The Linville River is a trout fishery in western North Carolina that has unfortunately suffered from development but still offers some decent trout fishing, especially in the more remote section that runs through the Linville River Gorge.
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With this DIY guide, you’ll have all the insight you need to plan the perfect fly fishing trip to the Linville River.
Fly fishing the Linville River gorge in North Carolina
The Linville River is located just south of Linville, North Carolina, flowing from Lake James and offering several different opportunities for fly fishing. It’s a more moderately flowing stream, which is unusual for the area but not unheard of. Plus, the elevation adds natural gravity flow and helps increase oxygenation, which is what makes it such a great choice for trout fishing when you’re on the hunt for some nice rainbows and browns.
The Linville River runs along Highway 105 and U.S. 221. This small- to mid-size freestone stream wanders into National Parkland near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Linville Falls. The easy access means it is heavily stocked by state hatcheries but also heavily fished as well.
Linville River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Speaking of access, there’s plenty to be found on this stream, including from the Linville Gorge Wilderness that has several trails running to the falls and along the gorge. Then, the river carries on and goes over the falls, becoming faster and more turbulent at a much lower elevation. While there are trails here, it can be a difficult area to fish.
The Linville River has two dams and the tailwater (covered in our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Catawba River) requires boat access unless you’re really up for a challenge with wading. This area is also stocked by the state, so those who do traverse the area will find plenty of fish to be had.
This river offers year-round fishing with no real restrictions, although there are different times that you’ll find different catches, which we’ll discuss in a little bit. For now, just know that this river offers plenty of beautiful and well-stocked areas for fly fishing, even if you’re willing to take the challenge of heading into the gorge.
Best Places to Fish the Linville River
You can access the river from several different places, including the tailwaters near the Linville Dam and the access from Lake James. Follow along the park service roads for directions and parking access, or visit one of the many designated park areas, like the Linville Gorge Wilderness, where you will find parking and ample trails leading to the river.
If you are looking for the slow-flowing waters, stay away from the tailwater section and stick to the higher elevations. Once you cross the falls, the water gets a lot more fast-paced and it can be difficult to find good fishing unless the weather is just right. Plus, you might need a boat to access the more turbulent or fuller sections of the river, such as the oversized tailwaters.
Roadside access can be found just about everywhere along the upstream part of the river, which flows near the Blue Ridge Parkway and several different access roads. You will also find roadside access upstream in Crossnore, along highway 221 and other nearby roads. Several steep trails provide access in the gorge, but those can be difficult to traverse and you might want to take a friend.
Best Time to Fish the Linville River
Although the season is open year-round in North Carolina, the streams are closed during March for state restocking operations. There are also some times of the year that you’ll have better luck on the river than others.
As with most fly fishing, spring is the best time to find a lot of good catches, thanks to the hatches on the Linville River. Summer is okay for angling, and especially if you go down into the gorge where the water stays cooler.
Fall is the best time to catch those big brown trout in the lower areas of the Linville River, and you can find some good catches during most of the winter days, as well. You’ll just have to watch for the waters to get too cold or for the water levels to be affected by the climate or seasons.
The winter months in the mountains can be unpredictable, so it’s important to plan accordingly. If you want to fish the more challenging areas in the Linville Gorge section, it’ll be best to come during the spring or fall when the weather is drier and there is less risk of dangerous terrain that could be slick, snow-covered, or icy.
Best Flies for Linville River
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Linville River:
- 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)
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Linville River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.
Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.
High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.
Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet. 3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.
Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable. If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.
Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market. Excellent foot and ankle support. Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.
Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!
Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats. Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish. Simply the best nets on the market.
Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam. If you need more storage - you have too many flies!
Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.
Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.
The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes. Game changer.
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Linville River Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Linville River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:
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
Those coming to the Linville River will be just outside of Linville and Morganton, with access via nearby 126, State Route 70, and I-40. Because I-40 is close, lodging and dining are easy to find along the way.
Those flying into North Carolina will want to fly into Charlotte or Asheville. It is recommended to rent a car to reach the river and travel throughout the region if you aren’t driving.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in North Carolina
Feature image by Tim Lumley