Michael Bradley: On Fishing Cherokee and Trying Out for Team USA1.25.2016
Michael Bradley is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and has grown up fishing the waters in Cherokee his whole life. He is soft spoken and humble and, at only 25, is considered one of the best fly fishermen in the area, currently competing for Fly Fishing Team USA, and a hopeful finalist for the national 2016 Fly Fishing Team USA.
Michael's grandfather started taking him trout fishing in Cherokee when he was only 3 or 4 years old, and he hasn't looked back. By the time he was 10, Michael spent stretches of time fishing all by himself.
"I didn't venture far, just walked the river banks," he says. "I've always been able to catch fish, and it's always been fun."
Trying for Team USA
When the 2011 Fly Fishing National Championships came to Cherokee, Michael was transfixed.
"I saw someone fly fishing in front of the school, and thought that looked fun. Three or four days later, I started fly fishing and got to fish alongside a local guy on Team USA."
These days, Michael is on the verge of earning his own spot on Fly Fishing Team USA after winning the regional qualifying event. It all comes down to the Fly Fishing Team USA (FFTUSA) North Regional Qualifier happening May 30th to June 1st in Lake Placid, NY, and Michael says he feels pretty good about his chances.
Thousands of Fish
Between fishing for fun and guiding, Michael estimates he fishes over 300 days a year, catching anywhere from 10 to 60 fish a day. On a warm winter day like the ones we're having now, he says the fish are more active, more "catchable," and the water is nice and clear.
"This winter has been pretty good where it's not so cold. Even on a day like today you can go out and catch fish. The water temperature hasn't gone too far down, upper 30s, lower 40s...I'd say it's one of the best winters of the past five years."
Recently, Michael has been experimenting with different techniques.
"I think about a successful day of fishing as going out and trying something new and catching more than a fish. Lately I've been fishing straight up river, which is different than what people normally do. I go out in the middle and fish straight up. Been pretty successful lately, too," he says in his soft spoken way.
Tips from a Pro
For visitors, Michael offers some advice on what kind of flies to use.
"This winter its been eggs, lots of eggs, waltz worm, and pheasant tail," he says. Overall, for Spring, and for year round fishing, he says waltz worm and pheasant tail will do the trick.
When it comes to fishing in Cherokee, Michael says you'll discover beautiful scenery, absolutely, but it's the incredible amount of wild fish that really sets it apart.
"It's pretty underestimated," he says. "There's a ton of wild fish, and it's jumped way up there in the past two years. I think that attracts more of the people I fish with--they like catching big wild fish. It's good for competition size water, and a lot of those guys come and fish on their own about every weekend that we compete."
World Class Fishing
For someone like Michael who has fished a lot of places, including Colorado, Wyoming, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia, nothing else compares to fishing in Cherokee.
"Of all the rivers I've fished, I think we've got the best one I've ever fished, and that's the Raven Fork in Big Cove," he says.
Michael says that the amount of fish you can find in different sizes at Raven Fork makes it truly stand out.
"There's a lot of stock trout in there, but on a normal day I pick more wild trout than stock, which is pretty fun."
And where is this champion angler's favorite place to fish in Cherokee?
"Mostly in Big Cove, like on the general water, and the trophy section, of course, everybody likes that. I go there for numbers and occasionally you'll stick a 20 inch trout in there. I've caught plenty of them," he says.
We wish Michael the best of luck as he competes for a spot on Team USA this Spring!
For more inspiration on fishing in Cherokee, check out this short video featuring Michael.
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