They fasten red wool round a hook…and the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it–thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful.
Fly fishing has come a long way since Roman author Claudius Aelianus wrote about the Macedonians fishing the Astraeus River in 222 AD! Today, novices, professionals, and entire families come for fly fishing in Bryson City, NC, home to two of the top fly fishing streams in the USA, the Nantahala and the Tuckasegee. Bryson City is also home to the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians and the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium. Keep reading to learn more about planning your fly fishing adventure in Bryson City.
Nantahala and Tuckasegee River Trout Fishing
Along with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala and the Tuckasegee rivers are among Bryson City’s outdoor jewels, and both are teeming with trout. While supporting a healthy population of rainbow, brook, and brown trout, both rivers have delayed harvest areas from October to June when the streams are stocked. That is good news for all anglers. During the stocking time, all trout are catch and release. During that non-competitive time, a day of fishing can provide you with totally unverifiable (and mostly true) tales of heroic battles with enormous fish!
From June to October, you can impress friends and family even more by treating them to a delectable dinner of fried trout. With a little guidance, you can find remote headwater streams that require a bit of a hike to reach or plenty of roadside spots where you can just wade in.
About the Nantahala River
The Nantahala starts in the mountains bordering northern Georgia and North Carolina and then flows 40 miles north through Lake Nantahala, the Nantahala Gorge and finally ends in the Little Tennessee River at Fontana Lake. The word Nantahala is Cherokee and means “Land of the Noonday Sun.”
You’ll find brown trout, book trout, and rainbow trout in abundance in most parts of the Nantahala River. The Nantahala is completely roadside along US 19 and US 74 between Bryson City and Andrews, NC, which means you can easily pull over, wade in, and cast.
The Nantahala is also very popular for whitewater rafting.
About the Tuckasegee River
The Tuckasegee starts near Cashiers, NC and travels northwest to Fontana Lake, and ultimately joins the Little Tennessee River. If you stay in Bryson City, you won’t be able to miss it! The Tuckasegee flows right through the center of town.
The Tuckasegee offers ample fishing opportunities and not just incredible trout. You’ll also find Smallmouth Bass, Kentucky Spotted Bass, White Bass, Steelhead, Catfish, Walleye, Bluegill, Yellow Perch, Crappie, and Muskie.
Fly Fishing Streams and Creeks of Western North Carolina
There are dozens of pristine creeks, streams, and tributaries that wind through Swain County and the mountains near Bryson City. Visit Great Smokies Fishing for additional information on each unique stream and fishing opportunity.
Bryson City Fly Fishing Outfitters and Guides
Whether you are an experienced angler or have never held a fly rod before, you are in luck. Bryson City is also home to some of the best fly fishing outfitters in the Southeast who can supply you with all the gear you need, show you the best spots and even teach you how to cast. Ken Kastorff of Endless River Adventures has written a great blog for those who have no fly fishing experience.
You can find many very professional guides and outfitters in Bryson City. Some are catch-and-release only, so if you want to bring home your fish, be sure to ask. Some of our favorites are:
The Elusive Brook Trout
At one time, brook trout could be found in just about every stream in the Smoky Mountains, but development, forest clear-cutting, industrialization and the introduction of rainbow and brown trout have taken their toll. For almost 30 years, fishing brook trout was illegal. After decades of work by the National Park Service fisheries biologists, the brook trout are back. Brook trout are usually found at higher elevations, and it is once again legal to bring them home to dinner.
The Fine Print
Residents and nonresidents aged 16 and older need a license to fly fish. Residents aged 70 and older may obtain a special license from the state. Persons under 16 in North Carolina are entitled to the adult daily bag and possession limits and are subject to all other regulations. Fishing is allowed from a half-hour before official sunrise to a half-hour after official sunset and each member of your group may take up to five fish—plenty for dinner!
The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians and the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium
Bryson City is lucky to be home to two iconic fly fishing establishments.
The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians (FFMSA) provides a center for learning the history, art, science, crafts, and skills of fly fishing. Learn about the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots and fly-tying as well as everything you need to know about gear, game fish and the history of the sport.
The 2021 FFMSA Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held at the Fryemont Inn!
The Appalachian Rivers Aquarium is located on the banks of the Tuckasegee River in Bryson City. The Aquarium has over 4,000 gallons of water in 14 tanks, displaying many species of game fish and some non-game animals including two amazing hellbender salamanders. “The Mountain Stream” is a three-tank exhibit showcasing the trout species found in the area. Fish are viewed from the underside of a two-story waterfall. Two Eastern hellbenders, which are the largest salamander in North America, share the largest hellbender display tank in the southeast.
Fishing Fun for the Entire Family
Kids as young as 8 or 10 can enjoy fly fishing and some of the guides above are happy to teach them. A day fishing is also an opportunity to see crystal clear streams, beautiful wildflowers, autumn colors and lots of other wildlife. Trout streams run through premier viewing areas for elk, deer, foxes, eagles, wild turkeys and even bears. Whether kids develop a life-long love of the sport, or just a fun day in the great outdoors, a day fly fishing with family is one they will never forget.
Stay at Fryemont and We’ll Cook Your Trout
Many of our guests at the Fryemont Inn enjoy fly fishing, and we have a special policy for our anglers.
You catch ‘em and clean ‘em, and if they’re big enough, filet ‘em. WE COOK ‘EM!