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How To Fly Fish the WNC Backcountry

How To Fly Fish the WNC Backcountry

Tuesday, 01 August 2023 08:12

Hundreds of miles of truly wild trout water can be found in western North Carolina. From high-altitude native brook trout to streams with wild brown and rainbow trout, there’s something for everyone. Some secret fishing locations are right off the beaten path, while others are miles away and hardly fished. 

Backcountry fly fishing lets anglers take on new challenges away from what can be crowded waters in our area. In these areas, you will often find some of the most beautiful trout in the world. The colors on these fish will be the perfect representation of how trout species should appear. 

Many of the streams within the backcountry of western North Carolina are remote and difficult to get to. 

Although maps of the area can provide the locations of many of the streams and rivers that are available, unless you are familiar with the mountain roads, public lands, and areas where fly fishing is not allowed, then it is imperative that you have one of our professional guides at  Turning Stone's Fly Fishing to lead you to success. 

Fly Fish the WNC Backcountry

Although there are many opportunities to fish the backcountry of western North Carolina on daylong adventures, if you wish to take full advantage of all the wonders of true backcountry fly fishing in WNC, consider going on a camping/fly fishing excursion in the more remote sections of the national forests. 

This article will focus primarily on steps you can take to make a successful camping trip to fully access those remote mountain streams.

The Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest, as well as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, offer hundreds of miles of backcountry hiking trails, with both dispersed camping areas and more established campsites, many of which access some of the best and most remote trout streams found in the eastern United States.

However, adding the camping component to your backcountry fly-fishing adventure will add an additional layer of logistical problems that you will need to mitigate for the trip to be a success. Not only will you need to select the proper fishing gear to take with you, but you will also need to pack everything you need for your extended stay in the forest, depending on how many days you plan to be there.

How To Plan a Backcountry Fly Fishing Trip in WNC

Here is a list of things that you should do to ensure your fly-fishing camping trip is a success, as summarized below.

  • Prioritize the Planning Process:  Begin to plan your trip a couple of months before. Start looking for areas to fish and avoid only using the computer to do so. Reach out to other anglers that may be more familiar with the area you wish to fish. Ask questions at area fly fishing stores or contact Turning Stone's Fly Fishing. Contact the local Forest Ranger Station for camping and permit requirements.
  • Use the Right Fishing Tackle: In most cases, backcountry fishing will mean you are fishing smaller streams, so a four or 5-weight rod and comparable reel should work the best. Only bring the bare essentials to save space, including a small net. Consider bringing the minimum amount of flies, such as stimulators, hare’s ear nymphs, and hoppers, for example.
  • Backpacking Is Not Camping: When it comes to camping gear, backpacking is not the same as camping. Think lightweight and minimal. Utilize a small, one-person tent or basic tarp and hammock and a lightweight sleeping bag. Consider a small stove and sterno or a jet boil system. Pack small meals and bring a water purifier instead of packing in a lot of water.  Add a basic first aid kit, extra clothes, and a personal hygiene kit. Be a minimalist by bringing only what you need.
  • Know the Area:  During preplanning, research the area you will be traveling to. Know the topography, timber types, wildlife, and potential hazards, as well as stream conditions and hazards.
  • Embrace the Wild: Remember that when you are in the backcountry, you are in some of the most remote and wild areas in the country. Take in everything that the area offers, not just trout fishing but the forests around you, wild plants and edible plants, and wildlife. Truly appreciate the world around you as you fish the backcountry streams.
  • Iron Out the Logistics: Plan your trip on paper. Select trails and fishing sites on maps. Double-check your transportation to and from the trailhead. Write down emergency numbers, ranger station locations, and camping areas, and let people know where you are going and when you expect to get back.
  • Maximize Fishing, Minimize Travel: Remember that you are doing all of this in order to fish, so plan your trails and camping locations around the streams that you wish to explore and fish.
  • Learn to Properly Read a Topographic Map: This takes a little practice and should be a part of your preplanning process. You should have a map of the area with you, including a paper copy as well as a digital aerial photograph and GPS system. The paper copy will be very important in case you lose phone service in a remote location.

Turning Stones Fly Fishing Is Your Key to How to Fly Fish in WNC Backcountry

All of the guides here at Turning Stone's Fly Fishing live for fishing backcountry locations and would love to work with you to plan the perfect fly fishing trip into the backcountry of western North Carolina.

With that being said, western North Carolina has hundreds upon hundreds of miles of truly wild trout water. There’s a wide variety available, from high-altitude native brook trout to streams holding wild brown and rainbow trout. Some are right along the road, while others are miles off of the beaten path and seldom fly-fished. 

Our guides all have a soft spot for this type of fishing and know plenty of great spots to get away from the crowds. When you take one of these guided fly fishing trips, you need to know that most of the fish will be small, in the 6- to 12-inch range. The trophy is not the size here; it is knowing that you fooled a fish on the fly that has probably never seen the human hand -- and that is worth its weight in gold.  

If you wish to experience the excellent trout waters found in the WNC backcountry in the search for brown, rainbow, and brook trout, then book a trip with Turning Stone’s Fly Fishing today. For more information, contact us today.

Written by:

Gordon began fly fishing as a teenager in southwestern Pennsylvania, where he was raised. He has snagged great catches from as far away as Nevada, California, and Belize. However, he and his wife decided to settle in western North Carolina, where they started Turning Stones. Gordon is a Certified Casting Instructor for the Federation of Fly Fishers and the  Southeastern Coach of the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team.