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“Fishing can teach you life lessons” Words of wisdom from the streams of Appalachia

<i>WLOS</i><br/>Longtime fisherman Tom Panek goes fly fishing in a stream of Madison County
Longtime fisherman Tom Panek goes fly fishing in a stream of Madison County

By Meghan Danahey

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    MADISON COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Tom Panek has been fishing for over 50 years. Since moving to w”In my opinion,” Tom said, “the stocking program in this state is excellent. I’ve fished over other stocked fish in Georgia and New York, where they don’t have the sustainable populations of trout. North Carolina stocks more fish and more quality fish.”

In fact, one can even visit the main hatchery in Brevard.

After a long warm summer, most trout are gone. Trout need cool water to survive, so from June through September, anyone fishing can catch and keep them.estern North Carolina in 1995, he has fished the length of the mountains from Virginia all the way down to the Tennessee border.

“I’ve fished in North Mills River, Ivy River, up in Spruce Pine, Burnsville and out in the western part of the state, the Tuckaseegee, just all over the place. There’s so many good streams,” he said.

In fact, North Carolina stocks about 1 million fish per year in its 4,000 miles of state-regulated streams.

Delayed harvest in North Carolina is from Oct. 1 through the last week of May. The streams are stocked for catch and release the first week of the month in October, November, March, April and May.

For fishermen like Tom, the catch and release season makes for great “winter fishing,” as he says, as he doesn’t like to take the trout home anyway. Instead, he said he prefers to “harass them a little and then let them go.”

During the summer months, fly fishermen fish unregulated headwaters of a lot of these streams.

“They call it blue lining because you can go on the state interactive trout map and the headwaters are all designated in blue,” Tom said. “Some guys and gals will hike three, four and five miles to the streams up there! The fish are much smaller, but they’re mostly wild and native fish. It’s the best fishing you can find in the summer.”

Perhaps the interesting thing about Tom is his philosophies.

“Fishin’ aint catchin,'” for example.

When his friends ask how much he caught, he said sometimes the answer is, “nothing, but I got to enjoy the whole day outdoors,” as he loves connecting with nature.

He talks about fishing in Cherokee, when a group of elk walked right past him in the stream. Or days when osprey and eagles fly overhead. Tom said there is so much more to fishing than just catching.

“If you just slow down,” he said, “fishing can teach you life lessons.”

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