New club takes advantage of fly fishing’s growing popularity

In the Fall of 2016, two WCU students and avid anglers combined their passion for fishing as well as the opportunity of the area to start a new student club on campus.

Jackson County, home to WCU, has recently been named the trout capital of North Carolina. Cole Cantrell, junior, and Tyler Cornett, freshman, recognized the growing popularity among their friends and other students for fly fishing in this area and felt a new club would be successful.

Club logo. Submitted by Cole Cantrell.

“That went into the process of creating the fly fishing club because we thought this is the trout capital and there’s not a fly fishing club here. There are other schools who have them that have minimum fishing,” Cornett said.

Criminal Justice professor, Andrew Hansen, approached Cantrell expressing interest in being the faculty sponsor for the club and so began the process.

After completing all the required paperwork and getting approved by the university, Western’s newest club, the Fly Fishing Club, officially started in February, 2017. Cantrell is the president and Cornett his vice-president.

Cantrell even chose to come to WCU because of the fishing. He has been fishing since he was a young child and has always shared that passion with his friends and family. Cornett was not originally that much into fishing but that changed.

Club members at a creek cleanup. Photo by Cole Cantrell.

Over the past few years, Cornett has quickly jumped head first into the sport. He has especially enjoyed exploring fishing in the Cullowhee area. The rivers to him are what make this area so unique.

“The rivers here are just so full of fish. You have the stocked fish that the state puts in for the angler to catch and you have the wild streams.  And both types of streams are just full of fish. The Tuckasegee is actually the most stocked stream in the state,” Cornett said.  

Cantrell is looking forward to using the new club to get members just as interested and passionate as him and Cornett. He said his goal for the club this semester was to get the club officially recognized, spread the word and lay the groundwork for the club to grow. As soon as the club was an official school organization, they set up social media accounts and had over 200 followers in the first 24 hours. They have around 30 members coming to events and meetings.

As president, Cantrell is working hard to provide offers and benefits for club members to enjoy. The club is partnering with the local Trout Unlimited chapter and now recognized as part of the TU Costa Five Rivers Program which works with school organizations across the country.

“We also hope to have more things to offer the club members from things such as Costa del mar and TU, so there is more of an incentive for them to come out,” Cantrell said.

Club members at one of their community creek cleanups. Photo submitted by Cole Cantrell.

The club members are looking forward to doing service projects such as creek cleanups and getting the community involved with what they are doing.

The Fly Fishing Club is not just a place for experienced fishermen such as Cornett and Cantrell. In fact, the majority of the current members are either brand new to fishing or only recently interested. Both students said they enjoy teaching people new techniques and getting them hooked on the sport.

Cantrell hopes that the club continues to grow with novice and skilled fishermen and that they can all enjoy the community that exists among fellow anglers and take in what the area has to offer.

“The opportunities are endless. From super small creeks chasing little, speckled trout or the Tuckasegee, a big river, chasing a large brown trout. It’s an anglers paradise,” Cantrell said.

To see more about fly fishing in the Cullowhee area and what makes it unique see the video below of one of the more experienced club members, Jonathan Calhoun on the river.