western north carolina fly fishing
First, your Guides will fully equip you with gear when you are with them on the water. However, you may wish to come prepared to fish on your own without a Guide or you may simply prefer to bring your personal favorites. If you do decide to venture out on your own at any point, don’t be afraid to ask for guidance as we have a wealth of knowledge including river recommendations, fly selection and presentation techniques that we are eager to share.
All rods should be equipped with appropriately sized reels and will fish well with Weight-Forward Floating Line. Leader and tippet materials can range from 4x in some of the Private and Trophy sections all the way down to 7x on places like the Davidson where the water can be gin-clear and the fish very educated and wary. The savy Davidson Trout also calls for tapered leaders with minimal knots while adding your tippet. Knots add to the drag in the water can lead to unnatural drifts - these are smart Trout! Additionally, a heavy streamer may only require up to 7’ leaders but the skittish Davidson Trout can require 12’ to 15’ leaders.
9’ 5-weight is the most versatile for presenting dries, nymphs and heavy streamers. However, some of the Private and Trophy Waters fish more comfortably with a 6-weight and dry fly presentation can be more effective with a 4-weight so whatever makes you comfortable between 4- and 6-weights should be appropriate.
Tight Line nymphers may prefer to bring along a 10’ as there are plenty of opportunities – and frequently the need – to reach a little further into or over a line, seam or pool to hit the proper feeding lane. Tenkara is also a great way to find that perfect drift.
For some of the smaller, tighter, rhododendron-bordered streams require something a little small and a little lighter. 6’ to 8’ 2- to 3-weight rods are perfect for bow-and-arrow casts between and under the vegetation and are much more maneuverable as you are stalking the skittish Southern Appalachian Brook Trout.
Flies themselves are best acquired locally because there are many local variations such as a little hackle, purple, flash, foam or rubber to well-known flies that allow the Angler to have a more productive day. However, to have a general sense for what to expect at any point during their year, please peruse North Carolina Wildlife's and Trout Unlimited’s Hatch Chart.
Stocking Foot Waders and either felt-bottomed and/or studded wading boots are necessary. Neoprene waders may be overkill as you may quickly become overheated if you try to use them in anything other than the coldest conditions. Stocking Foot waders, with appropriate base layers underneath, provide you with the most flexibility for daily temperature fluctuations. Currently, North Carolina does not have any regulations limiting the use of felt-bottomed waders and given the moss and algae on the river beds, felt is highly effective in maintaining your footing.
A wading belt may seem excessive but if you go down while you're wading, knee-deep water with a current can fill your waders almost immediately and pull you downsteam in the blink of an eye. Perhaps the current will pull you to the shore or a gravel bar it probably will not. If you are fishing at the head of a pool or above a fallen tree providing excellent cover for some trout, guess where you're going. A good belt - NOT the flimsy one that comes with your waders - but a heavy duty belt makes it harder for your waders to fill and will give you a few more seconds if you go over. Feel free to go fancy but I have a quick-release nylon tool belt from a well-known big-box hardware store whose co-founder was fortunate enough to be on the sidelines to watch his Falcons fall in the final moments of a Super Bowl.
Polarized sun glasses are an absolute necessity for fishing out on the water. They not only shield your eyes on a bright sunny day but the polarization allows you see through the surface reflection of a piercingly blue mountain sky not only to see the trout but also, and perhaps more importantly, to see where you are placing your feet while wading. Wading through a rocky stream can feel like walking through your kids’ rooms with your eyes closed so having the right pair of sun glasses helps to minimize that risk. AND, don't forget the strap! Hundreds of dollars worth of sunglasses disappear into rivers while folks are changing over flies and their reading glasses.
reels, line, leader & tippet
waders and wading boots
Wading Staffs are an optional piece of gear but even if your mobility and balance are exceptional, having a “third leg” to keep you upright is always advised. While it rarely gets bitter cold in the region, the water temps can reach the mid 30’s in mid- to late-winter and can be crippling if you go over and go in. Consider packing it if you have the space. If not, any Outfitter in the area will sell Wading Staffs or telescoping Trekking Poles designed for hiking but well-suited for wading. Plus, Trekking Poles come in pairs so you will have a spare.
polarized sunglasses and strap
You may not take this seriously but please consider it. The East Outlet of the Kennebec River has some very easy wading just above some very deep pools and while it could not possibly happen, imaging losing your footing while wading or changing out a fly or nymph rig and going over just above the Beach Pool. An exceptional Guide in Rangeley, ME named Tom Welch of Magalloway Guide Service demonstrated an Onyx M16 Inflatable Belt Pack and it is just enough to get you to shore just in case. At least consider it.
inflatable life jacket