When she's not in class studying at Appalachian State, 22-year old guide and college ambassador, Alyssa Adcock is outside chasing and perfecting the thing that sets her soul on fire: fly fishing. Alyssa has built a way of life around fly fishing that has granted her a livelihood, friendships, life lessons, and opportunities to fish some of the country's most beautiful rivers.
So, of course, we had a few questions to ask her about the nature of the industry, her recent trip out west to Montana, and what gear she's taking on the river.
Tell us about yourself:
I'm a 22 year old female fly fishing guide in the Appalachian Mountains. I attend Appalachian State University, where I am a business management major with a minor in communications.
How did you get introduced into fly fishing?
I have been fly fishing since I was 9 years old. My dad and grandfather took me out to the Davidson River in Brevard, NC and showed me the basics. Ever since, I have been pursuing the sport and eventually decided to enter the professional industry.
Who has been the most impactful person in your fly fishing journey?
I have been incredibly lucky to fish with some phenomenal guides and friends. There isn’t a singular person I could name, because there are too many to count. I will say - choose who you surround yourself with carefully. Work with people who push you and encourage you no matter where you may be in life. I have been fortunate to find an incredible group of people who genuinely want to see me succeed; They have believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, and my goal is to pass on that same support to others.
What is it about fly fishing that keeps you coming back?
There is something about being completely in your element - every part of you knows what to do subconsciously. In that moment, when you have successfully captured a tiny piece of raw and powerful wilderness, everything else around you becomes quiet. Witnessing such intoxicating beauty is a privilege that I do not take lightly.
Advice to females that want to start fly fishing?
Advocate for yourself!!! I cannot say it enough - too often females are intimidated because fly fishing has always been known as a “gentleman’s sport", but after years of a male dominated industry, the status quo is finally changing. In order to be successful, you have to put in the time and effort to do so. Spend every single free moment learning, experimenting, and pushing the boundaries. No one is going to hand it to you, which can be scary, but it makes success all that much sweeter. Never apologize for chasing something that sets your soul on fire.
Never apologize for chasing something that sets your soul on fire.
How do we increase women's participation in fly fishing?
Female guides play a huge role in new angler participation. I have taken multiple trips with women who have voiced to me how happy they were to have a female guide. When we make the industry more accessible to women-whether it be female guides, gear that is actually designed for women, and a seat at the table-I believe we will see a completely different generation.
What do you aspire to do after college?
I would like to guide in different destination areas like Alaska and New Zealand, as well as continue guiding on the tailwaters of East Tennessee.
Tell us about your recent trip to Montana?
I recently spent almost two weeks fishing all over Montana - Glacier National Park, the Madison River, Yellowstone National Park, and spring creeks.
What was the weather doing?
The first part of our trip was spent in Glacier National Park, the conditions were optimal for fishing-low 40s, high 30s with minimal wind and plenty of sunshine. The second half, spent around Yellowstone National Park, provided a bit of a challenge with blizzard like conditions and strong winds. Mid 20’s temps made for some chilly mornings on the water.
Why'd you decide to go here?
I had always heard about the incredible fishing out West. It seems like a rite of passage to fly fish Montana. The state has breathtaking views and insane, wild fisheries.
I had always heard about the incredible fishing out West. It seems like a rite of passage to fly fish Montana.
Who'd you go with?
A group of friends and family decided to make the trip. It was the perfect opportunity to expand my skill set and test some cold weather gear in preparation for musky fish for this winter.
What made this trip so special?
I was able to experience a lot of firsts on this trip - I caught my first salmon and cutthroat and got to experience the true definition of “gin clear” waters. The magnitude of Montana is hard to wrap your mind around. I wish I could have spent 3 months out there just observing the river systems before even beginning to fish it.
I was able to experience a lot of firsts on this trip - I caught my first salmon and cutthroat and got to experience the true definition of “gin clear” waters.
How was it different than your hometown fisheries?
Fishing Montana was a completely humbling experience; I quickly learned that the fish were not afraid of you. They didn’t scare easily and would sit nonchalantly at the tops of water columns. I had the opportunity to do a lot more sight fishing than I do in North Carolina.
Recommendations to anyone trying to do a similar trip?
When I first arrived, I was under the incorrect impression that everyone fished the parks exclusively, when in reality some of the best fishing is outside the parks. GNP is actually so clean that it doesn’t support the normal bug ecosystem that is found in most river systems- equaling less fish within the park boundaries. The huge diversity of the fish population also means many different approaches are required to land the fish of a lifetime. Most anglers are comfortable with a single style, whether it be nymphing, streamers, or the dry fly game; I would highly recommend coming prepared to fish whatever is necessary for each situation. Taking a moment to pause before fishing a run, and observing what the fish are doing, will allow you to be more successful and deliberate with each drift.
The huge diversity of the fish population also means many different approaches are required to land the fish of a lifetime.
Alright, we have to know... What does your packing list look like?
Aside from your basics: waders, jackets, layers -- these are a few of the items that were a staple of my trip:
- 9' 4wt Redington Crux: My favorite dry fly rod. Stiff enough to cut through the wind while still achieving a delicate presentation.
- 9'8 8wt Echo Saltwater Boost: You can streamer fish with anything from a 6wt-12wt and an 8wt provides a good middle ground without sacrificing distance or you ability to feel an eat.
- Buff: For me, it was super necessary with the wind and blizzard conditions.
- Polarized Sunglasses: I prefer the Costa Women's Remora frames.
- Free Fly Women's Bamboo Fleece Pullover Hoody and Thermal Fleece Pullover: These pieces are great for a secondary layer under a down jacket.
- Free Fly Shade Hoody: While the Shady Hoody is usually something I wear in the summer, in the winter months they provide a good base layer for cold weather conditions.
- Free Fly Women's Flex Henley: I traveled in this shirt and wore it most days when I got off the river. It's comfortable, breathable, and warm.
- Wide range of tippet: I fished everything 1x fluoro to 6x mono.
- Large selection of flies: Size 20 and 22 BWO or a light dun dry fly. Streamer selection of yellow, olive, and white with varying profiles.
- Good whiskey: Because, when you're out there chasing a big brown, you have to find a way to stay alive and warm.