While many people think of North Carolina as a mountainous retreat, there are many jewels to discover east of the Great Smokies. The coast of North Carolina is a treasure trove of diving and big game fishing opportunities. Carteret County, known as the Crystal Coast, is one of the best locations to take advantage of this bounty. North Carolina 's Crystal Coast is the Cape Lookout region of the Outer Banks, including Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle and historic Beaufort. Three of its four barrier islands comprise the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and two Crystal Coast islands are south facing. The result of this southern orientation is beautifully clean, clear ocean water. Cape Lookout is recognized as one of the cleanest beaches in our nation, and the Crystal Coast area is often recognized as an exciting destination for diving and sport fishing. OnShore Magazine caught up with Frank Ross from Cabela's after his trip to North Carolina found 8 foot seas and 35 MPH winds ... and forced him to stay inside in search of the "local inshore slam." Warm waters from the Gulf Stream make one of the closest loops to land at this point of the Atlantic coast, and with it comes all of the great fighting species. Giant bluefin tuna, marlin, sail fish, kings, albacore, false albacore, wahoo, dorado and cobia are all seasonal visitors in addition to the bread and butter species of reds, Spanish mackerel, and flounder. Unless you have a crystal ball and multiple days to work with, when planning your trip to the Crystal Coast, keep in mind that weather can play a major role in your angling experience. On a recent trip to North Carolina, my angling partner and I considered the potential for bad weather offshore and opted for a hybrid trip with an inshore option, since we were only going to be in the area for one day. That choice meant the difference between fishing and standing at the dock scratching our heads. While the lure of giant billfish was strong, I am a realist first and an optimistic fisherman second. The realistic side of me wanted backup because fishing for anything is better than fishing for nothing. As it turned out, the realist was right. We contacted Captain Joe Shute, the region's most notable fly-fishing guide, and lined up a trip fly-fishing for Spanish mackerel along the coast in the early morning, and a later assault on the trout and puppy drum in the inshore basin. When we arrived on the coast late in the afternoon prior to our scheduled trip, we went straight to the ocean to check out the conditions. The wind was blowing sand about 30 miles per hour and big breakers were rolling along the shore. Blowing sand was drifting up along the boardwalk and between our teeth. In short order, we had grit grinding between our teeth and despair in our hearts. A quick check of the weather confirmed our greatest fears. The weather service was forecasting winds of 30 to 35 MPH with gusts to 40, and 5 to 8 foot seas for the following morning. No matter what might be possible, one thing was for sure, the fly rods that we had brought all the way from Nebraska would not see daylight.