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Winter has set in, and the water is cold, and amazingly clear. Delayed Harvest streams should continue to fish well for the time being, and East TN tailwaters are always a fun winter destination.
Visitors should note that there is no roadside camping available anywhere in Pisgah, or the Brevard/Mills River Area. Campgrounds are open, as well as backcountry opportunities in select areas.
The Davidson has entered its winter phase. The water is cold, and incredibly clear. Sight fishing is certainly possible, but anglers should use their Ninja skills when approaching the water. There are hatches of small insects almost daily. Micro Caddis, Blue Wing Olive Mayflies, and tiny Winter Stoneflies are the featured flyers. Of course, there are the ever present midges, that are smaller than they appear. Size 20's are on the large side for fly choices. Bring your 8x tippet, a box of your best tiny dries, and some tissues to cry into when the fish decide they don't like something about your presentation.
Exploring wild trout streams in winter can be a fun endeavor, even though the catching will probably somewhat iffy. With some USFS roads gated for freeze/thaw, those willing to put in the effort will find few humans in the backcountry.
NC Delayed Harvest streams are still a good choice for those who don't have time to hike, or patience for getting skunked on the Davidson. Good etiquette goes a long way when it comes to fishing. This applies to both on, and off, the water. Be sure to give other anglers plenty of space, and be extra respectful when parking along the river.
The French Broad is currently sorta fishable, but the water is moving fast. There is lots of woody debris in the river, so use caution while floating. You'll never catch anything without putting flies in the water, so bundle up and give it a go.
Flies to Try
Parachute Adams 16-18, Blue Wing Olive 18-22, Cream Midge 22-24, Elk Hair Caddis 16-20, Squirmy Worm 12-16, Chubby Chernobyl 12-16, Cream Midge 22-26, Lightning Bug 16-18, Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail 18-20, Tungsten Parrott 16-18, Rainbow Warrior 16-20, Memory Maker 16-18, Trip Saver 14-16, Girdle Bug 8-12, Yuba Pupa 14-16, Glo Bug 10-14, Zebra Midge 18-20, RS2 20-22, Wooly Bugger 6-10, Slumpbuster 6-10
Avery's Creek is a small but vital stream to life on the Davidson. Early Spring finds Avery's flow above normal but very fishable. When winter rains push the Davidson up and out of banks many large fish will hold in the small water of Avery's Creek. Staying here until low water flow forces them out into the main river again. Also in spring Rainbows spawn in its pea size gravel. Then in fall Browns do the same. Don't overlook this small tributary of the Davidson. This steam is classified Wild Trout and has no closed season.
Courthouse Creek is the headwaters of the French Broad river. Its beginnings are under the Devils Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Always clear and cold this small stream is brimming with Browns and Rainbows in the 6"to 10" range. Although small in comparison to many of the area streams it will produce more fish on the fly than many larger streams. Although the fish may be smaller they add a great challenge to even the best angler. Most of the stream is open and easy to cast on. The stream has several small waterfalls on it and many deep pools six to eight feet deep. This stream is classified Wild Trout and has no closed season.
[Davidson River fishing] The Davidson River is ranked as one of Trout Unlimited's top 100 trout streams in North America and is our "home water". Located in North Transylvania the stream is a fly fisherman's dream. Large pools abound as well as long runs with pockets and eddies with large trout 18" to 24" cruising its waters. The water runs crystal clear even during the rains of spring. Much like a spring creek it must be fished with light tippet. 6X to 8X is desirable in 9' to 12' lengths. Though the river can get quite crowded, there are many areas on the river where one can find solitude if he or she looks. This stream is classified Catch and Release Fly Fishing Only.
Only the flow of this stream is vital to the Davidson. Looking Glass Falls are located about one half mile above the conflux of the Davidson and Looking Glass. Therefore spawning on Looking Glass is prevented. The stream is a clear jewel. At times it is forty to fifty feet wide and other times barely ten feet wide. It winds and crosses under the highway several times as in flows from under the Blue Ridge Parkway.This stream is brimming with trout in the 11" to 14" range. Trout Unlimited is presently doing a feeding program to improve the size ofthe trout in this stream. This crystal clear jewel is classified Wild Trout with no closed season.
The East Fork is one of the four tributaries of the French Broad. While there are many private stretches, there is also enough easily reached water to make the East Fork a desirable location. This stream is classified as Delayed Harvest.
North Mills heads up in Northwestern Henderson County and is part of the City of Hendersonville's water supply. Coming out of the reservoir North Mills begins its journey to the French Broad. The stream meanders through laurels hemlocks and evergreens. Cool in winter it begins to heat up in early June due to the reservoir at it head. This stream runs clear and clears fast after rain due to the settling in the reservoir. Not deep or wide it allows for easy wading and some overhead casting but generally it is considered tight fishing. This stream is classified Delayed Harvest and has no closed season, but has different regulations during the season.
South Mills begins in Northern Transylvania and flows about 15 mile before going into Henderson County. The upper end of South Mills is near the Blue Ridge Parkway and flows down the mountain through laurel and evergreens. Several small water falls and deep pools allow for fish to have ample oxygen during hot summer days. This stream has been on Trout Unlimited Top 100. The stream has a healthy population of native browns and rainbows. It has a fire road running it entire length to Henderson County. The lower end of the river has horse back riding trails and can be muddied often as equestrians cross the stream. This stream is classified Wild Trout and has no closed season.
Located in Haywood County, the West Fork of the French Broad River begins along the Blue Ridge parkway. The tannic colored water falls rather quickly and picks up volume from a small stream flowing from Little Sam's Mountain as well as numerous springs along the way. Near the upper end, mostly brook trout will be caught with a few browns mixed in. As the stream descends the mountain, browns become more and more prevalent. Large boulders and rocks make for interesting fishing. This stream will remind you of fishing a small western trout stream with its fir tree canopy up near the parkway. This stream is Hatchery Supported and has a closed season from the 1st day of March until the 1st Saturday in April.
The French Broad begins under Devil's Courthouse, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Transylvania County NC. From there, the river flows generally northeasterly through the Appalachian Mountains for 213 miles, eventually joining with the Holston River in Tennessee to form the Tennessee River .
The French Broad is one of the most diverse fisheries in the world. The head waters of the river in Transylvania County are home to Brown Brook and Rainbow Trout with a few of the small streams containing true, Southern Strain Brook Trout. From the town of Rosman to the city of Brevard, the river is mixed with Trout, Smallmouth and Largemouth bass, and Muskellunge as well as Panfish and Course fish. From the City of Brevard to the Asheville Regional Airport, the river is mainly a Muskellunge fishery with a few Bass and Panfish mixed in. From the Airport area North to the confluence with the Holston the river is home to a world-class Smallmouth Bass fishery, along with Stripers, Walleye, Largemouth, Kentucky Spotted Bass, Blue and Channel Catfish, White Drum and countless other species.
The difficulty in fishing the French Broad is that the river from Brevard, all the way to Lake Douglas in TN can be muddy for days or weeks at a time, from rainfall that may occur 100 miles upstream. From the Barnard NC area north to Hot Springs, the river flows through a large gorge that contains up to class 4 whitewater rapids and should not be navigated by the inexperienced white water rower. However, the river from Brevard to Barnard is a gentle slow moving river that can be navigated by even the greenest of rower's.
Unfortunately, wading access is fairly limited on the main French Broad. The best wading access is located along River Road between Asheville and the hamlet of Alexander NC.
For the best fly fishing, the river needs to have at least 24” of visibility, for those that are using conventional tackle you only need about 10 inches of visibility to have a great day on the water.
The Watauga River is considered one of the top ranked tailwaters in the Southeast. Located in Eastern Tennessee, its cold clear water and endless limestone ledges make a great habitat for brook, brown, and rainbow trout. The river begins below the Wilbur Dam and flows west into Sullivan County where it reaches Boone Lake.
Fishing on the Watauga is great the entire year. This river is undoubtedly known for its 5 miles of “Trophy Trout Water” which is a special regulated section only accessible by boat. Other areas of the river are accessible by utilizing public access points however, water releases from both dam structures often affects the water levels as well as the clarity of the water with little warning.
Springtime hatches of sulphurs, black caddis, and crane flies make this time of year the most productive, although trout are willing to eat throughout the summer months with terrestrial's imitations becoming the most successful patterns used. Autumn provides the next best time of year to fish the Watauga because the weather and discharges are usually very stable and dependable. Blue Winged Olives, Caddis, and little Black Stoneflies are the most popular flies for the season but don't rule out a big lifelike streamer to bring out the big boy!
The Tuckaseegee River is noted as the best tailwater is North Carolina. Formed from the confluence of the East and West Fork, the cold water discharges from each Dam provides suitable habitat for brook, brown, and rainbow trout through most of the year. The most notable section of the Tuck is the Delayed Harvest section from the Hwy 107 Bridge west to the town of Dillsboro. This special regulated section of river holds more fish per mile than any other river in the state during full stocking but the best fishing usually occurs from October 1st through the first Saturday in June.
Access to the Tuckaseegee is along N. River Road at any gravel pull off along the river. This large body of water is great for wading and is wide open for casting however, daily generation schedules fluctuate the water levels beyond safe wading. During generation, floating in a drift boat or raft is the best option.
Typical Delayed Harvest patterns such as San Juan Worms, Eggs, and flashy bead head nymphs are go to patterns for producing fish while caddis nymphs and small streamers always produce larger fish.
|Insects||Fly Pattern||Hook Sz.|
|Blue Wing Olive Mayflies||Parchute BWO, Thorax Dun||18-24|
|Midges(Cream, Olive, Black)||Parachute Adams, Midge||18-24|
|Micro Caddis (Black, Gray)||Elk Hair Caddis||18-20|
|Dark Stones||Clipped Caddis||18-22|
|Blue Olive Mayflies||Olive Hare's Ear, Olive P.T.||16-20|
|March Brown Mayflies||BH Pheasant Tail||16-20|
|American Grannom Caddis||Peeking Caddis||14-18|
|Rockworm Caddis||Super Pupa||16-20|
|Midges(Cream, Black, Olive)||RS-2, WD-40||18-24|
|Dark Stones||Copper John(Blk, Copper)||16-18|
|Dace||Zonker (White, Blk)||6-12|
|Crayfish||Wooly Bugger(Blk, Olive, Brn)||4-10|
|Creek Chubs||Double Bunny(Brn, Tan, White)||2-6|
|Insects||Fly Pattern||Hook Sz.|
|March Brown Mayflies||March Brown Standard/Parachute||12-14|
|Blue Quill Mayflies||Parchute Adams, Thorax Dun||14-18|
|Red Quill Mayflies||Quill Gordon||14-18|
|Cahill Mayflies||Lt. Cahill, Sparkle Dun||12-18|
|Green Drakes||Green Drake, Coffin Fly||8-12|
|Yellow Drakes||Coffin Fly, Cut Wing Drake||8-12|
|Caddis||Elk Hair Caddis||12-18|
|Dark Stone||Clipped Caddis||12-18|
|Yellow Sally Stones||Yellow Sally||16-18|
|March Brown Mayflies||Hare's Ear||12-16|
|Blue Quill Mayflies||BH Pheasant Tail||14-18|
|Green Drake Mayflies||Fox Squirrel Nymph||10-14|
|Golden Stones||Kevin's Stone||8-12|
|Yellow Sally Stones||Copper John||16-18|
|Sculpins||Woolhead Sculpin, Olive Zonker||4-10|
|Dace||White Zonker, Sparkle Minnow||6-12|
|Crayfish||Near Nuff Crayfish||2-6|
|Creek Chubss||Wooly Bugger Brown||2-8|
|Insect||Fly Pattern||Hook Sz.|
|Yellow Sally Stones||Yellow Sally, Clipped Caddis||16-18|
|Grasshoppers||Dave's Hopper, Club Sandwich||8-14|
|Crane Flies||Hackle Stacker Cranefly||12-18|
|Camel Crickets||Gorilla Hopper||10-14|
|Beetles||Disco Beetle, Bark Beetle||8-10|
|Ants||Transparant, Fur Ant||12-18|
|Midges||Parachute Adams, Midge||18-24|
|Golden Stones||Kevin's Stonefly||8-12|
|Yellow Sally Stones||Copper John||16-18|
|Inch Worms||Inch Worm, Chart. San Juan||10-12|
|Midges||WD-40, Disco Midge, RS-2||18-26|
|Creek Chubs||Double Bunny||2-8|
|Damsel Fly Nymphs||Wooly Bugger||6-10|