The Nantahala Outdoor Center will hold its first ever fly-fishing competition Oct. 17 and 18 on the Nantahala River in Swain County.
The first day’s events will be held at the Nantahala Outdoor Center on U.S. 19 in the Gorge and will include a lineup of unique casting events.
“The first one is going to be this thing where competitors have to hit targets that are floating down the river,” said J.E.B. Hall, fishing programs director at NOC.
It’s not unusual for fly-fishing contests to have a qualifying round involving accuracy, but it is usually done on dry land with targets set up in a large field. The floating targets at the NOC contest will each be a different size and carry a different point value.
In the qualifying rounds, competitors will also try their luck casting for distance — again with a twist.
“They can’t use a rod and must use their hands,” Hall said.
The top 10 competitors go on to compete in the second-day, fishing part of the competition, held on the river from the Swain County line downstream to Little Wesser Falls. Fishermen will only be allowed to use one fly.
“There are a lot of fishing tournaments out there, but we wanted to make something different,” Hall said.
The NOC is known for its rafting trips, but the business has also begun offering fly-fishing trips from Asheville to east Tennessee.
“It [fly-fishing] is such a big thing in that part of North Carolina that they wanted to have their own fishing tournament,” Hall said.
The NOC hopes to make this an annual event. It was spurred this year by an early end to the rafting season.
“The river’s not running for the month of October, so we wanted to have some events throughout the month that would kind of fill in for that,” Hall said.
During October, Duke Energy is doing some work on its powerhouse on the lower portion of the river. That work will prevent the company from releasing enough water for whitewater rafting.
While the river may be too low for rafting, the natural flow should provide plenty of water for fishing, he said.
Ben Wiggins, who lives in Bryson City, said the natural flow of the river should make for some good fishing.
Wiggins has been fly-fishing for 12 years, but this will be his first competitive event.
“I think it’s going to be more of a lighthearted event,” Wiggins said.