TRAVEL GUIDE TO BRYSON CITY AND THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
THINGS TO DO IN THE SMOKIES
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
If 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).
Regenia Sheperd of Knoxville TN with a 21 inch Rainbow Trout from the Oconaluftee River.
Picking the perfect fly rod may be harder than you might think. Ask any fly angler in the Smoky Mountains what fly rod is best, and there is no telling how many different answers you will get. There are several factors you must consider when choosing a fly rod, let alone, trying to figure out what all the jargon on the side of a fly rod means. Choosing the perfect fly rod will need to be a two part article, as there is much to know.
The most common question is what length fly rod is best. This really depends on where you will be fishing. Generally speaking the larger the stream or river, the longer fly rod you will need. However longer fly rods are a huge advantage when fishing many medium sized streams too. The extra length of a fly rod helps you with fly placement and mending line. Keeping line upstream of your fly in order to get the flies to drift naturally through the water is key to catching trout. Longer fly rods also help with setting the hook. The longer the fly rod, the faster you can set the hook. Wild trout found here in the mountains strike very quick, so we need all the help we can get! On large water like the Tuckasegee River and Nantahala River, most fly anglers like to use either a 9' or 10' fly rod. For small streams such as ones in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can’t get a long fly rod threaded through the bushes and laurels walking in, not mention try to cast it in the thick canopy. Of course a shorter fly rod are best in those situations. Rods of 6' -7.5' are the norm on the smaller creeks. Streams such as Deep Creek and Noland Creek, an 8' to 9' fly rod is perfect.
Fly rod action is also a topic of varying preferences and opinions. You have soft action rods to very fast rods, and everything in between. It honestly can be confusing for the uninitiated. One thing is for certain; If you cannot feel a fly rod loading under the pressure and weight of the fly line, it will be difficult to make good fly casts, especially when you're just learning. Avoid very fast rods if you are just getting into fly fishing, or fishing where you will be making shorter casts. A good starting point is to cast rods that are designated as Medium to Med-fast action. These rods allow you to feel what is going on with your cast and will offer the best of both worlds.
Rod action and length are personal preference, and there is no right or wrong, only what you feel will be the perfect tool for you. If you are in the market, make sure to test cast several before deciding on your next “weapon of mass fish destruction”! What is right for one person, may not be right for you.
The Tuckasegee River and Nantahala River Delayed Harvest sections will be stocked this week with massive amounts of Rainbow, Brown, and Brook trout. The fishing will be incredible for the next several weeks on both stretches! The rivers in Cherokee are stocked twice each week, the most of any streams in the southeast, and fishing season is open in Cherokee during March!
Quill Gordons, the first major mayfly hatch of the season, are upon us. The Tuckasegee , Nantahala, and Oconaluftee Rivers have already begun seeing good hatches of “Gordons” this past week. We expect the lower elevation streams in the Smokies to be seeing them any day now. The best trout fishing again this week will be from 9:00am until just before dark. The portions of rivers and streams which get full sun early in the day will offer the best fishing as the water tends to warm here first, and the best insect hatches will occur there. Overcast skies this will bring Blue Winged Olives and Caddis hatches. Anglers should see some good dry fly activity late in the afternoon until dark. Other productive fly patterns will be Blue Duns #14-18, Little Black Caddis in #16-18, Black Caddis Pupae in #16-18, Little Winter Stonefly nymphs in #16-20, Little Winter Stonefly dries in #14-18, Blue Winged Olives in #18-22, Quill Gordons in #12-14, egg patterns in #10-12, Rainbow Warriors in #14-20, and black midges in #22-26. For Streamer patterns try black and olive Woolly Buggers in sizes #6-8, dark brown Sculpins in #6-8, and black Rabbit Strip Zonkers in #6-10. Work your streamer flies with short fast strips combined with a slight pause between strips through likely holding water. The faster mid sections of the stream will be good for Rainbows, and Browns will be along the slower water next to ledges, logs, and drop offs. During midafternoon, actively feeding fish will be in the tail-outs of long pools and riffle water looking for Blue Winged Olives, Quill Gordons, Blue Duns, Little Winter Stoneflies and black Caddis.
Fontana Lake is hot this week for Walleye, Smallmouth, Largemouth, and Crappie. The top choice for bank fishing is still catching fish with live night-crawler rigs working the along the edges of the shoreline. Working Pig and Jig with football head jigs down muddy banks and points next to deep drop offs are pulling in good sized Largemouth. Smallmouth bass are being caught in 30-45 feet of water near rocky bottoms and rocky cover with Carolina Rigged worms. Walleye are still best caught by jigging live night crawlers deep near rock walls, and trolling deep running crank baits and plastic minnows near creek and river mouths. Depths of holding Walleye are varying all over the lake, but is dependent on thermocline temperature.
Remember to check area fishing regulations as March Madness applies to fishing too. Regulations and season closures will vary between watersheds and designations. Know the regulations before you make that first cast.
See you on the water!
By Eugene Shuler
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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.
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