Great Smoky Mountains National Park 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Forney Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 21, 2024

Forney Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fly fishing is a great excursion and North Carolina is home to some of the best destinations out there. If you’ve never planned your own fly fishing trip, you’re not alone and you aren’t stuck to figure it out yourself. We’re here to help with a comprehensive guide to fly fishing Forney Creek. 

There are professional guides that can take you on fly fishing excursions, but part of the fun is in relaxing and enjoying your quiet time– why would you want to take a stranger along? Use this guide to learn all about how to plan your own trip and you’ll be on your way in no time. We’ll cover all the details so you can have the perfect getaway.

About Forney Creek

Fly fishing Forney Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Forney Creek is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a difficult area to access and requires a lot of hiking or a ride across Fontana Lake. However, once you cross the lake, you can find great fishing in the lower sections. If you’re going to this creek, the first thing that you need to remember is that you want to pack the least amount of gear possible. 

For example, if you go during the late spring or early summer, you could skip packing heavy waders and plan to wet wade instead. Campsites 68, 69, 70, and 74 are all on Forney Creek, so you can stay at them or just use them as landmarks to find your way into the water. This creek is also enclosed by a lot of tree limbs and rough brush, so open casting is hard to come by. 

Short upstream casts work best in this water, anyway, so that is beneficial. However, you’ll still need to find room to move around and hide when you’re casting to keep the easily-spooked fish from running off. Most of the stream is filled with short runs and small pools with water that moves quickly, creating drift whether you like it or not. 

Forney Creek is one that is ideal for the remote adventurer or someone who is more advanced in fishing and hiking and who wants the ultimate trip through the Smokies. Forney Creek is home to wild browns and rainbow trout. 

Located inside the park, this creek offers year-round fishing opportunities that follow the wild regulations for the state of North Carolina. For those who want a challenge, it should definitely be on the list.

Forney Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on Forney Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish Forney Creek

The headwaters of Forney Creek are rarely fished, but can be reached from Clingmans dome if you are up for the hike. You can also hike into the lower reaches of this stream from Lake Shore Road which comes out of Bryson City. This is a 3.5-mile hike, though, and requires navigating a dark tunnel so keep that in mind. 

Crossing the lake by boat will take you to an entrance near campsite 74, which still requires somewhat of a hike to gain access. The best way to explore this creek is to follow the campsites and look for the few open, less-covered areas that offer room for easier casting. 

This is not a creek where you’ll be able to follow the crowds or have to worry about avoiding them. In fact, when we have been there, it’s been a ghost town, reserved only for the bravest of the brave who are willing to put in a lot of effort to find this challenging creek. 

If you’re looking for the same adventure with less difficult access, consider the tributary streams that are closer to the main road or not as hidden by canopy and cover. However, if you want a true backcountry adventure, Forney Creek should definitely be your destination.

Best Time to Fish Forney Creek

You can enjoy year-round fishing in this creek, which follows wild trout regulations. The spring offers the best fishing, like most trout streams in the Smokies, because the insect hatches have the fish active and paying attention. If you want to get the best catches once you finally reach the creek, this is the best time to go. 

The summer will find some good fishing in the headwaters, especially, because the lower elevation of the other waters makes them too warm. The headwaters remain cool and offer plenty of potential. It’s a popular time to visit the National Park, though, so be prepared to deal with tourists and other visitors. 

Fall is one of the best times to fish Forney Creek, and especially for those who choose a camping adventure in the backcountry. Late-night and early-morning fly fishing is a great way to enjoy the brown trout spawn and capitalize on getting the best catches. There is the opportunity to fish this creek during the winter, but with the difficult access, it’s probably not worth the trip.

Best Flies for Forney Creek

The fish in this creek don’t see a lot of flies.  Therefore, simple generic dry flies will typically work, but there are times when you may have better results using nymphs and buggers. 

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Forney Creek:

Dry Flies

  • Yellow Sally (#12 – 16)
  • Yellow Humpy (#10 – 18)
  • Parachute Sulphur (#14 – 18)
  • Parachute Adams (#12 – 22)
  • Light Cahill (#10 – 18)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#8 – 16)
  • Yellows Stimulator (#8 – 14)
  • Chernobyl Ant (#8 – 12)
  • Griffith’s Gnat (#16 – 24)


  • Pheasant Tail (#12 – 20)
  • BH Hare’s Ear (#12 – 20)
  • Rainbow Warrior (#14 – 22)
  • Pat’s Rubber Legs (#4 – 12)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6 – 10)
  • Tellico Nymph (#12 – 18)
  • Zebra Midge (#16 – 22)
  • WD40 (#16-20)
  • Y2K Egg (#12 – 16)


  • BH Wooly Bugger (#2 – 6)
  • Sculpzilla (#4)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Forney Creek. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Forney Creek Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Forney Creek fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of North Carolina requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.

You can purchase a North Carolina state fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Trip Planning Tips

Getting to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the access to Forney Creek is easy. There are plenty of main roads, highways, and even lodging and dining options along the way. Bryson City and Fontana Village are nearby for everything that you need, and you can fly into Asheville or McGhee Tyson (75-85 miles away) if you’re coming from out of town. 

If you’re planning to camp in the backcountry, don’t go alone. Make sure that you pack light, check the weather and Park Service information, and let people know which campsite you will be at in case of an emergency. This is a difficult creek and extra safety is required.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in North Carolina

Feature image by Chris Barron