North Carolina Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Horsepasture River in North Carolina

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 21, 2024

waterfall on Horsepasture River in western North Carolina

Fly fishing is a great hobby enjoyed by many. The U.S. is home to plenty of great trout streams that offer all kinds of fishing excursions, from mild to challenging and everything in between. Plus, you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional guide to show you the best places to go. 

With our guide, you’ll be able to plan your own DIY fly fishing trip to the Horsepasture River in North Carolina. First, we’ll talk about the stream and what it offers in terms of fly fishing. Then, we’ll help you learn where to go and when to plan your trip for the best chances of great catches.

About Horsepasture River

Horsepasture River in western North Carolina is best known for beautiful waterfalls and kayaking but wild trout lurk here as well

The Horsepasture River is known for its wild rainbows, but it also has a decent population of wild brown trout. This is the shortest river that is part of the National Wild and Scenic River system. It runs just over four miles. 

The Horsepasture River is known for hiking and its waterfalls, not necessarily fly fishing. However, it’s a very good freestone stream that offers some good access and fish populations. It has five waterfalls within two miles of each other and plenty of rapids, cascades, and pools that will keep the trout moving. 

Of course, if you travel during the summer and warmer months, most of the pools will be filled with swimmers and the entire area will be abundant with hikers and adventurers who have no interest in the trout or whether they’re being disturbed. Fortunately, the best times to fish are usually anytime but the summer, so that works for everyone. 

This stream is wider than most and is best described as heavy pocket water. It flows around Gorges State Park, not into it, and there are several different areas of access where you can find both public and state lands. 

This river is unique in that it is so small, and yet still impressively wide and offering a wide range of fishing, from pools and runs to rapids and more. The river is easy to find from the major highways and for those who want to hike in, Gorges State Park will offer access to the trail system even though the river doesn’t run directly through the park. 

The reports of this being a popular stream for rainbows are skewed by some reviews that say browns are more prevalent, but the verdict is the same: the catches are good when you come at the right time and fish in the best places. So, what places are those?

Horsepasture River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing spots on Horsepasture River in North Carolina

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

Best Places to Fish the Horsepasture River

You will find fair access to the Horsepasture River, no matter what section you choose to visit. It’s located on the edge of Gorges State Park and it forms above Lake Sapphire before flowing downstream across private property and to the Highway 281 bridge. This is the first public access point. 

As mentioned, you can find access to the trail system in Gorges State Park, but you will have to hike a distance to reach the various fishing access areas of the river. Fortunately, you can trust that access won’t be that difficult as plenty of tourists seem to find their way every summer. 

Check out the area near the falls and the trail access point that is located on Bohaynee Road. The river runs through the Pisgah National Forest, so there should be signs for the trail system and the river itself, making it easy to find. This short river offers only four miles, but they’re four great miles where you will find plenty of fish to catch. 

Although you can gain access near the waterfalls, some of the best fishing will be found further downstream from them where things mellow out and the trout have somewhere to relax and hide.

Best Time to Fish the Horsepasture River

We already discussed the popularity among tourists and how you may struggle to find a quiet space to cast a line during the summer. Although it is possible to find some good catches, it might not be worth battling the crowds that are there to hike, swim, or otherwise disturb the quiet fishing excursion you had in mind. 

Spring is the best, of course, thanks to hatches and aquatic insects. These are big hits in North Carolina, and even when the trout are not rising to dry flies, you can always count on a well presented nymph. During the winter, you may find a nice day here or there where you can hit the water, too. 

Although the season runs year-round, some obvious considerations must go into planning your trip. The fall is another good time when you can guarantee great catches and a hearty trout population, and you might miss most of the tourists by this point. 

The later in the year it gets, the colder the climate gets and fishing becomes more difficult until spring comes again. You’ll also want to stick to days with good cloud cover, or fishing when the sun isn’t high in the sky so you aren’t casting shadows along with your line.

Best Flies for Horsepasture River

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Horsepasture River:

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 the Horsepasture River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Horsepasture River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Horsepasture River 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

Cashiers, North Carolina is the closest town to the Horsepasture River, which also isn’t far from Hendersonville. You’ll find access right from Highway 64, which runs into Asheville via Hendersonville, and also offers plenty of lodging and dining along the way. 

Since you’re in National parkland territory, you’ll find plenty of camping, as well. Those flying in will find the closest destination to be Asheville, but other destinations are within a couple of hours’ drive. Make sure you have a car even if you don’t drive in.

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

Feature image by Jim Liestman