Delayed Harvest on The East Fork of the French Broad

(An abbreviated excerpt from “Flyfisher’s Guide to North Carolina & Georgia”)

If it weren’t for the East Fork of the French Broad, it’d be easy to say public access to trout water on private property was a thing of the past. This medium to large flow runs roadside and is hemmed in by private holdings, yet it is one of North Carolina’s most popular delayed harvest streams. It draws anglers from North Carolina and from across the nearby borders with South Carolina and Georgia because it is heavily stocked and offers easy access to easy wading.

Somehow, someone convinced property owners along East Fork Road southeast of Rosman, N.C. to allow anglers to fish the creek. There are small signs that read “Public Access For Fishing Only” and remind anglers to respect the access landowners have generously provided. Those are signs a lot of us would like to see a lot more of, but slobs tend to ruin such things. The East Fork French Broad is a shining example of what can be achieved with strict management and landowner cooperation.

This creek, where it runs through a rural setting of valley farms and fields, is typical of a lower elevation trout stream, with long slow runs, big bend pools and extended stretches of shallow riffles. There are also three significant sets of cascading falls with large holes at their bases.

Easy access and easy wading in pretty water kept brimming trout does not go unnoticed. On weekdays or in nasty weather, it might be possible to have stretches of the creek to yourself, but count on sharing water during the October into June delayed harvest season.

The standard colorful and flashy DH flies would suffice to fish this creek with a 4- or 5-weight. But the trout see a lot of flies. This means they sometimes reward anglers who fish something natural, like caddis, quills and other mayflies that come off in spring. And don’t hesitate to try something completely outlandish. There are some larger fish in the creek, and big Western flies sometimes get noticed by trout that aren’t quite sure what they’re supposed to be eating.

There are about 5 miles of water managed as delayed harvest from Glady Fork down to the confluence that forms the French Broad proper. Not all of this is accessible to the public. East Fork Road runs east off of U.S. 178 south of Rosman. East Fork Road crosses the Middle Fork of the French Broad and then the East Fork. Public access begins at this first bridge over the East Fork and continues upstream. There are, however, several posted parcels within this stretch that should be avoided. Just get in the vehicle and find another pullout like the one marked by this GPS waypoint: 35.133958, -82.794207. There is plenty of river that is not posted.

For GPS coordinates to access points and detailed maps of all North Carolina’s and Georgia’s best trout water, check out “Flyfishers Guide to North Carolina & Georgia.” It is available at fly shops, on Amazon, and signed copies are available from the author by emailing

Coastal Angler & The Angler Magazine