The UNREAL weather continues!!! After having an incredible week prior to this trip - the guides were fired up for some more trophy rainbow fishing and stronger returns on the Dolly Varden and Coho runs. An extra special caveat for this trip was A) Return guests who we had a blast with a couple years prior and B) A friend of Davo's from his Montana days - Joe Moore - Owner of Big Sky Anglers in West Yellowstone, MT / outfitter, guide, general badass - joined us as well!
The guests arrived as early as possible via their amazing Beaver flight with Papa Bear Adventures out of Bethel. Since we got them on time we were able to disembark quickly and get the float under way DAY ONE!
Our lunches are a smorgasbord style deli lunch every day with a rotating protein. There isn't a condiment we don't carry - mayo, mustard, hot mustard, horseradish, pickles, pepperoncinis, tomatoes, onions, jellies, jams, lots of snack items - you get the picture! All of our lunch sites are predetermined to get out of the elements and typically have some great fishing!
We have a sweet view from a bluff from our first camp site in the Upper River. The range of mountains visible are the Ahklun Mountains - the Eek Range.
Early enough still in the season, we really didn't have to worry too much about low water conditions yet. With that being said the endless days of UNREAL summer weather continued in to this magical date as well. At this point the Dolly Varden have started to come in real numbers in to the system and the full blossom of the bio-mass of Southwest Alaska has started to show. All 5 species of Pacific Salmon are in the system at this point, along with resident Arctic Grayling, resident Lake Trout, resident Arctic Char, resident Leopard Rainbow Trout, along with the dollies has created what we call the "Grand Slam" date.
2019 was a pink salmon year for Southwest Alaska, but honestly it was not the GIANT braid plugging runs like we have seen in the past. We feel the lack of strength in the run was because arguably the Kanektok experienced one of the biggest King Salmon runs in recent memory. Technically the river was still shut down for King fishing by the time we got there to guide in July - but a later run snuck in to the system and FILLED the beds with King eggs.
The Sockeye run wasn't quite the "Tail to Mouth" run like we saw in 2018 - but it was very strong run indeed. Southwest Alaska has the largest run of Sockeye salmon in the world, and the Kanektok harbors one of the largest spawning grounds in the region.
The rainbow fishing was exquisite!
The first few days of rainbow fishing was unreal on forage and mouse patterns. There are older and hidden braids in the upper river that have resident rainbows in them who have migrated up from the lower river. This is a special and magical place only accessed by the put in at Kagati Lake and floated to from there.
Our average trout is around 20" - and the above specimen is about what we expect as an average size visually. They all have different characteristics and some of the "smaller" 17-19" rainbows can kick ass much more so than the bigger ones - and we consider any trout over 22" to be in the BIG range. Multiple fish over 20" were landed on this particular date, and it was perhaps our best rainbow date of the 2019 season.
With the incredible weather and voracious rainbow trout all week - why fish for anything else?!
We discovered a new camp in 2018 in a braid in mid river and have since started to fall in love with said campsite. We had an amazing Moose sighting upon first strike of the location and it is a mossy spot so its called "Moose Moss." And it is a very special and magnificent camp for wade fishing.
With only 5 permitted float fishing outfits and 6 person capacity trips - these float trips are as exclusive and private as one could imagine. We have a 100 mile river inside of a 6 million acre wilderness refuge (that is 10 times the size of Great Smoky Mountains National Park) that only has a total of 15 float fishing guides - TOTAL. Imagine the incredible fishing right at your fingertips as you float through a Permit Only Exclusive Float Trip in Southwest Alaska. We have availability for this date in 2021.
(Best for Last)
Capt Chris guided Joe on to this BRUISER of a leopard rainbow. Naturally it was on a mouse - and luckily for everyone we ALL got to see it first hand. The take, the fight (which was epic - nice job JOE!), and the landing. All at our lunch sight for the day as we came in to dine!
2019 In Review
We experienced a lot of new things in 2019. David had a new addition to the family, we hired some new guides, changed locations, created a new partnership and forged new bonds. David became a member of the Scott Rods Professional Team in October and was voted "Best of The Blue Ridge". Alyssa graduated from Appalachian State University, and we couldn't be prouder. Lots to go over - Let's break it down!
Spring started off with a bang , lots of great fishing and trips were as good as ever!
New team member Nate with a local brown trout
Davo with Hardiman - aka Meatball
A logo we worked on with the old shop - before we moved and were thinking about using it. What do y'all think?
David was honored with being voted in as "Best of the Blue Ridge" for Fly Fishing Guide
Scott Fly Rods welcomed David on board their Professional Team. These rods are all handcrafted in Colorado and are the highest quality available.
We miss the old shop and its tininess, but are really digging the new space!
Its a really terrible picture but the new spot is so amazing! It was the old Farmers Hardware building, built in 1914! The doors are over 250 years old, theres floating beams and crazy amounts of soul and history inside this place. We couldn't be happier to be a part of it!
Alaska was amazing. 2019 will forever be remembered for the remarkable weather and giant King Salmon run. Best weather ever, but with the lowest water we had ever seen as well. Made for fantastic rainbow fishing!
Sight fished less than 100 yards from the put in, about an hour in to the 7 day trip
We were honored to have our very own outfitter - Mike Trotter - come and float with us as a guest!
The rainbow fishing was non-stop for all 7 trips
We got a brand new custom made Western Shelter Systems Cooker/Diner Tent
We got a brand new custom made 1992 Ford F250 "Big Country" Edition
(wheels are a big deal in the bush)
Thrashed some Lake Trout for the first time ever
We were honored with having the Head of the New Zealand Guide Association, Kevin Payne - as a guest
(the dolly varden run was incredible too!)
This Arctic Char was definitely the biggest Char we have ever seen. Estimated at 22 pounds
Returned home to Western North Carolina to a beautiful Fall and some fantastic fishing!
Checked out some new species to target in the Winter
Our beloved Mountaineer Football Program reached new heights - taking down UNC Chapel Hill and USC Gamecocks as well as their 4th consecutive SunBelt Championship and 5th straight Bowl Victory!
We are excited to host the 2nd Annual High Country Fly Fishing Festival in June! We will have more details to come
Overall once again it was a big growth year for us at High Country Guide Service. There are quite a few things on the horizon and were looking forward to growing some more with our community. We have some events planned, monthly tying nights, clinics to offer, lots of expansions planned to the shop, some Travel Lounge and hosted travel opportunities.....Its looking like a fun and new year!
First Weekend in February - "Closed" Spawning Sections on South Holston Open Back Up
First Week of March - Delayed Harvest Stocking begins for 2020
First Weekend in March until first weekend in April - Hatchery Supported Streams CLOSED
First Week of April - Delayed Harvest Stocking / Hatchery Supported Streams Open
June 20 - High Country Fly Fishing Festival
July 14 - First Week on Kanektok River Float Trips
Our first trip of the season kicked off in style with a return guest that I have had the honor of fishing with for the last 11 seasons. Linda has always been a welcome addition and this year I had the pleasure of hosting a group of her friends and peers! This is a date that is very special to the guides as it gives us a chance to see the river "before the spawn." Before the massive push of Dollies in particular, but also before the sockeyes and chums start to really lay their beds and there are still chrome bright Kings in the system! Since the biomass is still kind of taking shape we get to focus on these salmon species which we typically don't do - and it makes for some great chances for exploration as it is our first descent!
As usual we floated day one - only spending an hour or so at the lake/put-in to gather our gear and rig up some rods. The river appeared to be very low and we definitely did some dragging coming out of the gate. Two of our guests were return clients, with 4 others who had never experienced "The Chosen" before!
After our first nights camp it became clear that the weather was going to be phenomenal. The warm days and pretty much nonexistent night time temperature swings resulted in a consistently warming trend for the water temperatures. Anyone who has fished in SW Alaska knows that if the water temps start to rise just enough the resident Rainbow Trout start to get pretty happy!
The best part about these rainbows becoming so happy is that they really dont have much to feed on yet, since the biomass is still arriving! This means the residents are looking for other baitfish/sculpins and MICE! Some of our best mouse fishing for rainbows is this time of year and the action can be non stop. With 7 different species of rodents in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, this can be a legit "hatch"
With the water being so low, the path down to the ocean was not a mystery. In low water years the notorious braids and channels kind of become a novelty - because the main river is where all the life and fishing is. This early season fishing is primarily based on the rainbow habitat. Instead of fishing wide open beds and gravel drop offs - we're focusing on the wood and brush piles...
The weather continued to bless us with extraordinary mornings and evenings with great dining and fantastic camaraderie.
As we got in to the lower river we found more and more salmon - and even bumped in to a few worthy Kings!
This trip really was a trip of a lifetime for both the guests and the guides. It was a treat to share with such great people - and to reconnect with some longtime guests! They rebooked for next year so if anyone is interested in this date - it is available in 2021.
We have availability on August 17-23 with two spots open. And our August 25-31 trip also has availability with 6 spots open as of 11/15. Our August dates are typically not available and will be taken by the years end. Don't delay - book today - as these are our only spots left.
Swing by our Fly and Bottle Shop in downtown Boone NC to discuss some future possibilities or to book a trip on our awesome resources here in the High Country! We have trips going out daily to our Tailwater fisheries in Tennessee on the Watauga and South Holston - along with lots of local wade opportunities while the weather is still placid.
So ALOT has been going on over at High Country Guide Service since the return from Alaska. (We will be updating some Alaska trips and notes from the 2019 season as the Winter goes on). Our fishing season has really picked up here in the High Country and the leaves are in FULL PEAK right now. Might have missed it.
Our local streams received a much anticipated stocking and as of right now its raining, with more rain in the forecast. Next week the state will stock more fish - and this November looks to be shaping up in a big way!
The wild streams around Boone have been showing their true colors with the transition of the seasons, and the browns and brooks are starting to put on their Winter weight.
The tailwaters of East Tennessee - the Watauga and South Holston - have indeed kept enough stream flows for the trout to sustain and thrive this Summer. As we slip in to the Fall months the resident browns are starting to make the move for the pre-spawn. The fishing is really starting to heat up over there as the nights start to cool down! We are floating practically 7 days a week right now and would love to get you out on the stream!
We have moved locations!
We are now in the old Farmers Hardware building - inside of Highland Outfitters Fly Shop.
140 S Depot St. #1
Boone, NC 28607
Please come and visit us as we move in and occupy a really rad building. This thing was built in the 1920's and full of character and history. It is much bigger than our previous space, has much more exposure being in the "outdoor corner" of Downtown Boone, HAS PARKING, and is a collaboration with a budding business partner. We couldn't be more excited and honored to be a part of it!
David has been given Pro Status with Scott Fly Rods out of Colorado. This company is the real thing - still making from scratch Fly Rods in America one at a time BY HAND. Honored and beyond stoked to be a part of such a quality group.
We've got lots going on up here as we move in to the new space - and lots of new events to host! Stay tuned as we update fishing reports, happenings, and meetings - see yall soon!!!
We all made it out to the tailwater for a training and fishing mission this month and it was an incredible experience to say the least. We floated a giant stretch of the Watauga River in Elizabethton, TN - fishing streamers for native browns mostly. My boat didn't have a floating line on it! We were throwing various sink tips, I really like this Rio Streamer InTouch that has a pretty aggressive but short tip. We were using various patterns and colors - mostly olive or brown - some lead eyed articulated stuff, but also some craft fur heads with glued on eyes. The back of the boat was on fire for the most part, and at the end of the day I was astonished to report 6 fish over 18" and two taped at 20"!
It was a fantastic day for training as the river was running over 2000 cfs and lots of water profiles and characteristics to read all day long. We worked on ferry angles, drift boat speed for various uses, netting fish, anchor drops and just general behaviors and techniques that HCGS guides need to exhibit. We feel it is paramount for all guides to be on the same page for professional quality and overall expectations. It was a long day by the clock, but worth the rewards! We packed our standard Melanie's Food Fantasy lunch and some beers from the shop - and shared these with our favorite; the Watauga Riverkeeper.
It seemed like the colder and junkier it got weather wise the better the bite was. The native predators were definitely on the hunt, the barometric pressure varied through the day but it was triggering an amazing streamer bite.
These were all from one day of fishing, and there are other photos floating around that I haven't been able to get posted just yet. We had multiple follows on the same strip sometimes, and lots of bumps all day!
We have been receiving new shipments weekly of new gear and new beer! We have a lot of resins and epoxies for streamer heads and nymphs backs from both Loon Outdoors and Gulff Fly Fishing. Just got in a huge order of ducktails in a lot of different colors, along with some new Kona streamer hooks. These things look like the real deal - a little bit better of a price point than most but look and feel to be very stout. Lots of new tools for the tying table, and some awesome Hareline Mega Pads and Bead Pads. These things are great for containing the mess, and are a great addition to anyone's table.
We're hosting a Tying Night with the Appalachian State University Fly Fishing Club next Wednesday night - February 20 at 6PM! We've been building up the materials just for this event and we really hope to engage the community in a way that hasn't been done in Boone before. Our neighbors across the street, The Turchin Center for The Visual Arts - has been gracious enough to allow us to use their space for the night! The Turchin has always acted as a common ground linking the campus and the downtown scene, and we feel like an event like this is perfect for their goal. We will be offering two levels of tying instruction; an introductory level for folks who have never done it or still aren't comfortable using the tools, and an advanced level for anglers looking to further their skill and knowledge. The intro class will be tying a couple of bead head flies, while the advanced class will be tackling articulated streamers! We will have lots of sales on materials and tools, but will provide some stuff for the FREE class itself. We will also have lots of beer specials and some pretty awesome news to reveal too!
There are lots of other happenings in the next couple weeks as well! Trout Unlimited High Country Chapter is having another meeting this Tuesday night at Valle Crucis Park at 6PM. They're doing a Fly Swap where you can swap out flies and share stories about said flies. We plan on bringing some stand-bys but mostly plan on bringing FREE BEER for the masses. The TU Chapter is providing Pizza, but we figured we might as well chip in and encourage more participants with some free alcohol.
Friday March 1 the state of NC will start stocking our Delayed Harvest streams in Watauga County and surrounding areas. Make sure to get out there and enjoy this awesome resource, and kick off the "Spring" fishing.
Friday March 1 we will also be hosting yet another Art Crawl First Friday at our shop in downtown Boone. Im thinking the theme of a "Fly Fest" - just kinda celebrating the fact that our streams are getting stocked and our season is kinda getting going. Also maybe trying to come up with some whacky 90's themed "Fly Fest" idea. We'll see. Lots of beer specials as always on First Fridays!
2018 - A Watermark Year
2018 was most certainly the year of precipitation. With the High Country reporting the wettest year on record and a sharp curve on the obvious climate change occurring in Alaska high country guide service tested all of our rain gear and techniques.
2018 was a giant growing year for the business and we brought on Skye as the head guide. Skye grew up in Watauga and his streamer prowess is highly desirable for all guests! Just before our Alaska season he boated quite possibly the biggest brown trout in company history. I know it is a special fish in his world and I am happy that he was able to get it himself!
For the most part of was a high water spring, allowing us to explore and kinda float wherever we wanted!
My wife changed careers and is now part of the only real estate team in Downtown Boone - 828 Real Estate
So proud of her and motivated by her all the time.
After a fun filled and productive spring guiding season it was time to travel to the last frontier and experience the most special place on the planet to me. The Kanektok!
this was my second season as the head Guide for the Kanektok float trips through Beyond Boundaries Expeditions. We had six amazing trips down the river and each one was filled with different challenges. It seems like every week it rained and no question each guest had to deal with the wind in their own way. 70+ mile an hour sustained winds during one week tested all of the camping equipment and the mettle of everyone. I tried to be as proactive as possible and bring lots of tarps and even an extra tent just to provide some relief from the rain.
Technically we never got swamped that week - but plenty of others out there did!
something that I had never experienced in the 14 years that I’ve been out there was the river changing weekly. A typical summer revolves around a dropping water column through the entire season. This summer it seemed like the river just continued to rise the entire season. I’m pretty sure each week we took a different route because the braids would change so much. Found some new and interesting braids and also lost some old standbys.
The type III typhoon that made landfall on us will always send me into a semi PTSD state when I look at the big huge weather systems above my head. We had a brand new cook tent this year and I can’t speak highly enough of western shelter systems and the safety that they provided.
overall it was an incredible season for the salmon especially....it wasn’t quite the banner rainbow year that I personally look for year in and year out. High water levels don’t always create the best trout fishing but nonetheless some of the mouse fishing on certain days was incredible and needless to say the Coho fishing was as epic as I’ve ever seen it. The Kanektok is an outfitters dream because she will always give you something to redeem the trip with!
The end of the Kanektok season Brought me back home in time to see some great football games and still some pretty hot tail water fishing on both the Watauga and the South Holston. The “guide bite” was still on and I was fortunate enough to have plenty of trips to keep me busy.
After proudly rowing my handmade boat for 10 years I finally decided it was time to upgrade and add another boat to the fleet!
.My RO Tailwater Skiff is the ultimate vehicle for plying the waters of the South Holston and Watauga Tailwater Rivers. It is beyond stable and lots of room for any angler. I am proud to be a part of the RO team and have enjoyed every minute in this boat!
it is a welcome addition and will allow for us to accommodate even more guests!
as my fall season was in full swing I decided to throw my hat into the retail ring and open up a brick and mortar fly shop in downtown Boone right on King Street! I have lived here for 18 years and was basically waiting for someone to open one so instead of watching the world go by I figured it was time to put up or shut up.
Boone is changing and growing so fast - I wanted to be a part of something that I feel like I’ve always been on the outside looking in. As a downtown business we want to reach in to the market and spread the scene of catch and release fly fishing.
I opened November 2 and it has been a whirlwind ever since. I was fortunate enough to already have my head guide Skye - Who always has my back and is the definition of what a high country guide should strive for - but I was luckily able to bring Alyssa on board. She has been a huge help with her prior experience and a welcome addition to the team!
Our crew is growing and a home base has been established. There will now be a full time HCGS presence even in the Summer while I’m gone to Alaska.
when we first opened it was quite busy with guiding and some retail sales and after a short while I was able to attain my ABC permit to sell beer in the shop. This has been an idea of mine for over 20 years and it is humbling to see it come to reality. Hot Flies Cold Beer just sounds right doesn’t it?
Our location is across the street from App State campus, and literally mixed in to student apartments - we wanted a platform to bring in the students and open our doors to the downtown scene and literally to everyone!
Then the big snowstorm came in really kicked off our winter season here in the high country. My family and I enjoyed lots of snowy days and then my beloved Appalachian State football team decided to bless us all with a conference championship right here in Boone!
High country guide service is proud to call Boone home and honestly I don’t think there’s another place like this in the country. I just celebrated my 36th birthday and was fortunate enough to guide on the last day of the calendar year 2018. Looking forward to a productive and fish filled 2019! Stop by our downtown Boone shop for all your flies, fly tying materials, and beer!
Please feel free to contact us and let us know if there’s something you want in the shop. Or just to say hey!
We had our first taste of Winter before the season is truly upon us!
At the house we picked up a super dry and fluffy 17”!
All the snow has got the shop in full on tying and regrouping for the Spring mode. While the Tailwater rivers of the South Holston and Watauga stay consistent with the full on spawn/post-spawn bite our trips over to TN for guests has started to slow. The skiing and riding on the slopes right now is prime time so I can’t say I blame any visitors of the High Country for taking advantage!
With this hunker down mindset comes the avenue of new ideas at the vise....or just restocking the essentials....
We’re stocking and restocking the tying essentials in the shop in anticipation of the Winter tying sessions/the oncoming Spring Guide season/and hopefully soon announcing some community open tie Tying nights! Stay tuned...
As promised we are expanding the beer selection. Just brought on New Belgium, Foothills Brewing, Lost Province (literally down the street), Greenman, Highlands, and Rogue from out West!
As always this is all from everyone’s input:
If there’s something you want me to carry just let me know and it’ll be here!
Stay tuned on Facebook and Instagram especially on our stories - typically general shenanigans with huge beer sales!
Til next time Goodnight Grandfather!
Come see us downtown Boone -
We are #boonesflyshop right across from App State campus
Thanksgiving Weekend Did Not Dissapoint!
Friends and Family for Thanksgiving festivities followed by some unreal fishing, some awesome beer deals in the shop, and a Conference Championship coming to Boone! What’s Better?!
we had some great holiday deals in combo with free beer (if you missed it, it was truly special) we just got our first fly tying inventory in and already selling lots of ammunition for the tying heads out there!
The fishing on the Watauga and south Holston tailwater rivers was truly incredible. I had five lady anglers Inn for days and everyone got to pull on fish over 20 inches! The resident brown trout are on their beds and the biomass that his following them around his astonishing. Our blue ribbon trout streams really are showing their true colors right now.
some of our floats are very uncrowded this time of year full of native fish. We have float trips going out daily and super happy customers living their trout fishing dreams. It is a special time in the Highcountry indeed.
all of these photos were from this weekend!
The Fly Shop that sells beer
Yeah that’s us!!!
I have had this dream since I was in college. Last week it became a reality. I always wanted a one stop shop - where you could gear up for fishing and beer up for the reflection afterwards!
Booneshine Brewing is a perfect fit for our local focused and community minded shop. We offer their IPA, their Tropic Pale, and their heady Coffee Porter. We plan on expanding their selection as we make more room!
We also offer all the yummy Sweetwater tallboys including their 420 Ale, TropicPaleAle, and the good ole yellow can IPA. Lagunitas IPA, and Sierra Nevada TORPEDO and their Pale Ale rounds out my craft beer selection for now.
Cheaper domestics like PBR , Hamm’s, Coors Original, and some Modelos for the cost efficient crowd.
Being Downtown Boone’s only Fly Shop we felt this was a perfect fit. We have always felt fly shops should embrace the community around them, making the space more for collaboration than secrets.
Less Egos, More Amigos
More about common ground rather than a culture of shit talking. We are the Fly Shop for everyone.
Fly & Bottle Shop
On November 2 2018 I was finally able to open a physical location for the Guide Service and open some doors for walk-in business! I had always envisioned opening in Downtown Boone and was able to find a perfect place for all Anglers right on King St. It is an intentionally small spot offering guide approved flies from Solitude Flies, Umpqua Feather Merchants, and Montana Fly Co. We also have a healthy selection of house tied flies.
We also have streamside accessories including tippet, split shot, leaders, and indicators. Super cost friendly Knockaround polarized sunglasses in a variety of styles and logo apparel. We also offer an awesome line up of gear from Strip N Fly Wear our of Montana!
As always we will be offering the finest guided trips in The High Country, with a central location in Downtown Boone! Daily trips to the Tailwater Rivers of the South Holston and Watauga, as well as locally on the Watauga, Elk, Helton, and Big Horse Creek.