3 Carolina fishing streams that delight the senses

Many mountain trout streams in the Carolinas offer not only the opportunity to catch beautiful trout, but they’re set in some of the most-beautiful scenery.
Many mountain trout streams in the Carolinas offer not only the opportunity to catch beautiful trout, but they’re set in some of the most-beautiful scenery.

The Carolinas offer trout fishermen plenty of opportunities in May; these are some of the best

May is an ideal time to head for a mountain stream. Creeksides are blanketed with Trillium in all its manifestations, Jack-in-the Pulpit, Showy Orchis, Bloodroot, Hepatica, Tick-Weed, Fringed Phacelia and a host of other spring beauties.

Streams are full due to the frequent and heavy winter rains. Fishing is productive from daylight to dark, and beginning in late April and continuing through May, at least 20 different hatches occur.

The following are three steams that are excellent fisheries and excellent places to see breathtaking scenery.

Big Creek

Big Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Haywood County, N.C., is a tributary of the West Fork Pigeon River. Large brown trout are prevalent in the lower section of the creek. The upper section has good populations of rainbow trout. Big Creek is a stair-step stream, with huge boulders and numerous plunge pools and waterfalls.

The fishing can be frustrating at times because you can look down from the trail and see scores of trout in the big pools. By the time you get down to the water to make a cast, the fish have disappeared. The best way to fish the stream is to stay in the water — where and when you can — and stealth-fish the big pools. The water is extremely clear, and the trout are easily spooked. This section is known for its white-fringed phacelia, which bloom from mid-April to mid-May. You can find large patches of ramps at the Walnut Bottoms section. Access is off I-40 west of Waynesville.

Bradley Fork

Bradley Fork is a tributary of the Oconaluftee River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Swain County, N.C. It is a jewel of a stream, with good numbers of rainbow and brown trout. Most of the browns are in the lower section near Smokemont Campground. A medium-sized stream, Bradley Fork has a nice mix of riffles, runs, pocket water, and small plunge pools. The trout don’t get big here — 10 to 11 inches is about the maximum — but they’re plentiful. A good trail runs alongside the stream for about 2 miles. From Cherokee, follow US 441 north to the entrance of Smokemont Campground, which is about one mile from the park entrance. Drive through the campground to a parking area for anglers at the far end. Bradley Fork Trail follows the creek about 7 miles.

Whitewater River

The Whitewater River is in the Jocassee Gorges area in Oconee County, S.C. It is noted for its breathtaking waterfalls. Both the Upper and Lower Whitewater Falls drop 400 feet and are considered the most scenic falls in the Southeast.

The upper section of the river has a mix of rainbow and brown trout — mostly stocked — and the lower section is wild trout territory. The entire river is protected in the Jocassee Gorges Project. Access to the river is from the Bad Creek Hydroelectric Facility off SC 130. The trail to the river starts at a gated parking area that is open for access only during daylight hours but always open for departure. The stream is about a half-mile hike from the parking area and has good access from trails on the east and west sides that follow the entire length of the river.

What to tie on

Area fishing guides recommend the following flies for late April and May:

Hendrickson (all day), Red Quill, Female Adams,  brown and gray Caddis (all day), March Brown (all day mid-May), Light Cahill (afternoons and evenings) Yellow Midge (early May), Sulphur (early May afternoon and evening), Black Soft Hackle (early May), Cream Midge (mid-May), Blue-Winged Olive (early afternoon mid-May), Adams (early afternoon mid-May), Paradrake and White Wulff  (late May evenings) and Stone Fly nymph (mid-morning, early May).

Hatchery-supported streams in western North Carolina opened April 6 and will remain open until the end of February 2020. According the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 93,000 rainbow, brook and brown trout will be stocked in most hatchery-supported streams through June. Most of the stocked trout (96 percent) average 10 inches, and four percent are 14 inches and longer. Creel limit is seven per day with no size limits or bait restrictions.

The Commission has a stocking schedule by county on its website: www.ncwildlife.org.

Fishing plunge pools

The water in plunge pools in steep sections of trout streams is often so clear that trout are extremely spooky. You have to approach these pools in a stealth-like manner, almost like you’re stalking a game animal. Don’t let them see you first, and make that first cast count.

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Robert Satterwhite
About Robert Satterwhite 177 Articles
Bob Satterwhite has been writing about the outdoors, particularly trout fishing, for more than 25 years. A native of Morganton, N.C., he lives in Cullowhee, N.C., close to the Tuckasegee River, Caney Fork, Moses Creek, and several other prime trout streams.