North Carolina, a gem in the eastern United States, is a treasure trove of fly fishing opportunities. From wild trout streams snaking through the landscape to lakes teeming with largemouth bass, and a coast brimming with redfish and striped bass, fly anglers are spoilt for choice.
However, such an abundance of options can be perplexing. Between the multitude of fly fishing hotspots and a vast array of native species, deciding where to cast your line in North Carolina can be a real head-scratcher.
But worry not, we’re here to simplify things. We’ve rounded up the best fly fishing spots in North Carolina to help you reel in a big one.
Best Fly Fishing Spots in North Carolina
Tucked away in a Cherokee Indian reservation, Raven Fork offers some of the best trout fishing in North Carolina. This stream is renowned for its trophy trout, with fish upwards of 20 inches being a common sight. If you’re lucky, you might even hook a 30-inch trout.
Here, you’ll find large brown, rainbow, and brook trout, along with Donaldson strain rainbow trout, and palomino trout. The state record brook trout, weighing in at a whopping 7lbs, was caught here, so gear up for a big catch.
Fishing in the reservation requires a tribal permit license, which you can easily purchase online here. A North Carolina fishing license is not required.
Where to Fish on the Raven Fork
The most fruitful fishing on this stream is in the 2-mile catch-and-release section, which is exclusively for fly fishing. While the trout here are savvy to flies, there’s an abundance of them and they’re sizeable.
Refer to the map below for a convenient parking spot right next to this prime section of the river.
Recommended Flies for the Raven Fork
- Zebra Midge
- San Juan Worm
Nestled in the picturesque Pisgah National Forest, the Davidson River is one of the most renowned and scenic fly fishing streams in North Carolina. For an authentic North Carolina fly fishing experience, you must visit the Davidson.
Here, you’ll find wild rainbow and brook trout, as well as chunky brown trout. While the average catch hovers around 14 inches, there are some trophy trout up for grabs.
The Davidson is a beautiful freestone stream with crystal clear water, cradled by the lush Pisgah National Forest. Experienced anglers will manage their backcast well, but be cautious of snagging the trees behind you.
Fishing on this stream isn’t easy due to high fishing traffic. Hence, a long leader of 10 feet or longer and a thin 6x or 7x tippet is recommended.
Where to Fish on the Davidson River
There are miles of fly fishing water on the Davidson available to the public, housing native brook trout throughout. However, for a shot at a trophy wild brook trout, head to the section below the Pisgah Fish Hatchery.
Recommended Flies for the Davidson River
- Wooly buggers
- Midges (size 22 – 28)
- Tan worms
Located in the Great Smoky Mountains region of North Carolina, the Watauga River is one of the top mountain streams in the country. This river is well-suited for both beginners and experienced fly anglers.
Sections of the river are wide and offer plenty of room to cast, while others feature more technical water housing big fish. The Watauga can be waded or navigated in a drift boat with a fly fishing guide.
This river is home to both rainbow and brown trout. The fish are quite willing to bite a well-presented fly, making it easy to catch fish. However, be prepared for some big brown trout.
Where to Fish on the Watauga River
There are numerous prime fishing spots with easy access along the Watauga. One of the best is the Watauga Gorge area, as indicated on the map below.
You can also access the river from the Valle Crucis Community Park. For some of the best fishing in North Carolina, consider booking a guide as they have access to private waters too.
Recommended Flies for the Watauga
- Sculpin and minnow streamers
- Midge dry flies
- Midge nymphs
The Oconaluftee River, situated in the Cherokee Indian Reservation, is one of the lesser-fished trout streams, offering some of the easiest fly fishing opportunities. This river is teeming with stocked trout, replenished on a weekly basis.
You can expect to catch rainbow, brown, brook, and Palomino trout. The average-sized catch in the river’s deep pools is just under 20 inches. A trout over 30-inches is considered a trophy. If you’re looking to fish in the small streams of the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina, this is the place to be.
Despite being heavily stocked, the river is well-managed. Even though the trout aren’t wild, the fly fishing experience is top-notch.
Where to Fish on the Oconaluftee River
As the Oconaluftee isn’t as frequently fished as other streams in the area, an avid angler can enjoy fishing in the deeper pools that house giant trout. Excellent access is available throughout the river. Just turn off highway 441 and explore the fishing spots upstream.
A convenient parking spot is indicated on the map below.
Recommended Flies for the Oconaluftee River
- Blue Winged Olives
Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail
The WNC fly fishing trail, the only one of its kind in the United States, should be on every trout fishing enthusiast’s bucket list. The trail, starting in Jackson County, boasts some of the best trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains.
If you complete the trail, you’ll have fished at 15 of the best trout fishing spots in the state, ranging from tiny streams to large rivers. Along the way, you’ll fish for both stocked and wild trout, including brookies, rainbows, and brown trout.
Creeks on the Fly Fishing Trail
You can find a detailed map of the trail here, with its 15 listed locations below.
- Scott Creek
- Moses Creek, Mull Creek, Rough Butt Creek, Chastine Creek, Piney Mountain Creek
- Caney Fork
- Tanasee Creek
- Panthertown Creek
- Raven Fork
- Whitewater River
- Scotsman Creek and Fowler Creek
- Tuckaseigee River
- Savannah Creek
- Greens Creek
Recommended Flies for the Fly Fishing Trail
- Copper Johns
- Prince Nymphs
- Pheasant tail nymphs
- Zebra Midge
North Carolina offers splendid saltwater fly fishing opportunities. If you’ve always dreamt of catching striped bass, the Outer Banks is the place to be. These fish put up a tough fight, so ensure you have a reel with good drag and a sturdy 7/8 wt rod.
Where to Fish on the Outer Banks
The best spots to target stripers are Memorial Bridge, Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge, or Herbert Bonner Bridge. Simply head to one of the bridges that provide access and cast towards any structure.
Recommended Flies for the Outer Banks
- Clouser minnow
- Large streamers
Licenses & Regulations
Any individual aged 16 years or older intending to partake in North Carolina fly fishing must possess a valid state license, applicable to both freshwater and saltwater fly fishing.
You can opt for a non-resident or resident license, valid for different durations ranging from one day to a full year. Familiarize yourself with the state fishing rules and the rules for each fishery. Purchase your North Carolina fishing license here.
If you plan to fish in the Indian Reservation waters, you need to buy a license here but do not require a state license.
Recommended Fly Shops in North Carolina
When fly fishing in new waters, it’s always beneficial to stop by a local fly fishing shop. You can pick up some local flies and get the latest fishing reports on what’s working best and how the areas are fishing. Here are some recommendations:
- Tuckaseegee Fly Shop
- Curtis Wright Outfitters & Fly Fishing Guides
- Davidson River Outfitters
- Cape Lookout Fly Shop
Recommended Fly Guides in North Carolina
To get a head start while saltwater or trout fishing in North Carolina, consider booking a fly fishing guide. They’ll help you get quickly dialed in, enabling you to start catching fish from day one. Here are some suggestions:
- Rivers Edge Outfitters
- Curtis Wright Outfitters & Fly Fishing Guides
- Davidson River Outfitters
- Outer Banks Fly Fishing
When can I fly fish in NC?
Fly fishing in North Carolina is typically best in the late spring and early summer months. However, you can enjoy fly fishing year-round in many parts of the state.
Where is the best trout fishing in North Carolina?
The best trout fishing in North Carolina is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Other excellent spots include the Watauga, Linville, and Tuckasegee Rivers, as well as the Delayed Harvest streams.
Does North Carolina have good trout fishing?
Yes, North Carolina offers excellent trout fishing. The state boasts some of the nation’s premier trout fisheries, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, and numerous rivers and streams throughout the state.
Do you need a trout stamp in North Carolina?
Yes, you need a trout stamp in North Carolina if you plan to fish for trout in any of the state’s public waters. The stamp can be purchased from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
Do you need a fly fishing license in NC?
Yes, you need a fishing license to fly fish in North Carolina. The license can be purchased from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
Thanks for taking the time to read this guide. I hope you found it helpful and now feel better equipped to tackle fly fishing in North Carolina’s mountains and coastline. This state offers a unique and spectacular fly fishing experience, so be sure to visit if you can.
While we couldn’t cover every fly fishing spot, other noteworthy locations include Wilson’s Creek, Linville River, Rock Creek, Toe River, Wilson Creek, White Oak Creek, Nantahala River, and South Mills River.
Before we wrap up, I’d like to invite you to download our series of fly fishing books below. They’re packed full of tips and tricks to help you elevate your fly fishing skills.