Fly fishing for trout in Western North Carolina
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
Fly fishing in the Trout Capital of North Carolina
In the autumn of 2021, I fished Great Smoky Mountains National Park (on the Tennessee side) for the first time and was delighted with the variety of options that existed there. The experience was so enjoyable that I was determined to get back to the region for more trout fishing. When a friend offered the use of a vacation home in Western North Carolina (WNC), which comprises the mountain region abutting the Tennessee state line and Great Smokey Mountains National Park, I immediately accepted and set aside a week in late May to hike and fish.
Trout Capital of North Carolina and the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail
In my research, I quickly learned that we would be staying in Jackson County, NC, which calls itself NC Trout Capital®. The NC Trout Capital also comprises the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail®, which highlights 15 waters to fish for brown, rainbow and brook trout. A featured water with the trail is the Tuckasegee River, known as the ‘Tuck’, and I would begin my WNC trout fishing adventure there.
Fishing for trout on the Tuckasegee River
As readers of my blog know, I will often seek out an experienced guide to steer me appropriately on waters that I had not fished before. In this case, a Bryson City-based guide introduced me to a section of the Tuckasegee River in Sylva just south of Dillsboro. On this day the flow was a reasonable 250 cfs and the temperature in the low 60s - good conditions for wet wading. The 'Tuck' is well-stocked and all three species of trout can be caught in the same stretch of water. Although I did not hook up with a slam on that day, we netted quite a lot of trout while tight-lining a tandem nymph rig. For this stretch of water it is a good idea to have studded boots and a wading staff as the bottom is rocky and uneven.
Fishing for trout on the East Fork of the French Broad River
The following day I met Hunter, a guide from Brookings Anglers fly shop based in Cashiers, for small stream fishing on the East Fork of the French Broad River, which is a spring-fed creek just outside Rosman. This water also affords the opportunity for a three species slam, which again evaded me on that day (although I did catch all three species within 24 hours, just on separate days!). No matter - the number of fish hooked up on a dry dropper rig was still impressive over a half day of fishing. Felt soled boots and wading staff are recommended for this water as well.
Fishing for trout on the East Fork of the Chatooga River
The staff at Brookings Anglers fly shop were more than happy to give me guidance on other rivers to fish on my own in the area, including the Nantahala, the Whitewater, the Davidson and Panthertown. The shop provides a list of recommended waters for free and individual maps of some of the more important ‘hot spots’ for a fee. On their advice, I decided to hike the East Fork Trail and fish the East Fork of the Chatooga River near the Walhalla Fish Hatchery across the border in South Carolina (you will need a separate SC license).
It is quite a long hike of about two miles before you can get to fishable water, but it is worth it to catch small, native brown trout that do not see a lot of pressure. Drifting a Neversink caddis and green weenie tandem through pocket water and seams produced a lot of action. After about 2 ½ miles you reach the Chatooga River and if you walk along the trail towards Ellicott Rock, there is also reasonably good trout fishing along that stretch.
So, I am looking forward to returning to WNC to try some of the waters near to the Cherokee Indian Reservation and within the NC portion of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. If you go, I recommend checking out the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission web site and/or visiting the guys at Brookings Anglers in Cashiers.
Note: I am not being compensated for my mention of Brookings Anglers. I am simply a satisfied customer.