DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Linville River in North Carolina

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.

Still interested? Good!

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. 

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.

Linville River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing spots on the Linville River in North Carolina

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

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.

Fly Box - What You'll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Linville 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)

Nymphs

  • 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)

Streamers

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

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:

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

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

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