Fall in Appalachia
Fall in Appalachia by Ryan Forbus


The Southeastern portion of the United States of America can’t be compared to the trout fisheries of the Mountain West, but it has a special place in my heart. It’s home. It’s where I grew up, it’s where I learned to cast a fly rod, and it’s where I landed my first trout. It’s the place where my obsession with fly fishing and photography started. Appalachia has a wide variety of rivers, from spring-fed behemoths, to tailwaters, to rhododendron choked creeks and everything in-between. Species are abundant: native brook trout gems, smallmouth bass, musky. One can get their “tug is the drug” fix in a multitude of ways here.

My personal favorite is trout. And yes, I’m fully aware that these trout are hatchery born and raised and stocked. With one exception; our one native species of trout is the Southern Appalachian brook trout. These are colorful gems found in high elevation streams above waterfalls three feet or higher (to impede non-native rainbows or browns). Armed with a 7’6” 3WT and a box of dry flies, one with some creative casting can have a ball in the warmer months chasing these feisty natives. Just watch that back cast- rhododendrons, although pretty, are your nemesis in much of Appalachia.

Spring in Appalachia.

Claiming flies by the dozen on many rivers. Anglers fish seasonally here in Appalachia, nymphing for trout in the cooler months, figure eighting for musky in the dead of winter and stripping streamers for striped bass and smallies in the warmer months. With the seasons comes spectacular sights across much of Appalachia. Spring brings budding rhododendron, mountain laurel, and wildflowers. Summer… just brings poison ivy… and frankly, that stuff can burn in hell for eternity. Fall brings Appalachia’s biggest show to life: leaves, it’s a sight one must see to understand. I can hear the western readers spitting out their coffee now… “but, but… we have the yellowing aspens!!” Although beautiful, nothing is quite like Appalachia at peak color.

Chad Bryson examining dries for the perfect presentation.

“Anglers fish seasonally here in Appalachia.”

First Light.

The mountains almost appear ablaze with vibrant yellows, reds and oranges. Winter brings occasional snow, blanketing the rolling mountains with a beautiful white coat. But with winter comes the fish of a ten thousand casts, the musky. This means wire leaders, massive colorful articulated flies and rods like you might see on a flats skiff. Cast, strip, strip, strip, figure eight, repeat. Until exhaustion. Days are considered “good” when you move a fish.

Appalachia, while not a world-class fishing destination by most people’s standards, is a unique and special place. It’s a place where one can bend a rod year-round. Where one’s rod quiver can go from a 3WT to an 11WT and not have to see the ocean. A place where we get every season and the beauty that comes with each. It’s a place I often leave to explore other fisheries, but will always return to. Appalachia is HOME. 

Fire on the Mountain – Appalachia in peak fall color.
Streamer Eater. Smashed a baitfish pattern meant for Baja Roosters.
Nantahala – Land of the Noon Day Sun.
One last glimpse before saying goodbye.

Contributed By

Ryan Forbus

My photography journey began officially in the Fall of 2014, but my passion for photos and being behind a camera started over a decade prior. I have many memories of running around with Kodak disposals or my parents point and shoot, snapping what I believed to be “masterpieces” at the time. I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga where I cut my teeth on pond fishing for bream and catfish. The first time I touched a fly rod and gave my best attempt at casting a loop… I was hooked (pun intended).



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