North Carolina fishing

So, my wife and I are planning a holiday trip to North Carolina. Our first holiday since 2002 and my first time back there since I was a child (my mom’s family is from there). We plan on being there a week, likely in September and we have a few things planned already. One of the National Parks that I’ve never visited is Great Smokey Mountains National Park and right now we’re planning on camping at least two nights there.

I know a number of you here have fished there or do fish in North Carolina regularly and I was hoping to get some recommendations of where to go. I’ll likely only have 2-4 hours to fish each day, so I’m not looking for anything that’s too difficult to get to.



I’ve been looking at the area near Cherokee for a potential trip.

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As with almost every single area I to explore with a tenkara rod, I get a guide book of the streams in the area. A guide book does not need electricity, you can take it with you.

I’ve fished the Smokey Mountain National Park out of a guide book at had so much fun! Alone. No one helped me.

I think people on the scene are a great way to do it too. Do both, buy a guide book, and go fishing with a local.

One of the great things about a guide book is you can compare what you did with what is written in the book, sort of a baseline. Then you know what the book is about, the point of reference.

Good luck on your trip, have fun and bring it back.

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That’s an interesting idea, Adam; no judgement, just interesting. I say that for two reasons. The first is because the last time I bought a guide book was when we went on our honeymoon (no, not that kind of guide book :wink:). The second is because I thought a few people here had mentioned North Carolina before (though I could be misremembering that). But it’s something to consider.

I’m going to have to think about it and see what I can find out there.

Not sure what to say to that except there are a lot of guidebooks out there, I have an excellent one on the Smokey Mountain Streams. I used it, it worked for me.

It was mainly that I haven’t thought about using a guide book for a long time. Because it’s been so long I just hadn’t thought about it, but it seemed like a good idea.

Look up Jim Casada, he is THE author for smokies fishing.
I have a buddy who fishes tenkara and runs a fly shop/guide service out of Cherokee. Justin Hunt, Rivers Edge Outfitters. He’s a great dude, and he fishes a crap ton in and very near the park.

When are you looking to go? That’s only 4-5hrs away from me, depending on traffic, maybe I could meet up with you?
EDIT- I see now you’re looking at September. Whoa that’s a long way’s out, plenty of time to put together a solid plan.
Smokemont is the nicest frontcountry campground on the NC side, and the only one that you can make reservations for individual sites at (not just group). Actually I think you can reserve in Cataloochee too, and it’s supposed to be really nice. Will you be doing front or backcountry? If you want to see more than just one small part of the park, you will want to stay somewhere on or very close to 441, so that you can cross over to the other side.
September can go either way- if it’s a rough summer like we had in 2016, the fishing may be terrible, with low water levels. We’re having a great winter with lots of snow up that way, so hopefully that continues and this summer is a good one. October (late) is when the fall colors start, and that’s prob the busiest time of the year for the park and that region.
Balsam Mountain campground is one I’ve been wanting to check out- it’s the highest elev frontcountry site w/ bathroom in the park.

Bryson City is a great little city with a couple nice places to eat, two breweries (Mountain Layers is awesome!), Great Smoky (no “e”) Mountain Railroad, and a nice fly shop. It’s right outside the Deep Creek portion of the park, which is cut off from the rest of GSMNP.
Cherokee is suuuuuuuuuuper touristy, you should avoid it other than passing through, or going to Rivers Edge Outfitters (my preferred fly shop on NC side of the park). Cherokee is at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center entrance to the park, where Smokemont is, and 441 which takes you over to TN.
Asheville is awesome, about an hour up the road. LOADS of good beer and food. Maggie Valley is just outside Cataloochee, and somewhat isolated.

I mostly have experience on the NC side, and haven’t been able to do nearly as much fishing in the park as I’d like to, but I have gathered a LOT of info over the years of research lol.

If you are staying in Cherokee/Bryson City/Smokemont, I would HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY suggest fishing the Straight Fork of the Raven Fork… Look it up. It’s a branch of the Raven Fork (river?) on the SE side of the park, comes out of one of the most remote sections of the park and flows into Cherokee. The Tribe stocks it with big dumb pellet heads in their section, but a very short distance into the park, and it’s all wild fish, all beautiful, and a great place to try for a slam. You drive up the dirt rd following the stream, and it’s one of the least-visited sections of the park, mostly just anglers go out there, since there is only fishing and hiking, and it’s serious hiking at that.


^ this is one of the things I enjoy about the Internet, people want to help. There are some really screwed up things about it too, this isn’t one of them.

That’s the book I used way back when I was fishing there, I will probably use it again or put out a request as you have.

Studying the area, the Internet, books, so many ways to do it. We navigated in the old days without GPS and did fine, made friends before the Internet, went on many adventures with out a phone. That’s where I start and move outward from there. Books will alway be a part of just about anything I do.

Well said and couldn’t agree with you more.

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Thanks everyone for the ideas. @Chris_Lynch I’ll be in touch with you more. We’re likely to stay only on the NC side and we’re only doing front country. I’ve got family in the Asheville - Hendersonville areas. We’re not into doing tourist related things, we prefer to avoid crowds and people who just want to go shopping. You can probably and realistically drop the latter half of that sentence. We’re most likely going to avoid Cherokee. My aunt recommended Cherokee and while I love her dearly, I also know she loves shopping, crowds, and “being seen,” so it was a little bit of a red flag for me (though I don’t deny we may miss good things there, we cannot see everything).

Bryson City area looks promising and the Raven Fork is one of the places I’ve been looking at so far. The way you describe it, sounds like exactly the type of place in looking for. Like you said, we’ve got plenty of time for planning.

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My spousal unit and I spent a week in Sylva, just south of Cherokee in the fall of 2016, right in time for the fires. Sylva is a quiet little town with good restaurants and central to several stream of various sizes. I hired a guide out of the fly shop in Sylva and had a good time on a stream north of Cherokee. I introduced him to tenkara and he seemed interested. There is a stream through town that is fun to fish and access to larger water, not sure of the name. Have fun.


The Oconaluftee River is the one that goes through Cherokee and flows out of GSMNP. I plan on using Cherokee as my base, because of the ease of finding lodging, and then heading to whatever blue line I choose. I figure 7 days there will give me enough time to explore the area and catch some fish.

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If you haven’t already discovered this link, you’ll be well served to take a look. It has a really good section detailing a ton of streams in the area.


Thanks for the additional tips and ideas @2Bornot2b AND @R_Ruff.

@mak1277 That website is great! Thanks much for sharing that, it will be very helpful in planning our trip and doing more research. Very much appreciated.

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Also try “Fly Fishing Trail” they offer a brochure with maps and other information.