Hunter Banks Fly Fishing is Western North Carolina’s original fly fishing outfit. They’ve been the go-to for anglers since 1985, offering gear, guided fishing trips, and education. We love that Hunter Banks offers a fly fishing school for those who like the idea of fly fishing, but lack the expertise.
As it turns out, lots of people convince themselves that fly fishing is too difficult for a newbie learn. With zero judgment, Hunter Banks’ fly fishing instructors taught us how to select a fly, tie a knot, and read the water for signs of what might be lurking beneath the surface. Given that all of this took place against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there were moments when it felt as though we were on a movie set or in the middle of a picture postcard.
A couple of misconceptions were cleared during our lesson. The first is that fly fishermen are so serious about fishing that they forget to have fun. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Our instructor was funny, knowledgeable, and had the patience of a saint. The second misconception was that fly fisherman do nothing else with their spare time. While there, we learned that many enthusiasts simply add fly fishing to the outdoor activities they already enjoy. We met photographers whose hobby is to float down rivers on the lookout for wildlife along the banks, and a pair of hikers who preferred hiking over boating when they fished.
We highly recommend the full-day course. Hunter Banks provided all the equipment we needed, as well as lunch. There’s a half-day course for those who are either short on time or simply need a refresher. For those who are ready to try out their new fly fishing chops, they also offer guided tours. The trips focus on the big four — rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, brown trout, and brook trout. The trips are scenic, relaxing, and fun (even if you’re just learning the ropes).
Here are the two primary options:
Guided Float Trips
Which tailwater you visit depends upon whether you want to catch wild or stocked fish. Admittedly, tailwater fishing can be tricky given the over-abundance of insects fish have to choose from. They’re so well-fed that anything you offer them may not seem tempting. What the guide knows that most people don’t is which insects the local fish population have to choose from and where the most fish are normally found.
The guided float trips are either in a drift boat or on a raft, and guides take you down either the Tuckaseegee, Watauga, or South Holston River. The half-day float trip is perfect for novices, while experienced fly fishers normally opt to spend the entire day on the water.
Guided Wade Trips
One of the great things about wade fishing in Western North Carolina is the smaller size of creeks, rivers, and streams. Anglers are frequently able to jump across to get to the far bank, and it’s easier to find areas of solitude where nothing can be heard but wind in the trees. Wade fishing is all about being as one with nature, totally immersed in the simplicity of the moment.
Like the float trips, both half-day and full-day wade trips are available. Your guide will be able to tell you which rivers are best for wade fishing on any given day.
Some consider fishing to be a meditative sport, something you can do when you need to unwind. Whether relaxing is your goal or seeing how many fish you can catch, a day with Hunter Banks Fly Fishing is a day well spent.
If possible, make the trip to Hunter Banks the day before your scheduled trip in order to purchase your fishing license. Getting it beforehand means more time on the water and less in the store.