Fridays on the Fly: Abbi Bagwell on the 11-Mile Challenge

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Could you imagine a small native brook trout swimming its way up the perched culvert pictured below? I can’t. There are numerous issues with the size and positioning of this culvert that will affect the population of North Carolina’s most beautiful fish.

But I’m not here to give you a lesson on culverts—or to tell you how much I hate them and that I think they could have a huge negative effect on the population of North Carolina’s native brook trout. I’m here to tell you how you can help.

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The  Southeastern chapter of Trout Unlimited has devised a plan to help fund a culvert restoration project through an exciting challenge that offers contestants a chance to get out on the water, fish their favorite streams, and win some awesome stuff.

I’m talking about the 11-Mile Challenge. Trout Unlimited’s Southeast Conservation Project will reconnect 11 miles of native brook trout streams in the Southern Appalachians this year by removing fish passage barriers at bad culverts.  Those 11 miles of connected water will make the best of our native brookies more resilient, longer-lived, and better to fish.

So what do you have to do? Sign up at, fish (wade-fish to be exact) 11 miles of whatever water you want, document it through their easy form, and let them know about any bad culverts you come across. What happens if you don’t fish all 11 miles by December? You’re in a lot of trouble.

I’m kidding. The only repercussion is a loss of bragging rights. You’ll still be eligible to win the prizes provided by some awesome sponsors, including guide trips, a Fish-Skull Fly Tester from Flymen Fishing Co., a Tenkara set up, and some sweet fly tying materials and flies.

11 miles is a lot of water to cover, but it can be done. In fact, one angler from Winston-Salem has already done it! The main objective is to spread awareness about the importance of stream restoration.

Last week I got the chance to hang out with Mark Taylor and Damon Martin from Trout Unlimited and fish one of my favorite streams. We fished for 3 hours and only made it .72 miles. Thank the heavens they’ve given us until December to complete this! Check out our journey below. Cheers and happy fishing. Good luck!

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