Exploring southern Appalachian backcountry streams in search of native brookies is transports an angler back in time, a time when the south was still wild. The gorgeous and increasingly rare places where native trout thrive are some of the Southeast’s most sacred treasures—and chasing brookies where they belong has become one of fly fishing’s most sacred endeavors. That’s because native southern Appalachian brook trout are found in only a small fraction of their native range, and in North Carolina for example, only half of those fish are found on private lands. Over the years, brookies have suffered from poor land-use practices, fragmented rivers and streams and non-native competition—that we still have brookies in the Southern Appalachians is a minor miracle.
TU is using new science, mapping and genetics data to prioritize the top 10 southeastern watersheds in critical need of protection. These special places have several things in common: high-quality and native-strain brook trout populations, intact and undeveloped watersheds, high resilience to climate change, and most critically, they reside in private ownership and are subject to future development and degradation. We’ll also work with elected officials and decision makers to highlight the need for good conservation policy, all the while engaging our angling volunteers to help us protect important habitat by creating the first Native Fish Conservation Area in the east on public lands.
Since 2009, Trout Unlimited has worked to secure the future of native Southern Appalachian brook trout fishing by accelerating the pace of watershed protection, advocating for conservation policy and funding, and supporting restoration of streams and watersheds critical to their health. We have had great success in bringing science and priorities to land trusts across the region and have played critical roles in protecting important waters like the North Mills River, the Rocky Fork and the East Fork Headwaters. What’s more, we’ve delivered the voices of sportsmen and women to policy and funding discussions key to on-the-ground projects now in the works. TU has the history and the infrastructure to successfully protect the best of Southern Appalachia’s trout streams for generations to come.
Elizabeth Maclin, firstname.lastname@example.org