North Carolina is home to some incredible fly fishing opportunities and some might say, some of the most diverse in the eastern United States.
With thousands of miles of wild trout streams to lakes with largemouth bass and miles of coast brimming with redfish and striped bass, fly anglers are presented with tons of options.
Now, too many choices can be a prison, and between all the great fly fishing options on the table and the native species, choosing where to fly fish in North Carolina can be a little tricky.
We are here to make things a little bit easier and have highlighted the spots with the best fly fishing in North Carolina where you should cast a line.
Sitting inside a Cherokee Indian reservation is some of the top trout fishing in North Carolina. The Raven Fork is known for its trophy trout and fish upwards of 20 inches are common and there is even a chance of a 30-inch trout in this stream.
You will find large brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout in this river, along with Donaldson strain rainbow trout, and palomino trout too. The state record brook trout of 7lbs was caught there, so you best be on your game for a big fish.
To fly fish in the reservation you will need to buy a tribal permit license which can easily be done online here, and you don’t need a North Carolina fishing license to fish there either.
Where To Fish On The Raven Fork
The best fishing on this stream can be found in the 2-mile catch and release section which is also a fly fishing only section of the river. This means the trout are quite wise to flies but there are lots of them and they are big too.
On the map below, you will find a great place to park right next to this amazing section of river.
If ever you’re visiting the nearby state Pennsylvania, you can see guide here to some of the best pennsylvania trout streams.
Recommended Flies On The Raven Fork
- Zebra Midge
- San Juan Worm
Sitting in the beautiful Pisgah National Forest is the Davidson River, one of the most famous and beautiful fly fishing streams in North Carolina. If you want to experience North Carolina fly fishing at its best, then you have to head to the Davidson.
You will find wild trout in the Davidson in the form of rainbow trout and brook trout, plus there are some chunky brown trout in there too. You will catch trout around 14 inches most of the time but there are some trophy trout to be had too.
Another reason why this is one of the best trout streams in the state is that it is a beautiful freestone stream with crystal clear water surrounded by the lush Pisgah National Forest. Experienced anglers will manage with their backcast, but everyone needs to look out as snagging the trees behind you is tough to avoid.
The trout fishing on this stream isn’t easy as it is fished often so you will need a long leader of 10 feet or longer and to use a thin 6x or 7x tippet.
Where To Fish On The Davidson River
There are miles of fly fishing water on the Davidson available to the public and you will find native brook trout all along it. There is one spot that holds bigger trout than others though so head to the section below the Pisgah Fish Hatchery for the chance at a trophy wild brook trout.
Recommended Flies On The Davidson River
- Wooly buggers
- Midges (size 22 – 28)
- Tan worms
The Watauga River sits in the Great Smoky Mountains region of North Carolina and is known as one of the top mountain streams in the entire country. The great thing about this river is that is it great for beginners and experienced fly anglers alike.
There are sections of the river that are wide and offer plenty of room to cast and other parts with more technical water that holds some big fish. You can wade this amazing river or you can fish it from a drift boat with a fly fishing guide too.
You will find both rainbow trout and brown trout while fishing in this river and it is easy to catch fish as they are quite willing to eat a well-presented fly. You will also find some big brown trout in this river so be prepared.
Where To Fish On The Watauga River
There are lots of great fishing spots with easy access along the Watauga, and one of the best is found on the map below at the Watauga Gorge area.
You can also access the river from the Valle Crucis Community Park on the map below but for some of the best fishing in North Carolina, it is best to book a guide as they have access to private waters too.
Recommended Flies On The Watauga
- Sculpin and minnow streamers
- Midge dry flies
- Midge nymphs
The Oconaluftee is one of the less fished trout streams when it comes to North Carolina fly fishing opportunities and it is some of the easiest fly fishing too.
Sitting in the Cherokee Indian Reservation, this river is full of stocked trout which are added every week. You will catch rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, and Palomino trout while fly fishing this river and they are pretty huge fish too.
The average-sized catch in the deep pools of this river is just under 20 inches and a trout over 30-inches is considered a trophy. Of all the small streams you should go trout fishing on in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina, this is it.
Despite it being heavily stocked, it is excellently managed and while they aren’t wild trout, the fly fishing is still excellent.
Where To Fish On The Oconaluftee River
Since the Oconaluftee isn’t fished as much as the other streams in the area, an avid angler can have an amazing time fishing the deeper pools that hold giant trout. There is excellent access all the way up the river, just turn off highway 441 and hit the fishing spots upstream.
A great place to park is on the map below.
Recommended Flies On The Oconaluftee River
- Blue Winged Olives
Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail
The WNC fly fishing trail is the only trail of its kind in the United States and if you like trout fishing, then you might just want to add this western North Carolina trail to your bucket list.
The trail begins in Jackson County and features some of the best trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains. If you complete the trail you will have fished at 15 of the best trout fishing spots in the state that inccludes everything from tiny streams to large rivers.
Along the way, you will fish for both stocked trout and wild trout too in the form of brookies, rainbows, and brown trout.
Creeks On The Fly Fishing Trail
You can find a detailed map of the trail here and 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 is home to some awesome saltwater fly fishing and if you have always dreamed of catching striped bass, you should head to the Outerbanks. These fish pull hard and will take you for a ride, so be sure to have a reel with good drag and a solid 7/8 wt rod.
Where To Fish On The Outer Banks
The best place to target the stripers is Memorial Bridge, Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge, or Herbert Bonner Bridge. Simply head to one of the bridges that give you access and cast to any structure.
Recommended Flies On The Outerbanks
- Clouser minnow
- Large streamers
Licenses & Regulations
Anyone of the age of 16 years or older who wishes to partake in some excellent North Carolina fly fishing must hold a valid state license. This requirement applies to both freshwater fly fishing and saltwater fly fishing.
You have the choice to buy a non-resident or resident license, and a license for different amounts of time ranging from one day to a full year. You should also familiarize yourself with the state fishing rules and the rules for each fisher. You can buy your North Carolina fishing license here.
As I mentioned earlier, if you plan to fish in the Indian Reservation waters, you will need to buy a license here but will not require a state license to fish there.
Recommended Fly Shops In North Carolina
Whenever you are fly fishing in new waters, it always pays to stop in at a local fly fishing shop to pick up some local flies and get the inside fishing reports on what is working best and how the areas are fishing. Here are some great ones:
- Tuckaseegee Fly Shop
- Curtis Wright Outfitters & Fly Fishing Guides
- Davidson River Outfitters
- Cape Lookout Fly Shop
Recommended Fly Guides In North Carolina
If you are looking to get ahead while saltwater or trout fishing in North Carolina, it is always a good idea to book a fly fishing guide. Your guide will get you dialed in quickly so you can continue to start catching fish from day one. Here are some great guides:
- Rivers Edge Outfitters
- Curtis Wright Outfitters & Fly Fishing Guides
- Davidson River Outfitters
- Outer Banks Fly Fishing
Thanks very much for reading my article. I hope you enjoyed it and now have all the info you need about casting a fly rod in the North Carolina mountains and the coast too. It truly is a unique and magical place to go fly fishing so head over there this summer if you can.
Of course, we couldn’t mention every fly fishing spot in the article and others you might want to check out our Wilson’s Creek, Linville River, Rock Creek, Toe River, Wilson Creek, White Oak Creek, Nantahala River, and South Mills River.