INNER BANKS SPECS, REDS, STRIPERS
Fly Fishing on the Inner Banks is a vastly underrated fishery. While much of the fishing in our area is done with conventional gear, anglers can catch all of our mixed bag species on fly rods. Our speckled trout are plentiful and fun on fly, but many fly anglers tend to lean more toward our harder pulling striped bass and redfish. The best redfishing is in the warmer months (late spring, summer, early fall) and the best striper fishing is in the cooler months (late fall, winter, early spring). Most of the reds are caught in shallow water using intermediate fly lines with various streamer patterns or on topwater with poppers, gurgles, and other topwater flies. We use 6-7 weights for the speckled trout and 7-9 weights for the redfish and striped bass.
CAPE LOOKOUT FALSE ALBACORE
The False Albacore run in October and November at Cape Lookout, NC is one of the premier fly fisheries in the United States. In October and November on Lookout Shoals off the Crystal Coast, massive quantities of baitfish accumulate and attract large schools of False Albacore or “Albies”. This fishery has been well-known for decades, and saltwater fly fishermen from around the country come to experience the fall Albie run at Cape Lookout. Albies are fun to catch on conventional gear, but the Albies are one of those fish that is way more fun to catch on a fly rod. They range in size from about 5 pounds up to 20 pounds, and are part of the tuna family. They are very powerful fish, and when you hook one, you can expect a long powerful run into your fly line backing. We use 8-11 weights and mostly intermediate and floating fly lines, depending on the size of the fish and the particular situation.
We can catch striped bass year-round in our area on fly rods. In the summer, we fish the estuarine portion of our river and fish structure or bait concentrations along the river shorelines. We have seen some of our best topwater fishing during this time, but when they are not feeding on top, a subsurface streamer on intermediate or sink tip fly line is very effective. In the cooler months, our stripers concentrate in the lower reaches of the Tar and Roanoke Rivers in the flowing water. We are typically fishing in heavier current and often deeper, so sinking lines are our most effective tool; however, we do catch them shallower on intermediate and sink tips. For the stripers, we mainly utilize 7-8 weights.
Eastern North Carolina has some of the best and most diverse shad fishing on the Eastern Seaboard. All of our major coastal rivers and some of the smaller river and tributaries are overflowing with shad during the late winter/early spring shad migration. We have both American and Hickory Shad and abundance is dependent on the river and the particular reach we are fishing. The American Shad are less abundant but bigger, offering the fly angler a larger target. For those looking for high numbers, the Hickories are a better option. Shad can be caught as early as mid to late February and as late as early April and March is peak fishing. We mainly fish the Tar and Roanoke Rivers, although we venture out on other rivers on occasion. Shad are super fun to catch on fly, offering some aggressive takes and acrobatic fights. We use mostly fully sinking fly lines on 3-7 weights, depending on the line weight, although they most fun to catch on 3-5 weights.
Warmwater freshwater fly fishing is arguably the most underrated and least publicized fishery in Eastern NC. Literally thousands of miles of water exist in Coastal and Eastern NC for the freshwater fly fishing enthusiast. We have moving water. We have lakes. We have coastal estuarine rivers and creek, all with abundant populations of largemouth bass, various species of sunfish, and other species that are fun on the fly such as bowfin, chain pickerel, longnose gar, and others. Just our home waters alone (the Tar and Pamlico Rivers and their tributaries) have more water to explore for this type of fishing than one can fish in a lifetime. If you add other productive areas such as the lower Roanoke, the Chowan and its tributaries, the Albemarle Sound and its eastern tributaries such as the Alligator River, the possibilities are literally endless. Our specialty is fishing for largemouth bass and big jumbo sized bream using fly rods and popping bugs. Bug fishing is a highly addictive and fun way to fly fish.
Lake Phelps is the second largest natural lake in North Carolina, comprising 16,000 acres of shallow, gin-clear water home to big largemouth, all the pumpkinseed bream you can stand, and whopper yellow (raccoon) perch. It’s located on the eastern border of Washington County near the small community of Creswell. The clear shallow flats along the lake’s rim are ideal for wading and sight fishing to the numerous largemouth bass. If you are looking for the best wade/sight fishing opportunities in our area, then Lake Phelps is an absolute bucket list trip for any fly fisherman. If you didn’t know where you were, you’d think you were wading a bonefish flat in the Bahamas. That’s how clear and beautiful the water is. Many of the bass in the lake are in the 2-4 pound range, but each day anglers might get a shot at sight casting to a bass in the 5-8 pound range. The takes a stealthy approach because the water is so clear. If you see the fish, then they can see you, too. Conventional bass tackle (bait casting or spinning gear) can be utilized; however, the style of fishing on the lake is perfect for the fly angler. 3-5 weights are ideal for the bream, and 5-8 weights are ideal for the largemouth. We try to emphasize topwater fly fishing when conditions are appropriate.