Fly Fishing in Devotion, with my Valentine


Tim at Kapps Mill, Mitchell River, Surry County, N.C.

WHERE DO YOU FISH? HAVE YOU seen that movie with Brad Pitt – what’s it called? Do you eat your fish?

These are the questions I’ve been asked the most by friends and family since I started fly fishing with my husband six months ago.

We are lucky to have some beautiful trout streams within a 2-hour drive of our house here in Greensboro, N.C. Yep, we’ve seen “A River Runs Through it” and it’s a very pretty movie. And we don’t eat the fish. We fish in delayed-harvest waters, so it’s all catch-and-release.

Tim and a nice brown trout, Mitchell River, N.C.

In the most basic terms, here’s how I understand it. Brook, brown and rainbow trout need clean, cold water to survive – like mountain streams, lakes and rivers such as those found in North Carolina’s foothills and northwest Piedmont region. In North Carolina, these public trout waters, some of which run through private lands, are managed and stocked by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Under delayed-harvest regulations, no trout can be harvested or possessed from these waters between October 1st  and one half-hour after sunset on June 1st. No natural bait is allowed, and anglers can fish only with single-hook, artificial lures that “neither contains nor has been treated with any substance that attracts fish by the sense of taste or smell.”

Page from Tim’s fishing notebook, 12/27/15. Unseasonably warm!

Would I LIKE to eat one of my catches? Sure, I’ve caught a couple that looked like they could be quite tasty. Does it diminish the experience that I can’t? Hell, no.

Give a girl a fish, and she’ll eat for a day. Take a picture of her big catch, and she’ll brag about it forever. 

I’m a journalist by trade and I enjoy writing and sharing stories. I especially enjoy sharing my stories through photos, and I love how easy social media has made it for my husband and me to do just that with our kids and grandkids, who are scattered across Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

For Tim and me, there has never been a more beautiful activity to share through photos than fly fishing, especially because of the places it takes us. The trout streams we fish in North Carolina are crystal clear, always in motion, surrounded by trees, boulders, rhododendron and mountain laurel, too small for boats, jet-skis and swimmers, and they provide a nonstop streaming symphony.

Mitchell River, late fall, 2015

Thus far, in my short 6-month fly fishing career, I’ve shared my fishing spots with kingfishers, herons, pileated woodpeckers, otters, beavers, deer and, in Colorado, bugling elk.

Tim’s experience and guidance has landed us in the middle of some drop-dead beautiful scenery at Wilson Creek (near Hickory, N.C.), Stone Mountain/Roaring Gap, and the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains.

But our main spot is the lovely and serene Mitchell River, near Dobson, N.C. This is the heart of North Carolina’s wine country – the Yadkin Valley shares a similar climate with Bordeaux, France, the same latitude as Sicily, and soil composition similar to Tuscany. Or so I was told when I wrote a story about Dobson’s Shelton Vineyards for a  lifestyle magazine years ago.

Kapps Mill, built in 1843

Tim’s and my Instagram photos, when taken in the Mitchell River, specifically geo-spot us in Devotion, an unincorporated community and the site of a 100-sq.-mile estate owned by members of the R. J. Reynolds family. In the 1930’s, R.J. Reynolds, Jr. and his bride spent seven years building a rural retreat there with a lodge, working farm, fish hatchery, chicken, turkey and pheasant houses, skeet field, bowling green, store, post office and several dwellings. Their devotion didn’t last, they eventually divorced, and the land passed down to the heirs (Kid Carolina: R.J. Reynolds Jr. /A Tobacco Fortune and the Mysterious Death of a Southern Icon, by Heidi Schnakenberg.)

Wikipedia describes the Mitchell River as “a tributary of the Yadkin River, part of the watershed of the Pee Dee River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean. The Mitchell rises in eastern Alleghany County in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and flows southeast through Surry County, where it joins the Yadkin River about 5 miles northeast of Elkin at the community of Burch. The river is a popular destination for anglers who catch Brown, Brook, and rainbow trout.”

The Mitchell River was last stocked at the beginning of November, and will be stocked again March 1st.

Mitchell River House

We get there by taking I-40 west from Greensboro, then I-77 north to the Dobson exit (93). Our routine always includes a bathroom and water stop at Shelton Vineyards’ gift shop/rest stop/gas station (turn right at the top of the exit ramp). Then, we head west on Zephyr Road about a mile and a half to Kapps Mill Road on the right. After turning onto Kapps Mill Road, drive about two miles to the end, and turn right onto River Road. You can’t miss this – there’s a beautiful dam and waterfall there that used to  run one of the area’s largest gristmills (circa 1843), which has been preserved and is still standing. You can fish right in front of it, but only anglers are allowed to wade into the waters there.

From here, we follow the river to Sheff Olinger road, and turn there, making stops all along this stretch. There are a few nice pull-offs marked for parking.image

My mom recently visited us “on location” while we were fishing, and she found us by using Mitchell River House as a destination point in her navigation system. This farm, also an Olinger property, was the set for Nicholas Sparks’ movie, “The Longest Ride.” It, like everything else there, is beautiful.

As for flies, we’ve had success with egg patterns, wooly boogers (olive and black), hare’s ear, and midges. Tim’s been fishing there for years and is way more knowledgable about the area, hatches and sweet spots. But he’s busy tying flies, so I’m writing the blog, which means you’re getting the rookie’s perspective.

Yes, I’m in love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.



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