Fly Fishing Small Streams in the Southern Appalachians

By Becky Hulsey

If you are looking to get away from it all, look no further than the picturesque small streams of Western North Carolina. There is a plethora of streams to choose from here. You can trek through the Great Smoky Mountains, hike around Standing Indian, or climb up Snowbird. There are plenty more places to mention to fly fish in this area. I often wonder if anyone has ever seen them all in their lifetime.

Summer is my favorite time of year to wet wade, which means no waders. Just some quick dry pants/shorts and wading socks/boots or wet wading sandals. I load up my trusty lanyard with the nippers, hemostats, flotant, couple of spools of tippet, and a small fly box filled with dry flies and a couple nymphs. Dry flies for the Southern Appalachians…Oh, let that roll off your tongue! Lowe’s Rattler, Yellow Palmer, and Hazel Creek are some tried and true flies that I have presented to entice the wild trout of these cascading streams. I am so thankful David and I got to meet and visit with Roger Lowe when he had his fly shop in Waynesville. You could feel the historic presence just walking in and to see Roger tying up flies at his desk was a delight that I will always remember. For nymph patterns, you cannot go wrong with the Tellico nymph or Yallerhammer wet fly. Roger Lowe’s Fly Pattern Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and Tying & Fishing Southern Appalachian Trout Flies by Don Howell and Kevin Howell are two must have fly tying books for the Appalachian angler or fly tyer. I believe you can catch Roger Lowe at Brookings Anglers in Cashiers and Kevin Howell at Davidson River Outfitters in Pisgah Forest.

As I continue preparing for my trip, I will gather a backpack with water, food, and other essentials like a couple of 7 ½ foot 5X or 6X monofilament leaders. After my favorite southern fly patterns, I look forward to getting out my small stream rods. Sometimes it is a tough decision to go with either my bamboo or fiberglass rod. I like to use a 6 ½ foot 3 weight with an old Orvis CFO click and pawl reel or my father’s vintage Hardy reel for casting flies in small streams. You are less likely to get snagged in the rhododendrons or mountain laurels by going with a shorter rod. I like casting a slower action rod in these streams for a delicate presentation with no drag, especially since the wild trout seem pretty keen on what looks natural to them. Keep your casting simple. No need to double haul here and you will rarely overhead cast either. Water haul, bow and arrow, or roll casting are typical casts for small streams. I also will present the fly on my back cast if having difficulty getting my fly where I need to on the forward cast. The only other equipment you might need is a hiking stick or wading staff. I have found staffs to have many uses like waving off unwanted wildlife.

Be sure to check out the North Carolina Wildlife website or the Great Smoky Mountains visitor centers to get information on stream fishing regulations. Always watch where you place your hands and feet. For that matter, be aware of your surroundings for wildlife or changes in the weather. Most of all, while you are fishing up the stream look around and take in what is around you. We happened to be fishing up Noland Creek when a nice sulfur hatch was coming off. It looked like little yellow sparkles all over the creek. Definitely time to get out your sulfur patterns. Some folks have a yearly tradition of heading to the Davidson River when the Green Drake hatch is expected. Anyway, I could go on and on about Western North Carolina fishing. David and I have been blessed to make many memories, caught many fish, and made many friends while exploring these streams. We hope you will get out your favorite small stream rod and go cast a Southern Appalachian dry fly there too. As always, visit your local fly shops and guides to learn more about fishing these majestic mountain streams.

Give David and Becky Hulsey a call at (770) 639-4001 to book a class or a guided trout trip. Visit their website at