Swain County's Mountain Lake, Rivers & Streams are a Fisherman's Paradise


Whether you are fly fishing for native brook trout in a cold mountain stream, smallmouth or largemouth bass in beautiful Fontana Lake or rainbow or brown trout in one of the many stocked streams or rivers, Swain County hosts one of the most diverse fishing habitats in the world.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala National Forest offer hundreds of miles of spectacularly clear streams. Just a few minutes from Bryson City, the sparkling waters of Deep Creek are ripe for fly fishing, and many anglers enjoy the Nantahala River just west of town, particularly the section above the powerhouse on Wayah Road (pictured).

The Little Tennessee River just west of Bryson City off the Needmore Road is a wide, cold, boulder-strewn river - perfect for smallmouth bass, brim, rock bass and muskie.

The Cherokee Indian Reservation also offers a variety of fishing opportunities for the trout fisherman with regularly stocked streams, trophy waters and three trout ponds. Cherokee holds 4 tagged fish tournaments, a fly-fishing tournament in the trophy waters and a trout derby for children every year. More info

fontana-lake-fishingIf you prefer flat water fishing, Fontana Lake boasts one of the most diverse fish populations anywhere in the country. With depths of over 400 feet, many northern fish such as walleye, muskie and smallmouth bass are among favorites of local fishermen.

For boating information, including public boating access and marinas with boat rentals, as well as the Old 288 handicap accessible fishing pier, visit the Boating page of this web site. There's also more information about Fontana Lake.

Below Fontana Dam on Highway 28, the Lewellyn Branch handicap accessible bank fishing pier and boat launch ramp facility offer fishermen access to Cheoah Lake on the Little Tennessee River.

Printable Bryson City Fishing Guide (pdf).

More fun activities on the water near Bryson City.

13 year old Cian Callahan from Louisville KY with a massive smile and his first ever fish on a fly rod, a big Brook Trout from the Tuckasegee River

April 14 Fishing Report

The fishing all across the mountains is incredible this time of year. Warmer temperatures are gaining ground over winter’s long cold grasp. The almost Summer like highs have brought fish into feeding frenzies all across the region and with it, plenty of anglers seeking out the first big fish of the season.

A blast of Dogwood Winter may turn things down for a few days until the air and water temperatures stabilize again. However this only takes a day or so for the fish to acclimate to the sudden temperature changes. By the time the weekend rolls around the action will be back on track! 

The hottest fishing again this week will be on Fontana Lake near the headwaters of river and creek mouths. Walleye and White bass are running up the rivers in search of spawning grounds. The most successful anglers are lining the banks in the late evenings and fishing until around midnight. Boat anglers are starting to stack up late evening too just below the running water on many creek and river mouths. The most popular baits right now for Walleye are live minnows, night crawlers, and Mr. Twisters fished near the banks. Smallmouth Bass are also starting to stage near the river and creek mouths. Anglers are catching them on spinner baits, soft plastic flukes worked slowly, and twisters. Largemouth bass are being caught by throwing rattle traps and crank baits near long points and flats next to drop offs, Carolina rigged worms are also catching their fair share of Largemouth.

For great trout fishing this week, the Nantahala River Delayed Harvest section is on fire, so is the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. Both of these streams offer nutrient rich waters which will see great hatches of insects and keep the trout looking up. Some of the best dry fly fishing of the year will be found on each from mid-day until dark.

The fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just keeps getting better as the days get longer. Although not quiet fishing at its peak just yet, the Smokies are an excellent choice for good fishing and solitude. The dry fly action is at best on the warmest forecasted days. The higher elevation streams will be fishing nearly two weeks behind on fly patterns, and in terms of action. The best bet is to hit lower elevation sections of the Oconaluftee River, Deep Creek, Noland Creek, Forney Creek, and Hazel Creek.

Best flies for trout are:

Light Hendricksons #12-16, Dark Hendricksons #12-16, Sulpher dries #12-14, March Browns #10-14, Red Quill dries #14-16, Quill Gordon dries #12-14, Olive Elk Hair Caddis #12-16, Cinnamon Elk Hair Caddis in #12-16,  Little Black Caddis in #14-16, Little Winter Stonefly nymphs in #14-18, Little Winter Stonefly dries in #14-18, Blue Winged Olives in #18-22, Quill Gordon nymphs #12-14, Pheasant Tail Nymphs #12-18, Hares Ear nymphs #12-16, egg patterns in #10-12, Rainbow Warriors in #14-20, Caddis Pupae #14-18, and cream midges in #22-26. For Streamer patterns, black and olive Woolly Buggers in sizes #6-8, dark brown and Olive Sculpins in #6-8, white, black, and olive Zonkers #6-10, Game Changers in #4-8, yellow Zoo Coungars #4-8, and yellow Kiwi Muddlers #6-10.

Good luck this week. Remember the best presentations in early Spring are always slow ones. Just because it feels like Summer is around the bend, the water temperatures are still fairly cold so fish won’t be as aggressive as we may hope, and a slower presentation will get you more bites.

See you on the water!

By Eugene Shuler

Fishing Guides, Outfitters and Trout Ponds in Bryson City, Cherokee and the North Carolina Smoky Mountains

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Nantahala Outdoor Center - Fishing

13077 Hwy 19 W
Bryson City, NC 28713
TF 800-232-7238
Nantahala Outdoor Center is located on the banks of the famous Nantahala River. We are surrounded by hundreds of miles of some of the Southeast's best trout and smallmouth streams and we are just a stone's throw from Fontana Lake. If the lake or stream you're thinking of fishing is in far WNC, our guides have fished it.

Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited

Contact: Ronnie Parris
1012 E Alarka Rd
Bryson City, NC 28713
Phone 828-488-9711
Mobile 828-736-9471
Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited Guided fishing & camping trips. We offer fly fishing, spin fishing, lake fishing, camping and boathouse camping trips. All bait and equipment is furnished. A shore lunch is provided for full-day trips. Half day trips are also available. Open year round.

Endless River Adventures - Fishing

14157 Hwy 19 W
Bryson City, NC 28713
Local 828-488-6199
TF 800-224-RAFT (7238)
Fax 828-488-2259
Endless River Adventures offers full and half-day fly fishing adventures for both beginning and experienced anglers. Options include float trips on the Nantahala River, as well as wade trips on the Upper Nantahala for trout; float and wade trips on the Tuckasegee River and Little Tennessee River for trout and small mouth bass. All equipment, rods, reels, waders and wading boots are included. Over 20 years experience in Western North Carolina. Licensed by the US Forest Service. Complete fly fishing shop.

Fly Fishing the Smokies

Contact: Eugene Shuler
Po Box 291
Bryson City, NC 28713
Phone 828-488-7665
Phone 828-421-0172
Fly Fishing the Smokies Learn to fish in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, North Carolina. Discover the majestic streams and mountains while enjoying a day of guided fly fishing with some of the Great Smoky Mountains best fly fishing guides. Since 1999, we have guided anglers of all ages and skill levels to some of the most beautiful trout streams in all of the southeastern United States. We offer Wade Trips, Float Trips, our Signature Beginner Classes, Back Country Camping and the option of Half Day and Full Day Trips. We have something for everyone and for every budget. Call for reservations, we look forward to hearing from you!

Simonds Bait & Tackle Shop

Contact: Ann Parton
1085 Main St
Bryson City, NC 28713
Phone 828-488-6854
Located on the Tuckaseigee River. Live bait: shinners, trout fingerlings (seasonally), nightcrawlers, wax worms, meal worms, and crickets. Complete line of tackle for lake, river, and fly fishing. Locally hand tied flies. Single hook lures for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.Fishing license. On site taxidermy (fish only). Open year round.

Nantahala On The Fly

Contact: Dakota Rogers
12121 Hwy 19 West
Bryson City, NC 28713
Phone 828-736-0784
Phone 828-361-9386
TF 800-468-7238
Specializing in fishing the waters of Western North Carolina. We offer fly fishing trips for the beginner to the expert level fisherman on all the most popular streams. Wade or float trips are offered for full or half day with lunch included. Let us help you plan the trip of your dreams. All equipment provided. Camping Cabins available. Nantahala On The Fly is a Carolina Outfitters, Inc. Company licensed by the US Forest Service.

Cooper Creek Trout Farm & Catch-out Pond

3365 Cooper Creek Rd
Bryson City, NC 28713
Phone 828-488-2500
This full service trout farm offers all the amenities in a beautiful mountain setting that includes hiking trails, waterfalls, and picnic tables. No license required, no limit, and all fishing equipment is provided. Guided fishing tours are also available. Stay an hour or the entire day!

Fontana Guide Service - Fishing

Contact: Kyle Fronrath
3336 Balltown Rd.
Bryson City, NC 28713
Mobile 828-736-2318
Fontana Guide Service - Fishing We'll show you the best fishing in the rivers & lakes of the Great Smoky Mountains. Fish with International Game Fish Association Professional Guides. Half day & full day trips are offered for any species of fish in the Smokies. Pontoon boat, kayak & paddle board, wade & walk, and night fishing trips are offered year round. Choose fly fishing or spinning tackle with top of the line gear. We provide everything. We have a trip for any skill level or budget. HD photos & videos of your trip available upon request. Ask about our lodging packages.

Root Hog Fishing Guide Service

Contact: Dwight Pigman
1892 Hwy 28 N
Almond, NC 28702
Phone 828-862-7958
We are a licensed fishing guide service with over 25 years of guide experience. We are available for 8, 6, and 4-hour fishing excursions for up to 4 people maximum per trip, 7 days a week, year-round. Call us for more information on available times and for reservations and scheduling information.

AB's Fly Fishing Guide Service

Contact: Alex Bell
60 Bristol Drive
Sylva, NC 28779
Mobile 828-226-3833
A premier guide service located in the beautiful Smoky mountains of Western NC - the most picturesque trout waters east of the Mississippi River. We accommodate the serious angler as well as the beginner. Learn when and where to catch trout while taking in the soothing waters of Western NC. We are committed to making this your best experience on the water.

Tumbling Waters Campground & Trout Pond

1612 Panther Creek Rd
Almond, NC 28702
Phone 828-479-3814
Located on Panther Creek, 1-1/2 miles off NC 28, between Bryson City and Fontana Dam. Trout farm. Free pole, bait and cleaning! Trout $3.00 per pound. Open March 16th to November 30th. Also a campground.

153 Charters

Contact: Cpt. James McManus
2013 East Fork Rd.
Sylva, NC 28779
Phone 828-421-8125
Complete Fishing Guide service. Specializing in area lakes for Bass, Walleye and Trout. Thirty years experience at Fontana Lake. Can take anyone from novice to expert. We provide all bait, tackle, lunch, drinks and snacks. Top of the line equipment, Lowrance Units, Minn Kota, Penn, Abu Garcia, 22' Panga CC w/145 Yamaha. USCG Licensed

Great Smoky Mountain Bait & Tackle

Contact: Joanne Parton
4740 Hwy 19W
Bryson City, NC 28713
Phone 828-488-8920
Fax 828-488-0545
Fully stocked with all of your fishing needs. Great Smoky Mountain Bait & Tackle has everything you would need for a fishing excursion except the boat. We have a large stock of rods and reels and are a fully stocked bait shop. North Carolina annual and day pass fishing license sold here. Lake Fontana maps available.

Smoky Mountain Adventures, Inc.

Contact: Steve Claxton
Phone 828-736-7501
From April thru November, Steve Claxton takes small groups of 5-12 campers across Fontana Lake by pontoon to the remote North Shore area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a two-day guided outing. Everything is provided for hiking, fly fishing or just camping. Twenty years experience as a guide; fully insured, licensed and permitted by the GSMNP. Occasionally, day hikes are available.

Fishing regulations

To fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you must have either a valid North Carolina or Tennessee fishing license.

You can purchase a basic North Carolina license for a period of one day, three days or one year. The one-day cost for a resident is $5 (non-resident is $10); one year is $15 (non-resident is $30). A 3-day non-resident fee is $15. If you plan to fish for trout outside the National Park, an additional "trout stamp" is required at a cost of $10 (both resident and non-resident). Some of the trout streams are strictly catch-and-release.

For more information about North Carolina fishing, go to NC Fish & Wildlife's Online Fishing Regulations.

No license is required to fish in Cherokee Reservation waters, however a tribal permit is required. The cost is $10 per day; $17 for 2-day, $27 for 3-day, $47 for 5-day. Catch & Release Trophy Waters require an additional $75/year permit. Click here for more information, a list of locations in Cherokee that sell fishing permits or to purchase a permit online.


Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce
& Visitor Center

210 Main Street
P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713


Karen Proctor Wilmot
Executive Director

800-867-9246 toll-free
828-488-3681 local
828-488-6858 fax