To fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will need either a valid North Carolina or Tennessee fishing license. You can purchase a North Carolina license for a period of one day, three days or one year. The one-day cost for a resident is $5 (non-resident is $10); one year is $15 (non-resident is $30). A 3-day non-resident fee is $15. If you plan to fish for trout outside the National Park, an additional "trout stamp" is required at a cost of $10 (both resident and non-resident). Some of the trout streams are strictly catch-and-release. If you would like to purchase a license or need additional information about fishing the waters of Western NC please visit the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission at ncwildlife.org.
The rivers of Western North Carolina are home to two imported trout species, the rainbow trout and the brown trout, and one native species, the brook or "speckled" trout. The rainbow trout is one of the most sought after and beautiful fish found in Western North Carolina. This species requires clean cold water to thrive and reproduce, hence wild rainbow trout are only found in the purest and coldest mountain streams and lakes. Hatchery raised fish are also found in many stream and rivers in the area. Rainbow trout regularly exceed 12 inches in Western NC with large individuals occasionally exceeding 18 inches and 3 pounds. The largest individuals can be found on the catch and release and delayed harvest waters as these rivers receive less fishing pressure and allow the fish to adapt a more innate lifestyle and natural feeding habits. (1) The Nantahala, Cullasaja and Little Tennessee Rivers are the best-known rivers for rainbow trout in Macon County.
The brown trout inhabit many of the same rivers and lakes as the rainbow trout and typically grow to a similar or slightly larger mature size. They can tolerate slightly warmer water than other trout species in the area and are more likely to dwell in mountain lakes. Browns are fairly reclusive fish choosing to stay close to underwater cover, undercut banks, and overhanging trees. Smaller brown trout eat basically the same diet as other area trout species, however larger individuals are more inclined to eat other fish, including other trout, crayfish, mollusks, and other crustaceans. The tailwaters of the Nantahala River are home to the state record brown trout. (1)
Brook "Speckled" Trout
Brook Trout aka "Speckled" Trout
Brook trout are the only species native to Western North Carolina, as rainbow trout where introduced from rivers on the west coast and brown trout where introduced from Europe in the 1800s. This smaller greenish-brown trout species has been outcompeted by the rainbow trout, and thus healthy native populations are now restricted to smaller headwater fisheries. Hatchery supported waters where captive raised brook trout have been released also contain significant numbers. Fishing techniques are similar to those used for small rainbow trout. Brook trout can be found in all hatchery-sported waters as well as in the headwaters of the Nantahala River above the reservoir. (1)
Fishing for Trout
Trout are opportunistic predators eating a wide range of aquatic and flying insects; fish eggs and juvenile fish; land based insects and worms that end up in the water; crustaceans; amphibians; and much more. Hatchery raised trout will also eat plant based material including corn and other "natural" baits specifically designed for trout fishing. One of the most popular trout fishing methods used in Western North Carolina is fly fishing with dry or wet flies either from a drifting boat or by wading out into the river. Other methods include fishing spinning tackle with small spinning lures, or fishing from the bank with natural bait including corn, worms, or crickets. Natural bait works best on hatchery raised trout, but be sure to read the trout signs carefully as natural bait is prohibited in all waters that are designated catch and release, most rivers designated wild trout waters and for part of the year in delayed harvest waters. Small hooks and light tackle are best suited for trout fishing. (1)
Turning Stones Fly Fishing Guide, Gordon
Turning Stones Fly Fishing, LLC - Fly Fishing Classes in Franklin, North Carolina
Whatever your skill level, Turning Stones Fly Fishing has packages designed to provide you with a great fly fishing experience on the water. They look forward to sharing their knowledge with you to help you land the, "big ones". Whether you have never seen a fly rod or have been fishing for years Turning Stones looks forward to sharing their fly fishing knowledge with you. They offer one-on-one instruction at reasonable rates.
Once completed, their goal is to have you completely confident to be on the area's streams by yourself. In addition to Guided Fly Fishing Trips offered by Turning Stones Fly Fishing, LLC, be sure to inquire about Private Instruction and our Two-Day Fly Fishing Schools.
Turning Stones Fly Fishing, LLC
Below are some of the suggested places to go fishing by Turning Stones Fly Fishing:
Tuckasegee - Located just outside the Town of Dillsboro in Jackson County - This stream is great for beginners and is under delayed harvest regulations. As an angler you truly have a chance to land a trophy fish on this stream.
Nantahala - The Nantahala River is an excellent classroom for beginners. The stream is located in Nantahala, NC and features beautiful Wild Rainbow Trout along with stocked fish. You'll enjoy being surrounded by the steep mountain terrain of the Nantahala Gorge.
Big Snowbird - Is located near Robbinsville, NC in Graham County. Under hatchery support regulations, Big Snowbird is closed the month of March but open to fish the rest of the year. This stream has winter runs of Steelhead along with Native Brookies in the headwaters. Fishing for Steelhead on Big Snow Bird is a must for the fly fisherman who likes a challenge.
Cullasaja - Near Highlands, NC the Cullasaja River is under hatchery support regulations and therefore closed the month of March. The Cullasaja also contains plenty of Wild Trout due to the minute fishing pressure. This stream is beautiful with many waterfalls. You'll enjoy this stream and the immense beauty that surrounds it. Once it leaves the gorge, it flows into the Little Tennessee River.
Raven Fork/Ocunaluftee River - This river flows directly out of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and was already a good fishery prior to the new catch and release fly fishing only program. The 2.2 mile stretch is just full of fish, some absolute monsters too! The fishing started out too easy but recently after more pressure has settled in to fish more like a fly fishing only section should. Fish catch rates have been very good with big fish mixed in. This is an absolute must for a fly fisherman who likes to have a chance at giant fish.
Nantahala Fly Fishing Company
Nantahala Fly Fishing Company
At the Nantahala Fly Fishing Company, they will provide you with 30 years of Fly Fishing experience on North Carolina's Smoky Mountain trout streams and 15 years guiding and giving fly fishing instruction. Their experience has allowed great success in teaching the sport of fly fishing and has given many the ability to operate the only area guide service that offers a "no fish, no pay" guarantee on guided wade trips.
Nantahala Fly Fishing Company
4221 Tallulah Road
Robbinsville, North Carolina 28772
WNC Fly Fishing Trial
The Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, situated in Jackson County, features some of the best trout waters in the Great Smoky Mountains. The trail takes you to 15 excellent spots for catching brook, brown and rainbow trout. Whether you seek quantity or size, open waters or small streams, the WNC Fly Fishing Trail has it all.
The Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail pledge, "As a true sportsman, I pledge to never litter and to avoid trespassing on private lands. I will respect the rights of property owners, and always leave the streams in better condition than I found them." Please keep their pledge at heart when you are out and about on your adventure.
Contact Information And Maps Of The Trail:
Jackson County Tourism Authority
The Western North Fly Fishing Trail