Wilson Creek

Wilson Creek is a national treasure and offers top notch fishing for all three species of trout. (Picture by L. Woodrow Ross)

On Aug. 18, 2000, Wilson Creek joined the ranks of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers. In a matter of a few miles, it changes from a typical North Carolina freestone stream to a beautiful gorge that features huge rock features and deep pools, interspersed with short stretches of riffles. The upper reaches are difficult to access and are identified by NCWRC as a wild trout section.

The lower gorge is only 2 miles long, but is heavily stocked and can yield an occasional trophy sized fish. The juxtaposition of the house-sized boulders and deep pools is sure to resonate with any fisherman. In addition, it offers an opportunity to see and photograph animals, such as turkeys, deer and otters.

Travel details

Wilson Creek is located approximately 13 miles north/northeast of Morganton, NC. From Morganton, travel northwest on highway 181 for approximately 8 miles. Turn right on Brown’s Mountain Beach Road and travel about 5 miles northeast to Wilson Creek. The road at that point turns sharply north and parallels Wilson Creek.

In between the gorges and the upper headwaters are some private residences. Access is limited and requires careful entry.

A heavily stocked delayed harvest section sits below the gorges and the game land boundaries, offering 31/2 miles of fishing.


Wilson Creek is a favorite destination of Clark Thurston, a Greenville, SC resident. Thurston is an Associate Scientist at Precision Genetics, and when time permits, he frequents the clear, cold water of Wilson Creek. He is finishing his studies at Clemson University and has taken on a full time role at Precision Genetics. It is a safe bet that as time permits he will be spending more time on Wilson Creek and surrounding trout waters.

Thurston keeps a busy schedule, dividing his time between work, a budding musical presence and finding time for his family. I must admit that I am somewhat biased, as he is my grandson.

Fly recommendations by Thurston for Wilson Creek include: dry fly such as Adams, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis and Midge patterns.

All three major species of trout can be caught in Wilson Creek.

Fish populations in the headwaters include brook trout, rainbows and browns. The lower gorge area is also stocked with abundant trout and all three species can be caught there.

Thurston concentrates on the lower gorges area. The varied water depth is a challenge for wading, as some of the larger pools are too deep. The wider open stretches allow for longer casts, and that is definitely an advantage, as the clear water allows trout to see the caster if he is too close.

Area fly shops

Several fly shops in the area can provide information on current conditions and fly selection. In the process of communicating with several of them, I contacted Upper Creek Anglers in Morganton, NC, and found that the shop was founded by John Zimmerman, an English school teacher at Patton High School and Taylor Sharp, a former student. Together, they founded castingforhope.org, a charitable organization that supports cancer patients. This occurred 8 years ago and they are thriving.

This was a labor of love, as both had experienced the death of family members due to cancer. They have used fly fishing as a tool to raise money to combat the ravages of cancer and make life better for many.

Kathy Haney, the Executive Director relayed some details about the organization and their fundraising efforts. They have some private water and each year they conduct a fishing tournament. This year, it will be April 14 – 16. The entry fee is $200 and the competition is for teams of two. Entries may be made jointly, or single entries will be paired with another fisherman for the competition. Online registration is already underway. Entries will be restricted to 40 anglers. Youth participation is encouraged in preparation for Team USA Fly Fishing competition.

A unique connection came to light in researching this article. Thurston, who fishes in the area is also involved in research of the genetic intricacies of cancer. We can only hope that all efforts to defeat this dreaded disease will be successful.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply