Outdoors Recreation

Venture Off the Beaten Path to Fly Fish in WNC’s Small Streams

By Allison Taylor

Western North Carolina has a seemingly endless number of small creeks and streams running through our mountains, which are home to wild, stream-born trout. Wild rainbow trout, wild brown trout and North Carolina’s only native fish—the southern Appalachian brook trout—all inhabit these cold, clear, freestone waters.

With our area’s abundance of forested lands, taking the time to venture off the beaten path will provide the reward of small streams that see little fishing pressure. These areas also afford a great opportunity to find solitude on the water. “Little fishing pressure generally means that the fish are eager and willing to eat a fly in our smaller and more secluded streams,” says Ryan Waldrep, the outfitter manager and guide with DB bar D Outfitters in Mills River. As these streams are typically shallower and narrower than the larger and more well-known rivers, they also tend to be easier to wade. “These streams are also great options when the larger rivers are too warm to fish for trout because they stay cooler and more oxygenated throughout the year,” adds Waldrep.

A great place to start looking for wild trout is at the headwaters of larger rivers and tributary creeks. Fishing in small streams is all about simplicity, and a dry-dropper rig is the most efficient way to find fish in a creek. Waldrep gets excited about dry fly fishing in these streams. “Wild trout in small streams are often looking up for a meal to drift by, so carrying some generic dry fly patterns is important,” he says. “Simple and generic fly patterns that imitate a large variety of bug life work well on small streams due to the opportunistic nature of wild trout in small waters,” he says. He recommends a 3-4 weight fly rod in the 7’-8’ range, as those are well-suited for the more remote streams due to the thick brush and overhang along the banks. He suggests a leader between 7’-9’ that will ensure that the fly line won’t hit the water on a roll cast and spook the fish. “Be sure to carry light tippet (5x-6x) for your dropper, as the water in these streams is crystal clear,” Waldrep adds.

Overall, small-stream fishing is a great way to explore all that WNC has to offer. Hiking in to a gorgeous stream, catching wild and native trout and seeing various other types of wildlife in the process combine for an excellent outdoor adventure.

DB bar D Outfitters offers guided and semi-guided fishing, hunting and other outdoor experiences. For more information or to book a trip, visit DBbarD.com.

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