Culturally inclined and well preserved, Asheville is surrounded by majestic mountains, lush national forest lands and scores of fresh water rivers and streams. Long recognized for its art-deco architecture, performing arts and numerous music festivals, this mid-size city of about 84,000 has also become well known for its abundant trout fishing and is frequently referred to as the Trout Capital of the South.
And, you don’t have to go far to fish! The Davidson River, named after an early settler to the area and voted one of the top 100 trout streams in America by Trout Unlimited members, runs right alongside town. Less than an hour’s drive easily gets you to the Tuckasegee River. The South Fork Holston River (SoHo) considered one of the finest tailwater trout fisheries east of the Mississippi, and the Watuga River, also highly regarded, can be reached in 2 hours or less. By some estimates, there are over 4000 miles of public waters within driving distance of Asheville.
Rivers like the Davidson are most popular during the spring and fall months although year round fishing is permitted in tailwaters. During the hot summer months you may find yourself competing with tubers, kayakers, canoeists, swimmers and people just enjoying a waterside picnic.
Steeped in history and surrounded by natural wonders, Asheville offers a wide variety of options to those not choosing to fish. These include:
- The Biltmore Estate, the largest single family home in the US
- Asheville Art Museum
- Black Mountain Golf Course
- Beer City Bicycles
- Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians
- Great Smokey Mountains National Park
- Appalachian Trail
There are several options for traveling to Asheville, including:
- Fly into Charlotte’s Douglas International Airport and drive for about 2 hours
- Fly into Piedmont Triad International Airport (serving Winston Salem, Greensboro and High Point) and drive for approximately 2 hours
- Fly into Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport and drive for approximately 2 hours
Only an hour outside of Asheville, all four sections of the Tuckasegee River are included on the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, five if you count the West Tuck - and there ... moreare only 15 spots on the trail list! In other words, this river has a lot to offer. Beginning at the confluence of the Panthertown and Greenland Creeks, the river flows for 60 miles until it joins the Little Tennessee. Its basin is sizeable, draining an estimated 655 miles.
The river is well stocked with brooks, browns and rainbows, although there are still wild fish throughout. State support for the river is generous with an estimated 50,000 fish added each season. Not surprisingly, the river boasts one of the highest fish counts in North Carolina, purportedly 9,000 fish per mile. Large numbers of rainbows and browns reach trophy proportion, both in weight and length.
Delayed harvest has been successfully employed through the 5 mile section between 107 Bridge and the riverside park in Dillsboro. As a result, this section is catch and release only, from October to June. That said, experts consider this the best place to achieve a “Tuckasegee Slam” where you reel in all three species in one spot.
One of the more inviting aspects of this river is its accessibility. Highway access is ample and parking is well marked and available for most of the river. The East Laporte Park to the 107 Bridge offers picnic tables and public restrooms. The river can be waded and floated in the middle and lower sections.
The headwaters of the 78.5 mile long Watauga, begin at Peak Mountain in North Carolina on the western slope of the Eastern Continental Divide, and end at its confluence with the South ... moreFork of the Holston River. This trout filled tributary of the Holston is a mere 1 hour, scenic drive from Asheville.
Managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) the Watauga, like most rivers in the watershed, is affected by dams, water releases and reservoirs. The Watauga Dam created the 6,430 acre Watauga Lake. Three miles further down river, are the much smaller Wilbur Dam and Lake, used during the summer to release water back into the river. The 20 mile tailwater from Wilbur Dam to Boone lake is the most prized trout fishing part of the river.
Like other tailwaters in the region, the temperature remains between 50 to 55 degrees most of the year, providing great habitat for trout. The Tennessee Valley Resource Authority (TVRA) stocks the tailwater with rainbows, brooks and browns alongside a small population of wild trout. Most fish are in the 12 inch range although much larger fish are there to be caught. Estimates range from 2,000 to 5,000 fish per mile.
Depending on water releases the river can be waded although it’s advisable to get a TVA discharge schedule before entering the water. Wading access can be limited since property holders own the riverbed and can deny entry. The water may be fished at any time from a small boat, although due to shallow pools, you may want to keep one generator running if you use a drift boat. The river is composed of a few fast runs and long sections of rifles but large, long pools can also be found.
There are three forks to the Holston River, but if you are into fishing for trout, the South Fork is the one you want. In less than two hours drive from Asheville, you can be fishing ... moreone of the finest tailwater trout waters east of the Mississippi. The 112 mile long South Fork Holston River, referred to as the SoHo, is part of the greater Tennessee River drainage basin, managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Oblivious to borders, the river starts in Virginia and ends at its confluence with the North Fork in Tennessee.
The South Holston Dam, the uppermost of three on the South Fork, created the landmark South Holston Lake. It is the tailwaters below the lake that have made this stretch of water so desirable. Here, the insects are humming, the favorable water temperature is uniform 12 months of the year and the fish are thriving.
Throughout the approximate 15 mile section below the dam, stocked rainbows, wild browns and smallmouth bass can be found. According to a recent Tennessee Wildlife Resource Authority (TVRA) survey, there are 5,000 to 6,000 trout per mile, averaging 12 inches in length; it’s not uncommon to find 20+ inches.
This is a river that is usually floated but can be waded depending on water levels. Because the TVA is constantly adjusting water flows, levels can change without notice and whether floating or wading, obtaining a release schedule and a skilled guide is highly recommended.
Before booking a trip keep in mind that sections of the river are closed to protect spawning browns between November and January, all trout 16-20 inches must be released and only one over 22 inches may be taken home.
A favorite among NC fishermen, the Davidson originates in the mountainous Pisgah National Forest, a scenic area surrounded by other national parks and preserved forest land. As the ... moreriver wends its way south and nears Asheville, it empties into the French Broad River. Since being included on the Trout Unlimited list of top 100 trout fishing streams in the nation, its popularity has grown, bringing an increasing number of out-of-state anglers.
Luckily the state works hard to keep the river healthy and the fish flourishing. The river is divided into sections based on the regulations that apply to each. From its headwaters to the confluence with Avery’s Creek, it’s wild fish only, fly fishing only and strictly catch and release. From Avery’s Creek to the national forest line, you’ll find hatchery supported brooks and rainbows.
The section between the Pisgah hatchery and Looking Glass Creek is what really draws fishermen to this river. Here you can expect to find clear, slow moving pools, few overhead obstructions and lots of hatches that support brooks, browns and rainbows, many over 18-inches long. Like other heavily fished waters, the fish can be cunning and despite their large numbers, hard to reel in.
Route 276, near the town of Pisgah, parallels the river, providing lots of public access. There are stretches of restricted private land, although there is a 3 mile section where you can purchase temporary fishing access. Much of the river can be waded and enjoyed with your feet in the water.