Southern Appalachian Fly Fishing and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

American Angler and Southern Appalachian Flies, including the Yellow Hammer.

American Angler and Southern Appalachian Flies, including the Yellow Hammer.

The other day, I had a few spare minutes between meetings on the Colville Indian Reservation and picked up the latest issue of American Angler (July/August 2015) to pass the time. In the “Headwaters section,” I came across an article by Beau Beasley, noting the grand opening of the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians. The museum is located in Cherokee, North Carolina. Cherokee is on the “Quallah Boundary”–the land trust of the sovereign Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Quallah Boundary functions much like the reservations of other federally recognized Native American nations.

Having lived in North Carolina, I know there is fantastic fly fishing in the Southern Appalachians. And I appreciate the rich history associated with Southern Appalachian fly fishing, though it is far less known than the history of fishing in Central Pennsylvania, much further up the Appalachian range. Many anglers have tasted just a hint of the former, in the writings of Harry Middleton. Middleton is the author of On the Spine of Time and several other beautiful books about fishing the Smokey Mountains (and Ozarks). Even though I am from Montana and have finally relocated to the West, I honestly miss some of the southeastern fishing.

Cherokee is an appropriate place for the Fly Fishing Museum. The tribe maintains their own hatchery and heavily stocks many local waters. Of course, there are wild trout in the area as well, which are far more appealing to people like myself. Scholar Heidi Altman, in her book Eastern Cherokee Fishing (2006) notes that fly fishing “exerts a strong influence in the area” and that it may be difficult to distinguish between environmental knowledge passed down traditionally and that which derives distinctly from fly fishing (79).  Moreover, many Southern Appalachian fly fishers claim that the Yellow Hammer or Yaller Hammer fly was developed by Cherokee anglers. Historically, however, the Cherokee primarily used traps, weirs, and spears to harvest fish (it does seem, however, that some other Native American peoples developed fly fishing practices independently from those brought by Europeans).

I congratulate the town of Cherokee and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for hosting this new museum, which is certainly a unique one in Indian Country. Congratulations to the founders of the museum, as well.

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A favorite Southern Appalachian spot.

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Speckled Trout (Brookie) or Unanvtsadv, in the Cherokee language.

Photo by Mike Sepelak.

Photo by Mike Sepelak.


2 Responses to “Southern Appalachian Fly Fishing and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians”

  1. rivertoprambles Says:

    Very interesting to learn of this. Just the other day I was reading of the Yellow Hammer pattern and its use in Tennessee. Thank you.

    Like

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