly-fishing techniques, leader construction and fly selection.

Cost for the class, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., is $225 per person and includes the use of Orvis fly tackle, workbook and lunch. Optional instructional guided fly-fishing trips are also available for an additional fee. Contact CB’s Saltwater Outfitters at (941) 349-4400 or info@cbsoutfitters.com to make reservations.

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Trout Time in Texas

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

A Llano River rainbow. Photo by Polly Dean.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – trout time! Rainbow trout stocking began back in November and lasts until March. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks 350,000-plus rainbows in ponds and community lakes across the state, more than 200 locations in all.

Rainbow trout are delicious, and these are meant to be caught and eaten – they won’t survive a Texas summer. The daily bag limit is 5 fish, with no size limit.

Trout can be feisty and fun to catch, so plan to take the kids to a Neighborhood Fishin’ pond and reel some in. It’s the perfect way to encourage children to fish, and a simple way to create happy, lifelong memories.

Check the stocking schedule to find out when your favorite spot will get trout – the schedule will be updated throughout the season.

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New Striper on the Fly Book

If you’re searching for the ultimate land-locked striped bass experience, then you have found the right place, the right guide and the right lake. Henry Cowen is the acknowledge expert on targeting stripers with the fly on Lake Sidney Lanier, just north of Atlanta, Georgia.

Located just 30 minutes north of the Peach State’s capital city, Lake Lanier is known nationally for its trophy striped bass, as well as its spotted bass fishery.  The Lake Lanier record spotted bass is over 8 pounds and the lake record striped bass is 47 pounds!

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, Cowen’s skill and expertise will provide you with a day to remember.  With decades of experience and knowledge, you’ll get the opportunity to experience fishing adventures and memories lasting a lifetime! Check out his website at henrycowenflyfishing.com.

Additionally, Henry has a new book out that can provide you with the tools to find and catch these fish anywhere. Don’t let the name of this book fool you! Fly Fishing for Freshwater Striped Bass is a guide to help locate, target and catch striped bass in reservoirs and rivers throughout the country. It will help both fly fishermen, as well as conventional anglers, be able to pattern these great gamefish throughout the entire fishing season. It is available at Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Target and fly shops across the country.

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Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival

The Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival is the largest event of its kind in the country and attracts fly anglers from across the United States and the Mid-Atlantic in particular. Nowhere else can anglers learn about the quiet sport in such a beginner-friendly environment. The unique event combines fine wine tasting, microbrewery beer, and everything you ever wanted to know about fly fishing, but were afraid to ask.

The mission of the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival is to introduce as many people to the sport of fly fishing as possible, and to raise the level of awareness to the many pressing conservation issues facing Virginia. People who are connected to the outdoors in their recreational activities, are more inclined to protect the natural resources they enjoy.

Bring your family, relax, take a casting class, and pick up a new sport that the entire family can enjoy. Several new classes for beginners for both adults and children have been added. We’ve also added a bourbon tasting class for adults.

The 21sh Annual Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival will be held at The Meadow Events Park, just a few miles outside of Richmond, Virginia, on January 23-24, 2021.

The festival — the largest event of its kind in the country, drawing fly anglers from as far away as New York and Georgia — appeals to anglers of all ages and stages.

Festival attendees listen to lectures from various experts and practice hands-on skills at the two-day, family-friendly event. Several wineries from throughout the Old Dominion provide free wine tastings for those 21 and older.

The festival will be held regardless of the weather. All vendors are under roof and contained within the Farm Bureau Building at Meadow Event Park located approximately 2 miles east of Kings Dominion.

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