Major Fishing Rivers in Western North Carolina

Fishing in Western NC

Davidson River

Trout Fishing in the Davidson River Area - Photo USDA Forestry Service

The Davidson River is located several miles North of Brevard, NC near the intersections of Hwy 64 and Hwy 276. Having received national recognition as a top rated fly fishing river, the Davidson has become one of the most popular and most fished rivers in Western, NC. Located in the Pisgah National Forest near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the Pisgah Forest Fish Hatchery, large sections of this famed river are catch and release fly fishing only waters. Regular hatches and large fish draw anglers year round, with only the coldest winter weekdays void of anglers. Be prepared for hike up or downstream from the popular parking spots in order to get a more secluded fishing opportunity on this mountain fly fishing gem. Click here for more info.

French Broad River

The French Broad River in Asheville - Photo USDA Forestry Service

The French Broad River flows North from Brevard through the heart of Asheville, and eventually past the town of Hot Springs into Tennessee. This river home to trout, catfish and panfish, but is best known for its smallmouth bass and muskie populations. Try a guided float fishing trip for an action packed day of smallmouth bass fishing during the summer and fall or try your hand at catching an elusive muskie, often referred to as the fish of 10,000 casts. There are also several places close to town, including along Riverside Dr and on Brevard Rd just West of the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where one can enjoy fishing from the bank for trout, smallmouth or catfish. While the French Broad River was once very polluted, efforts by local conservation groups have had a lot of success cleaning up the river in the Asheville area.

Green River

The Green River flows Southeast through Henderson County into Polk County, where it empties into Lake Adger. Near the border between Henderson and Polk Counties the Green is dammed to create Lake Summit. The entire length of the river contains brook, rainbow, and brown trout, as well as, catfish. The section of the river between Lake Summit and the Fishtop Access Area on Green River Cove Rd. in Saluda, NC is designated wild trout waters. Below that point the river contains both delayed harvest and standard hatchery supported waters. Due to the various types of trout water found in this relatively short stretch of river is it crucial to pay close attention to NC Wildlife Resource Commission trout signs and to understand the fishing season and tackle restrictions for each type of designation.

Nantahala River

Fishing the Nantahala River - Photo USDA Forestry Service

The Nantahala River flows South and West through Macon County into Swain County near Bryson City, NC where it empties into Lake Fontana. Along the way, in Macon Counties Wayah Ranger District, it is dammed by Duke Power to create the Nantahala Reservoir. The entire stretch contains hatchery-supported trout fishing, including several delayed harvest sections. Above the reservoir there are impressive brook trout. The Nantahala Reservoir contains crappie, bass, catfish and panfish. The sections below the dam are best known for its impressive whitewater rafting, but the extremely cold water is also home to impressive rainbow trout and the state record for brown trout. Listed among the top trout rivers in the country by Trout Unlimited, the Nantahala should not be overlooked despite heavy kayaking and rafting traffic. Get an early start to avoid the heaviest river traffic and remember the rafters are there every day and the fish have grown accustomed to people. Click here for more info.

Nolichucky River

Beginning at the confluence of the Toe and Cane Rivers on the border of Mitchell and Yancey Counties in Northwestern North Carolina, the Nolichucky River quickly crosses into Tennessee where it travels West, eventually emptying into Douglas Lake along with the French Broad River. With a mixture of whitewater and flat sections, this scenic mountain river offers fishermen the opportunity to catch rainbow trout and muskie, but is probably best known for its abundant smallmouth bass population. Several local guides offer trips on the “Chucky,” but only when the water level and temperature are suitable for catching fish.

North Mills River

Fishing in the North Mills River Area - Big Creek - USDA Forestry Service

The North Mills River and its tributaries, Fletcher Creek and Big Creek, are located in Northern Henderson County several miles Southwest of the Asheville Airport. North Mills River is a delayed harvest hatchery supported river with brook, rainbow and brown trout. Fletcher Creek and Big Creek are two tributaries of the North Mills River. Both are designated wild trout waters and contain primarily rainbow trout. Click here for more info.

Pigeon River

Beginning 20 miles West of Asheville in Canton, NC, the Pigeon River flows North into Tennessee where it joins the French Broad River near Douglas Lake. Cleanup efforts in recent years have opened this once polluted river to rafting, fishing, camping and other outdoor activities. Because the Pigeon is smaller and shallower than many of the other rivers in Western NC it is well suited to wade fishing. The primary species of interest in the river are smallmouth bass and redbreasted sunfish. Click here for more info on the Pigeon River.

The Little Tennessee River

The Little Tennessee River flows out of North Georgia in Raybun County northward into Macon County, NC. The river widens at the confluence with the Cullasaja River near downtown Franklin. From here the Little Tennessee continues northwest into Swain County and empties into Fontana Lake. The "Little T" tends to be a warm-water river with many long shallow stretches and riffles, especially in the lower section north of Franklin. Easy to fish from canoe or by wading, the river is home to many species of fish, such as Crappie, Rock Bass, Bream and Catfish. The most sought after species remains the Smallmouth Bass. The “Little T” sees a strong run of Walleye and White Bass from Fontana Lake in the early and late spring. Muskie are often caught in the lower reaches of the river, especially in the late spring and early fall.

South Holston River

The tailwaters of South Holston River, below the TVA dam at South Holston Lake, are located 95 miles North of Asheville near the border of Tennesse and Virginia. This cold river is considered ideal habitat for brown trout and is often fished by floating downriver on a boat or by wading the river on foot. Several Asheville area guides offer full day wade and float tips on the South Holston year round, or search out a guide from Tennessee or Virginia. A Tennessee trout fishing license is required and can be purchased at one of the many area outfitters.

Tuckasegee River

The Tuckasegee River follows in a Northwesterly direction from Jackson County into Swain County near Bryson City where in empties into the Little Tennessee River. Considered to be some of the healthiest trout fishing water in the area, the delayed harvest section of the “Tuck,” as it is referred to by locals, contains more rainbow trout and brook trout mile than any other river on the east coast. The warmer lower sections of the river also contain smallmouth bass. The Tuckasegee is ideal for float fishing with multiple guides to choose from, but is also accessible to wade fisherman. The healthy dense fish populations make it an ideal river for beginners and is often utilized as a fly fishing school.

Watauga River

Located just North of Johnson City, TN, 65 miles North of Asheville, the Watauga River is best known for its trophy rainbow trout, but also is home to brown trout. There are few access points for wade fisherman along the 16 miles of fishable water, and most of the trophy section is accessible only by boat. Several local guides offer half-day and full day float trips on this section of what many consider the most scenic trout fishing river in the area.

Fishing in Western NC

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Fishing the Rivers of Western North Carolina
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