American Fly Fishing

Time for a Swim
By Bill R. Chiles

Chattooga Cliffs, NC

Simons Welter works pools on the upper Chattooga on the approach to the Cliffs area. The fishing here is excellent, but be careful not to devote too much time here as you will need all the daylight available to complete the Cliffs loop. ALL PHOTOS BY BILL R. CHILES

Simons Welter gazed downstream, submerged in chilly water to her chest and guarded from a brisk current by an eddy hardly bigger than her torso. Ahead, steep moss-covered stone walls contained the entire volume of the Chattooga River. The pools and eddies in sight looked like a sure bet for trout-rich honey holes, if only there were a way to get there. So with her lumbar pack in a dry bag, sealed with enough residual air to make an impromptu flotation device, and a 4-weight clenched in her teeth, Welter did what most fly fishers would never consider: she jumped into the frothy current.

Anyone who has ever waded a trout stream has taken an unintentional dip, perhaps even a brief white-water ride. But the sight of a wader-clad fly fisher performing the breaststroke through emerald green pools and foamy rapids is odd. Fat, wild, untouched brown trout can make fly anglers do strange things. So if getting to an awesome brownie hole requires a swim, so be it.