Delayed Harvest on the North Mills River

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

Because it looks and fishes a lot like a high-mountain wild trout stream, the North Mills is a personal favorite delayed harvest fishery. The bonus is, North Carolina keeps it chock full of rainbows, brookies, and browns that are larger than the little wild rainbows you’ll catch on most wild streams of its size.

The North Mills is one of the smallest delayed harvest streams in the system. From October into June it is managed under catch-and-release, artificial only regulations. One would think the kill-and-grill crowd would clean the fish out of a creek this size as soon as DH regulations ended and harvest was allowed. That’s probably true on the lower end of the North Mills. Not so much on the upper end. I’ve had banner days up there deep into the summer.

It is small water. Skinny pocket water and plunge pools require anglers to use their small rod and a good roll cast. A friend once brought his 5-weight into the top end of the North Mills because it was already rigged and he was too lazy to string up his small rod at the truck. It was a mistake. I repeatedly gave him first crack at the best holes because he hadn’t caught much. Just about every time, he would hang up in the rhododendron allowing me to move in and catch the fish while he played monkey in the trees. If you can, convince your buddy to bring his big rod. It’ll equate to more fish for you.

The North Mills Recreation Area is a pay-to-park area on North Mills Road. The camping area there is popular during the summer, and there will likely be swimmers and tubers in the water on this lower end of the publicly accessible water when the weather is nice. The river upstream and downstream of the recreation area is larger than it is higher up toward the reservoir, so it can be a good place to fish when recreational traffic is down. During the delayed harvest season, this stretch gets the most fish from the hatchery as well as much of the fishing pressure.

On the upper end, the North Mills is really a medium sized creek. It does not receive as much fishing pressure because access is difficult to find and requires a short but relatively steep hike. There is a trail that runs almost the entire length of the river from one of the lower parking areas to the reservoir. This trail can be accessed less than a mile downstream of the Hendersonville Reservoir Dam via a walk of less than a mile from a gravel parking area at the end of Wash Creek Road (FR 5000). This is the Trace Ridge trailhead parking area.

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

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