Scott Cunningham

About Scott Cunningham

17 year Veteran guide with a passion for top water bite especially smallmouth bass! Guide / Manager at Wilson Creek Outfitters in Morganton, NC

Fall Fishing is heating up with a few tips and pointers

Spent last Sunday fishing with my buddy and WCO guide Chad Stevens and had a blast.  We fished a nice western NC stream that Chad fishes offer and for good reason.  This place hold some nice fish.  It’s tough wading…. slick bottom and some BIG rocks to crawl around, over and sometimes under.

Some big rocks to climb around!

We had a very successful day with landing many bows between 10 and 14″ with a few browns mixed in.  Chad landed a nice 16″+ brown but was too far away for me to get a good picture of it.  Of course all fish were released and hopefully we’ll get a picture of it next time.

I managed one very nice brook trout but could not stay hooked up with the bigger browns for some reason.  While Chad started and ended his day with the same flies I tried several different patterns.  But most of all I was trying to use bigger than normal trout flies.  At one point I had a size 10 Stimulator for my dry fly and a size 8 bh Hare’s Ear for my dropper.  Although I fished bigger flies I caught more small fish.  Go figure….

Underwater shot of my good brook trout after release!

So many people question me on equipment and rigging I thought I’d include some details with this report.  For this trip I fished the following…

8ft 4wt rod with SA Trout Stalker textured 4wt fly line, SA Mono Leader (use to be a  7-1/2ft 5x) but had it cut back to about 6ft including a 1ft piece of 4x tippet to the dry fly.  As I mentioned above my dry fly was a size 10 Yellow Stimulator and for the record I caught 6 fish on the dry!  I then tied tippet (5x) to the bend of the hook on the stimulator.  My dropper nymph was about 40″ below my dry fly.  That’s not a typo, 40″ to my dropper.  This is a deep swift stream.  My dropper fly changed several times during the day and I caught fish on every one of them.  Started with a beadhead early black stone size 12, then a size 12 bh pheasant tail, size 10 bh hare’s ear, size 12 copper john and finished the day using a size 8 bh hare’s ear.

Couple of random shots from this trip….

Hope you enjoyed!!

Floatin’ on a Fine Day – by Phil Smith

My good friend / client Phil sent me a very nice e-mail with the highlights from a smallie trip we did this summer.  It was a great day on the water for sure.  Hope you enjoy…………………….
Floated a mountain river with my brother and a friend on a fine day……
And cast flies in pretty places…….
And enjoyed the flow of the river……
Got our feet wet at times……
We caught pretty fishes…….
And hooked bigger fishes…..

That were strong and pulled hard……
And were brought to hand…..
Then released to fight again……
On another fine day…..
See ya!


Back to where it all began

Last Saturday my house was about to be taken over by 40 women… sounds like a good thing right??  Wrong… they were assenting on our house for a baby shower.  My wife and I are expecting our second child at the end of October.  So I took the opportunity to slip away to a near by stream, I say near by because with gas prices so damn high I wanted to stay close to home.  Knowing I only had about 2 hours I opted for a short stretch of a stream that most people don’t realize is open to public fishing.  Most of this stream is heavily posted and I mean heavily posted and PATROLLED!  But the stretch that I learned how to fly fish on is on NC Gamelands and is open to fishing although not listed in the regulations book.

This is where my passion for flinging flies really began.  I had tried to fly fish as a kid but at the age of 18, two friends and I decided to go at it full force.  Well one of my friends is one of our guides and the other… found the true light!  He’s a preacher and a very good one at that!

This stream was our slip out of work and hit for few hours before dark stream.  Full of hungry little wild bows willing to eat a not so well presented dry fly.  Perfect for us learning the ropes.  So as I stepped into this stream last Saturday all I could think about was the great times I’ve had on this stream with my two buddies and how much we learned about the art of fly fishing.  This is where the passion took hold!!!

Most open hole on this stretch!

We always started in this hole, which was the most open water on the stream and is just upstream of the bridge where we accessed the stream.  As I stripped line off my reel I was reflecting on just how far my fly fishing career has gone since the first time I stepped into this very stream.  From tangles and curses to guiding for a living things had come a long ways for sure.  Another thing I noticed was just how far my equipment had come… from an  Eagle Claw rod and Martin reel to $1000 plus outfit with the latest greatest fly line!  WOW things sure have changed.  Then on my second cast I hooked a tree behind me and came back to reality… things had not changed that much I was still getting hung up in the trees! :-)

As usual this stream did not disappoint.  Lots of hungry wild rainbows willing to eat my flies.  Not sure how many I caught but I made sure to take time and admire them for a minute as I gently released them back into the cool mountain water.

Beautiful Wild Rainbow trout

For the record this little stream is in my home county of McDowell here in western NC.  Hopefully you have a little gem close to your home.  Well it’s time to get back to business at hand, traveling through yesteryear was nice but it’s time for me to get my guests into some big picture worthy fish!

Remember without roots, you can never grow!!

Are you ready for some…… Delayed Harvest fishin???

Brookies, browns and bows…..  brookies, browns and bows!!!!!!!  Most of the Delayed Harvest streams here in NC will receive their first stockings of the fall tomorrow.
Are you ready??
Few fly suggestions from us at WCO……
Nymphs – Pheasant Tails size 12-16, Hare’s Ears size 12-16, Telicos size 10-14
Dries – Stimulator (yellow & olive) size 10-14, Elk Hair Caddis (brown & yellow) size 12-18
Of course you can always chunk a few egg patterns and even some worm imitations if you must! :-)   See you out there.

Sweet rentals and home places just down the road

While searching the web for local rentals I ran across Hidden Lake in McDowell County and thought I would pass it along to our visitors.  From weekend rentals to home places they have you covered.  Check them out for your next visit to the area.

Hidden Lake just south of Marion (10 miles south of I-40 on US 221) offers the visiting angler all the amenities one could ask for and all the solitude one needs!

Hidden Lake – McDowell County NC


Couple of days with Carl

Spent two days on the water with my friend/client Carl from Hilton Head SC.  Carl is one of those guys you meet and you realize this is a good dude within a few seconds.  We have fished together a few times now and each time I learn more about him and how good of a guy he really is.  The world is fortunate to have guys like Carl.  On to the fishing….

Met Carl a few miles from his rental cabin in Burnsville, NC for a trip over to the Toe River for smallies on top water flies.  Within the hour we were on the water and hooking fish!  With 6 miles of river to fish before our take out this was a good start.  This was Carl’s first trip “on the fly”… yes he finally decided to learn fly fishing.  So the catching was a bit slow but the action stayed steady for the entire day.

Not sure how many smallies actually came to hand but we sure hooked many.  Carl wanted to use his 60′s model fiberglass flyrod which is all well and good but this rod just didn’t have enough backbone to keep these hard fighters on the hook.  We had a good time to say the least!

During pre-trip discussions I had told Carl that I would drop him off at his cabin after the trip.  So we headed that way with boat in tow and discussed catching a few trout on the fly.  As we crossed the bridge to his cabin I assure Carl I could put him on trout in that water any day of the week.  So we made a plan to fish the waters along his cabin later in the week.

Dropped Carl off at the cabin, met his wife and two children…. ie Golden Retrievers who were having a great time in the mountains.  Checked out the water on my way back out for our trip coming up in two days and saw the section I wanted us to fish.  So on Friday morning I meet Carl at his cabin for a 1/2 day fly fishing trip for trout.  Stepped in the water and made a few casts to show Carl how I wanted him to work the fly rod and saw a nice fish “flash” the fly.  This was a good sign of things to come.

Was able to get Carl casting the fly within a few inches of where he wanted it to land and went about the fishing.  First trout to hand was a nice bow of about 10-12″ ( I said 12″ but then again I’m a fishing guide!).  The skunk was off and we were on good water.  We managed several nice trout using a dry dropper rig (stimulator dry and black stone nymph dropper).  BTW first rock I turned over had 1 huge black stone on it and several other little ones.

Ended the day in a nice pool with several visible fish swimming in it.  Before we ended our day I told Carl I wanted to show him a bit more about mending and presentation.  First three cast….. THREE fish – one brown, one bow and a sweet fatty brook trout.  Made him believe in the power of presentation since he had already fished that area.  Ended up showing him 5 fish from that hole before we called it a day.

Overall a very nice couple of days on the water with a great guy!  Looking forward to the next time already.

Catawba Brownies eating black stones!

The black stone has been our go to fly for the Catawba River tailrace below Lake James.  During periods of none generation (minimum flow) the fish have been very active.  They have been eating a variety of flies, from beetles to hoppers to parachute sulfurs.  But the most consistent bite during periods of generation and none generation has been black stone flies in sizes 10 – 14.


Fattie browns are the norm!  Picking a few fish here and there over the 20″ mark but most of the fish are brownies between 12 and 14 inches.  Of course we would like the average fish to be 30″ + but 12 to 14 fat browns sure provide for lots of fun.


Here’s a quick video of a client landing a fattie brown on a black stone!   Hope you enjoy.
Thanks for viewing!  Here’s an EZ link to book your Catawba River tailrace fishing trip.


Awesome day on the water!

Gotta love top water smallies on the fly!!

Didn’t catch any huge fish, didn’t catch a huge numbers of fish but had a great day on the water. My client Carl is a super guy and the first time we fished, his friend Wayne joined us. Wayne passed away this summer so this trip was about remembering Wayne! Carl even decided to give up the wacky worm on his spinning rod and give fly fishing a try. Wayne was a huge fly fishermen, fly tier and gave Carl a hard time about not fly fishing.

Carl fished the fly all day long! In fact we went retro.. Carl fished a classic St. Croix 6wt glass rod with some old reel I had never seen. The slow glass rod caused us some missed fish, bad casts and even a few “wind knots” but over all it preformed well. Flinging top water poppers on a retro outfit was pretty darn cool.

Tomorrow off to the Catawba with Jim from Hendersonville. Jim has fished with several times before and I just can’t get him to understand that the Catawba tailrace is a brown trout fishery. He catches some brown but his big fish always seems to be a big bow. Hope he wears out some big browns tomorrow with no generation planned.

Busy Days Ahead!

Looking forward to spending the day on the water chasing smallies with my brother tomorrow.  We just don’t get to hang out much any more.  Tough for him to get away and as you can imagine with a pregnant wife and 6 year old daughter not much free time for me either.

Spending Sunday with my wife and daughter, not sure doing what but I’m sure they will keep me busy!

Back on the water Monday chasing trout with a great client Jim who for some reason likes to catch rainbows while we are brown trout fishing!!  Hopefully the powers to be at Duke Power will hold off releasing water until we are down stream a bit and maybe just maybe hold off until we are ready to take out.  Jim is a very knowledgeable trout fisherman and an accomplished fly tier.  I’m sure he’ll have a few new patterns tied up for us to “test”.

Tuesday I’ll be chasing smallies with Carl from Hilton Head.  Finally getting Carl to give up the “sin stick” and throw a fly rod.  It’s been a tough battle but it sounds like he’s seen the light and is ready to fly fish only.