When he’s not traveling across the country and performing onstage with his renowned Grammy Award-winning Americana act Steep Canyon Rangers, singer/guitarist Woody Platt finds himself fly-fishing in the ancient rivers and streams near his home in Western North Carolina.
“Fly fishermen tend to really respect the environment and respect the game they catch. When you catch a fish, it’s almost always a catch-and-release situation,” Platt said. “And you learn as a fly fisherman to be in tune with the way a river moves and flows — where the water stacks up and slows down, how the fish orient themselves in the water.”
With his home situated in the East Fork Valley at the headwaters of the French Broad River, Platt and his family often find themselves traversing the picturesque landscape and immersing themselves in the nearby waters.
“We finally found this place on the river, but the riverbanks were massively eroded from big pasture farming practices in the past, where people would actually shift the river and destroy its natural flow,” Platt said. “So, all of these switch backs and channels were created that ultimately affected the riverbanks and disrupted the ecosystem with these large sediment deposits.”
Feeling a deep sense of urgency and social responsibility, Platt teamed up with Conserving Carolina, a nonprofit organization based in Hendersonville, which aims to protect land and water sources in Southern Appalachia.
“With the help of Conserving Carolina, we were able to apply for and receive a grant from the North Carolina Clean Water Management fund,” Platt said. “We used the grant to return that portion of the French Broad back to its natural state, where we can once again provide a good habitat and stable riverbanks for native fish, hellbenders and other species that live and thrive in these waters.”
Alongside Conserving Carolina, Platt and his family are continuing their work on other regional river projects with the help of private donations and other local organizations. Though the work to conserve our local land and waters is seemingly never-ending, each project completed and volunteer added is another step towards the protection and preservation of our natural resources here in Western North Carolina.
“We’ve learned a lot and we really enjoy being part of these projects,” Platt said. “Once you put a decent amount of money and effort into a project, it makes sense to continue to work in that area — it makes me really happy to see the positive impact we can have on these precious ecosystems.”
And each time Platt finds himself thigh-deep in a river or stream somewhere, he can’t help but be truly grateful for the experience of complete immersion in the splendor of Mother Nature.
“As a touring musician, I’m typically ‘on the go’ all the time. I don’t get to relax a whole lot and I don’t slow down, at least not until I get into a stream,” Platt said. “The river is a good place for me to slow down, to stand in the moving waters and simply listen to the sound of the stream pushing over the rocks — it’s the sound of beautiful music being made.”
Enjoy more of our Down the Road – Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Guide here.