This is a great time of the year to explore and get out of the house and explore new places. As far as really productive trout fishing in the freestone streams, slow is the word. The streams are high due to recent rains, snow, and ice runoff. Remember that a trout is cold blooded. Their metabolism is based on the stream temps and it is cold. They don’t have to eat much, if anything. If you do fish, forget the fast riffles and concentrate on deeper, slower runs. Go deep with nymphs.
In a nutshell, fishing will be slow, but if you have to go, why not?
Typically, I have found browns come slower to a fly when water is at its winter coldest. While the rainbows will feed slowly, at least I have managed to catch a small number from some of the coldest streams during the winter months.
As far as nymph patterns go, the trout in the area you spoke of will not be that picky. Most any freestone stream in NC this time of the year can be effectively fished with most any locally successful pattern: Tellico, Prince, suggestive stonefly patterns, G.R. Hares Ear (I like the olive or olive brown bodied ones best as opposed to the original gray or buff colored ones – most mayfly nymphs are indeed olive – brown). Our local fish just aren’t pattern specific, they are opportunistic. The main thing is for you to stay hidden.
Again, the key would be to go DEEP and fish the slower pools. A lethargic, cold bodied trout is not going to be found in the fast shallow water to speak of. Fish slow, fish deep, use lead, beadheads, or both. As said before, don’t expect big numbers this time of the year. If you just have to go, just enjoy being there and don’t go for the numbers.
IF – IF – IF – IF —- Mother Nature were to happen to give us three unseasonably warm days in the row, things can change. I have seen this happen in February in years past and seen trout feeding rather aggressively on top during the third warm day in a row.