Local fly fishing legends of the past & future

Each week we will share an interview with a local fly fisherman that has done many things for the sport.


This week we highlight Chris Turner. Father, Fish Slayer , and all around great guy.


TU640: Do you remember the first fish you caught and how old you were?


Chris: No unfortunately, but maybe. The first defined memory I have that is well ingrained is fishing with my dad at some local lake in Atlanta. I was in a diaper, no shoes, no shirt, running wild. I remember holding a rod at some point, watching people catching fish, and holding what I remember as a bass, it was probably a bluegill, lol. However, I don’t remember myself catching the fish. This is one of the very few memories I have with my father, I cherish it, because he passed a couple years after that. This is where my addiction was forged.


TU640: At what age did you start fly fishing? How were you introduced?


Chris: I was definitely a late bloomer when it comes to the ways of the fly, I was 29. A close friend introduced to it me one day, after work, in a parking lot of all places. He knew I loved fishing, but I had never experienced it in its purest form. “It will CHANGE you,” he said. He wasn’t wrong.


TU640: What is your favorite species of fish to target?


Chris: WILD BROWN TROUT!!!!!!! I feel very lucky to live in East TN where there are many different tails to chase. Even more so to be in the Smokies. I regard all our fish as special, Rainbows for their plentifulness and ease for beginners, our Brookies for their uniqueness/special place in history, however our Elder Browns, all though not native, are my species of choice. Their predator instinct, those blue cheeks, their voracious nature, their intensity on the hook, and did I mention those BLUE cheeks?!? Smallies run a close second.


TU640: What's your favorite river/stream to fish? What makes it so special?


Chris: No, question LITTLE RIVER, I consider this my second home. Not only can you catch all three species if you know where to look, but each part of the river system is unique. Not just each mile, but from head to riffle, from run to tail out, each section holds secrets and makes you ask questions. It’s some of the most technical water in the country, in my opinion. If you can catch our little spooky trout, you can slay fish anywhere on the globe.


TU640: What method of fishing is your favorite and why?


Chris: I’m a Euro Nympher, but I’m not a comp guy. I’ll tie up a drop shot rig in a heart beat, if it needs to get down and dirty.


TU640: What is your go to fly when nothing else is working?


Chris: Depends on condition: Clear water: Bead Head Potshot Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. Super natural, perfect silhouette, lots of movement Dirty: Squirmy Worm, fish like worms. Go figure?


TU640: What is your favorite fly to tie?


Chris: “Hi, my name is Chris Turner and I’m a closet streamer addict.” I love me some deer hair head Game changers. It’s so intricate, my O.C.D. and A.D.D. love it!!!


TU640: Who has been your greatest inspiration in your fly-fishing journey? What motivates you?


Chris: Wow, now that’s a question, MY TRIBE... I have a core group of fly fisherman/woman who have helped me grow and achieve some of my goals. We do it for each other. We have watched each other grow. It has changed over the years, a few “PROS” and some “JOES”, that I call family. We inspire, row, laugh, and slay. Its my fellowship of the fly.


TU640: You have a pretty decent online presence. Some even jokingly call you the hashtag king. How do you think social media has helped fly fishing?


Chris: Ha ha, now that’s funny. For me they are a way to thank each and every person or entity that has helped me or been part of my journey. Whether it be tagging a brotha who makes the best damn leaders on the market, I use flavor words sorry, a friend that makes the best thing in wading since the river was invented, a bruh who has a classy kype, or a group that cultivates the representation, and inclusion of people of color in fishing and it’s industry. Social Media is a way to spread your message, mines a little mixed. Ha ha, get it? #livechillfish #fellowshipofthefly #flyguyflyfishin


TU640: How do you think social media has hurt fly fishing?


Chris: When it comes to Social Media, it’s a double edge sword. People tend to follow now a days right? We all do, new rods, new reels, packs, waders, that new fly gadget. We all have to have that new thing, that next big fish, that next video to put out, that next piece of content. It’s very easy to get lost in it all. That’s when some people choose to step over the boundary and do something not so ethical. Maybe it’s flossing so you can grab that big brown by the weir, during spawn, sitting on a bed, just for the hero shot. Maybe it’s ripping people’s catches of the inter webs and playing them as your own for likes, or maybe it’s show casing flys you didn’t tie and got a wholesale. I’ve seen a lot of people, recently do these things and more, just to get attention and likes on Social Media. When a couple extra minutes practicing your cast, drift, or techniques with a bobbin could have accomplished the same goal.


TU640: What are some fly fishing/conservation efforts that you have been involved with? What is your favorite?


Chris: I am not military myself, but come from a service family. It’s apart of our heritage. Because of this I really look up to the people at Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and what they do with active duty military and veterans. Unfortunately, do to being a “Joe”, I was never able to help with any of their events, some of us don’t get to fish for a living and work weekends. It inspired me to start my own nonprofit though, Project Smoky Mountain Rebirth.


TU640: You live in one of the most beautiful regions of the state, do you ever find yourself in awe of the fishing in your area and why?


Chris: Do I, every single day!!!!! East TN and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are special places, we have such an abundance of public water that other places, some closer to home than you know, just don’t. We were absolutely blessed in 1934 when the GSMNP was founded, then with TVA and TWRA, our water ways have been preserved and bolstered in ways many areas of our country just aren’t. We have everything from wild mountain trout to trophy small mouth to giant striper and musky, plus some of the most world class tail waters that can be found. The shear density of fish able fresh water within a two hour radius of my home just can’t be matched, and that’s not even including what we have access to in Western North Carolina.


TU640: A few years ago fires destroyed many areas in the Smoky mountains, can you tell us a little about Project Smoky Mountain Rebirth?


Chris: P.S.M.R. Is a grass roots non-profit that I founded in 2017 to say thank you to the service personnel, first responders, and military for their services during the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 Wildfire or as many call it “The Gatlinburg Wildfires.” It just grew from there, now we offer complimentary, fully geared, half and full day wade trips through the Smoky Mountains filled with a lot of laughs, a little history, a few fish, and a couple memories. It is our pleasure to say thank you for your service.


TU640: How has the fishing in the Smoky mountains recovered since that horrible time?


Chris: Nature has a way of rebounding on its own and in addiction, the fishing wasn’t really impacted all that much by the fire itself. I will say this though, the drought that proceeded the wildfires, we local fisherman believe, caused a large fish kill of a generation or two of smaller fish. Over the past few years after those events we have see an uptick in the average size, moving from 7-10” to 12-14”, with some fish breaking the 18-20” marker, which for those in the know is something that was very rare in the Smokies not to long ago.


TU640: If you could fish anywhere in the world where would that be and why?


Chris: Hands down Patagonia, I have a friend who was blessed and she raved about, I dream of those crystal waters. Something about it just calls me.


TU640: You are also a hunter, what is your preferred method of hunting and species?


Chris: I had not hunted in a very longer time, then due to this wonderful quarantine and the Smokies being closed, I figured I’d take up turkey hunting. Shooting and firearms are my second passion to me after fishing. It’s almost as addictive. A close friend and me both took it up this year, so we are kinda cutting our teeth together. These things evolved from dinosaurs, can you believe that?


TU640: As a person of color have you ever had any problems when you started fly fishing/hunting?


Chris: To be honest not really, most people are awesome. Beyond awesome in fact. However, I’ve had one incident, and it’s a doozy. It was on a charter in Hilton Head, South Carolina, that I paid for none the less. From my guide on top of that. See I’m of mixed decent and to keep it easy I’ll say African American (Black for y’all in the back), Cherokee, Scotch Irish, and Sicilian, with a couple extra spices thrown in for good measure, #brownneck. Plus, I sound like the whitest dude when speaking, thank you cable TV. So for some it’s really hard to figure out my ethnicity. Is he white with a tan, is he Samoan, is he Puerto Rican, Dominican, maybe black, no definitely not black. Wrong answer Bob!!! See that is where this guy slipped up, he was telling a story and just dropped the N-Bomb in a very negative fashion, in the middle of said story. Not the one an “A”, that you may possibly have earned, because you’re that one friend from way back, ya know” NO, he used the one with a straight up N-I-Double G-ERRR, without even missing a beat. Once we all got back to the dock, I shook his hand, handed him his 20% tip, thanked him for putting us on fish, and then proceeded to pull him close to my chest. I squeezed his hand tight, and told him, “You need to watch your mouth on your trips. You never know who is on your boat and sometimes you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. This “EXPLETIVE DELETED” had a great time on your boat and you made a huge mistake.” His face turned white, he apologized profusely, tried to hand me back the tip, I didn’t take it back. You could see the shear look of dread on his face as his boat pulled away. I assume that meant lesson learned.


TU640: What do you think TU chapters and outdoor programs need to do to get more minorities involved in the outdoors?


Chris: That’s easy, get involved with more groups like Soul River Inc. Runs Wild, Mayfly Project, Brown Folks Fishing, and the like. As well as appoint a more ethnically diverse figure structure within chapters. The industry has become a lot more inclusive with things like the 50/50 movement for women, something needs to be done similarly with the black/brown spectrum of our industry. Show a brown friend how to fly fish, I promise, if y’all are like minded, their is a good chance they will like it just as much as you. This is part of my mantra. Live, Chill, Fish, if we all did this, the world would be a much better place.


TU640: What is one thing most people don't know about you?


Chris: I don’t eat eggs or drink white milk, y’all people nasty, that stuff is vile. Unfertilized Chicken Embryos and the juices secreted from a cows mammary gland, y’all ponder what I just said. I’ll cook with them though, so there’s that.


TU640: Finally, congratulations on recently becoming a new father to a beautiful girl. How has that experience been and what adventures are you looking forward to with her?


Chris: First, thank you my friend that means a lot, she is beyond gorgeous, isn’t she. She gets it from her mama, that I promise. Becoming a father to has made me think about and look forward to a lot, it’s been beyond exciting. With a daughter even more so. I mean think about it, I get to teach her how boys think, I get to teach her all our secrets. The whole handbook, it’s about what 4 pages? Of course fishing, her first catch, her first trout, shooting clays, hunters safety, hunting her first turkey, but also daddy daughter dances, homecomings, proms, cheer, dance, whatever else she decides to do and most of all her Wedding Day. I have a guaranteed part to play, it’s all eyes on her and me, mainly her, for that walk down the aisle. She is my princess man and she will have it all.

Thanks for reaching out Shane, what you are doing is pretty slick. I pray for many readers, and hope people really enjoy this in this time of uncertainty. To everyone that reads this stay safe, be smart, and enjoy the outdoors. I’ll see y’all on the mountain.


Add Content