After losing its lease in a building in downtown Cherokee, N.C., and not being offered an alternative site by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians has re-established itself in nearby Bryson City.
The Swain County Chamber of Commerce provided space for the museum in a former bank building in downtown Bryson City. Not only did the chamber welcome the museum with open arms, it provided space for an expansion that will include aquariums featuring fish and other aquatic life of the region, learning centers and new exhibits. The 1,000-square-foot building, which is under construction, will be in a separate area close to the museum. The first stages of construction are under way with a soft opening scheduled for June.
As now planned, the building will have five 300-gallon tanks, five 125- to 200-gallon tanks, and an indoor stream. The tanks and stream will be stocked with brook, rainbow and brown trout as well as muskellunge, sunfish, bass, redhorse and other aquatic species found in the streams and lakes of the Southern Appalachians.
Cost of the expansion is projected at $100,000. Swain County has committed funds to cover the construction and maintenance of the building. Other funds will come from the Swain County Tourism Development Authority, grants, donations and fund-raising events.
To fortify its claim as a fish-friendly town, the Tourism Development Authority funded the installation of three painted fiberglass sculptures of jumping trout in several downtown locations. The largest is in front of the museum. The Tuckasegee Fly Shop chipped in $1,600 to help pay the $6,000 cost of the sculptures.
The museum features an array of exhibits that chronicle the rich heritage of fly fishing in the Southern Appalachians. Exhibits include regional flies and the fly-tiers who originated patterns and modified standard patterns. Among the famous fly-tiers and fly-fishers featured are Mark Cathey, Fred and Allene Hall, Cato Holler, Cap Wiese, Newland Sanders and Don and Dwight Howell. Several modern-day fly-tiers also are featured, including Kevin Howell and Roger Lowe.
Other exhibits include fly rods from the earliest to the latest, fly-tying equipment, videos featuring famous fly-fishers, recordings and photographs. If it has to do with fly-fishing and fly-fishers, the museum has it.
The museum is the brainchild of Alen Baker of Charlotte, who originated the idea in 2012 and was instrumental in the museum’s establishment in Cherokee. First welcomed by the tribe as an asset, the tribe cancelled the museum’s lease in 2015 on grounds that it had not “raised one red cent” for the tribe. Baker said although he was surprised by the tribe’s rejection of the museum, the move to Bryson City was advantageous in several ways. The museum found a welcome response and support from the Swain County Chamber and an opportunity to realize one of Baker’s original goals to have an aquarium as part of the museum so that people could actually see the fish that inhabit the area’s numerous streams and lakes.
Although fly-fishing museums are located in several locations in the west and northeast, the Southern Museum of Fly Fishing is the only one of its kind in the south and southeast.
To help cover operational costs, the museum will charge a small admission fee. At present, no admission fee is charged.
Museum hours are 9. a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday openings will begin in the spring. The museum’s address is 210 Main Street, Bryson City, N.C., 28713. Telephone number is 800-867-9246. Internet address is info@FlyFishinMuseum.org.
In its new digs in Bryson City, The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians will add 10 fish tanks and an indoor stream to show off the fish that live in mountain streams and reservoirs across the southeast.