Fridays on the Fly: The Three River Fly Fishing Festival

If you want to win a fly fishing tournament, don’t go with me. Not only was this my first fly fishing tournament, this was my first time ever fly fishing.

Highlands North Carolina is a special place to me. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. My grandparents have a place here and this was my first taste of the mountains growing up. So when I was offered a spot in the Three River Fly Fishing Festival, I jumped at the opportunity. Fly fishing experience be damned. This will be fun one way or the other.

The Three River Fly Fishing Festival is an eight-year running event put on by the folks at Highland Hiker. Regardless of your skill or age, you are welcome here. The fishing tournament covers seven counties, multiple rivers, and is limited to only 50 teams.

Winners, Noah Pressler and Fisher Druffel

It got its name, “Three River,” because anglers need to fish one hatchery supported, one delayed harvest, and one native (wild) stream or river. Teams compete for most fish caught, total inches of fish caught, biggest fish, smallest fish, and of course, the ugliest fish. They also have a prize for the best story told and a casting competition. Teams can fish by themselves or with a guide. There are individual prizes and winners for both categories.

Regardless of how you’re fishing, or where, it is all based on the honor system. Popular areas fished were the Tuckaseegee River, Davidson River, and French Broad River. In the wide span of the fishing area, there are limitless fishing possibilities.

This year’s winners, Noah Pressler and Fisher Druffel, caught an astonishing 177 fish in 2 days totaling over 1,938 inches. That’s 161.5 feet of fish!

Guided Team Winners

All entry fees benefit the Town Of Highlands Scholarship Fund for Highlands School Graduates. This year, the tournament raised over $7,000 for the fund. The folks who run the tournament are fantastic and after eight years, it only gets better. On the final day, after check-in, the awards ceremony is held at the beautiful Cyprus Restaurant in Downtown Highlands. There were raffles for some incredible pieces of art and fly fishing gear. Cyprus Restaurant provided absolutely amazing food and of course, delicious beers.

Awards Ceremoy At Cyprus Restaurant

Even with my lack of fly fishing experience, I had an absolutely fantastic time. I met some great folks, explored some beautiful waterways, and fell in love with Highlands all over again. If you ever get a chance, plan a fishing trip to the area. You’ll be glad you did!

The Highland Hiker Cabin

Huge thanks to David, Hilary, and Chris of Highland Hiker for putting on such an awesome event. Also, shout out to Mountain Fresh for the delicious lunch and Cyprus Restaurant for hosting the dinner and award ceremony.

If you’re wondering how I did in the tournament, I caught zero fish with a total of zero inches. That’s alright though. I’ll be back next year, and god willing, catch a fish or two.

Justin Forrest is an outdoor writer, fly fishing addict, and co-founder of Narrative North—based in Asheville, N.C. He posts pictures of cats and fishing on Instagram sometimes.

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