Fly Fishing Wilson Creek North Carolina

By James Marsh

Wilson Creek, a tributary of the Johns River, flows from its headwaters on Grandfather Mountain near the Blue Ridge Parkway above Edgemont, North Carolina. It is a National Wild and Scenic River. The creek flows through several different sections of private and public lands. For purposes of fly fishing, there are two basic sections. Wilson Creek in the Wilson Creek Gorge area, and the upper Wilson Creek headwaters.

The lower section in the gorge is just over two miles long. Just above the gorge is more public water mixed in with private sections of the stream. The lower end of the gorge section ends at the Brown Mountain Beach Campground. The creek in this section is rather large, with deep pools and short sections of riffles. It’s heavily stocked by the state. Ralph Winchester Road follows the creek through the gorge up to state highway #90 but access is not exactly easy. The road runs high above the water and you have to follow steep trails down to the stream. Above the gorge, there’s another mile plus, of public access mixed in with private property.

Fly fishing Wilson Creek, in its headwaters where the stream is managed as wild trout water, is well worth the effort. It’s fly fishing only, single hook artificial – catch and release regulations. It has a good population of both wild rainbows and brown trout. There are some brook trout in its uppermost headwaters.

The upper part of Wilson Creek is more typical of the small to medium size freestone, mountain trout stream with runs, riffles, plunges and short pools. The only problem with this section of Wilson Creek, if you want to consider it a problem, is access. You have to hike to reach any of its water, although it can be reached in one area with about a half-mile hike. Downstream of Forest Service Road #192, Forest Service Trail 258 follows the creek through the public lands, but reaching its fishable waters can require a long hike depending on where it’s accessed. You should have a map for sure because the trails that reach the creek are rather complicated.

There are other small tributary streams in the area such as Buck Timber Creek and Cary Flat Branch. The trails range in length from a half mile to three miles from the trailhead to the stream, depending on which one, or combination of trails, you select. Although Wilson Creek is a little difficult to access in its upper parts, it’s well worth fishing. It’s lightly pressured and it seems to have a good population of trout.

Wilson Creek also has a “Delayed Harvest Section” that runs for three and a half miles from the game land boundary downstream of the Lost Cove Creek bridge on state highway #90 and follows state road #1328 to the Phillips Branch bridge. This has become a very popular area to fish. It’s heavily stocked with rainbows, brook trout, and brown trout.

There are two other main tributaries of Wilson Creek – North and South Harper Creeks and Lost Cove Creek. Both of these streams and their tributaries are large enough to warrant their own article. Lost Cove Creek is an excellent, small wild trout stream.


The season runs year-round.


Trout can be caught on most warm winter days.


Fly fishing Wilson Creek during the springtime isgood due to the hatches of aquatic insects.


Summertime is okay in the headwaters.


Fall is a beautiful time to fish this stream.

Fly Line:

You would probably want a 4 or 5 weight fly line for your dry fly fishing on Wilson Creek. You could get by using a 5 weight floating fly line for everything. Many anglers that fish heavy nymphs and streamers would want a 6 weight fly line but it wouldn’t be absolutely necessary.

Fly Rod:

I would suggest a rod for the 4, 5 or 6 5 weight lines that is nine feet in length, in a medium to medium fast action.

Fly Reel:

The reel for the four or the five weight rod should have a decent drag. It should be smooth. A disc drag that adjusts in fine increments would be best. The reel for the six weight line should fit the same description.


You should probably be using at least a 7 and half foot leader anywhere you fish Wilson Creek. There are situation where you would want to go up to 9 feet. I would suggest having them in sizes ranging from 1X for streamers, up to 6X for small dry flies and midges, in both the 7 and half and 9 foot lengths.


You should have extra tippet in sizes ranging from 1X to 6X.

James Marsh has made his living fishing since 1980 through hosting and producing the first ever national syndicated weekly TV series on saltwater fishing for five years; hosting and producing forty-six instructional saltwater fishing videos more of which have been sold on saltwater fishing than anyone’s in the world; and for the past twenty-two years hosting and producing nineteen instructional videos on fly fishing and founding the Perfect Fly Company.