North Carolina Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the North Mills River in North Carolina

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 21, 2024

North Mills River fishing map

The North Mills River is one of the smaller delayed-harvest streams in western North Carolina but it’s full of stocked rainbows, brookies and browns that will keep you happy all day long.

Have you been thinking about planning your own fly fishing getaway? Perhaps you’re new to the hobby and just looking for a cheaper way to try it out than an expensive guided tour. No matter what your reasons are, we’re here to help. 

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to have a great fly fishing experience on the North Mills River. Fly fishing can be relaxing and a lot of fun at the same time, and when you know where to go for the best catches, it gets even better. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

About North Mills River

Fly fishing the North Mills River and the Raven Fork in western North Carolina

The North Mills River is one of the newest streams to be added to the Delayed Harvest program in the state. This mountain freestone stream is also among the best of the state’s conservation efforts, with much work done to improve the stream for wildlife access and habitation. It offers stocked rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout. 

This small stream is easy to access and offers good wading levels along its length. It offers a forest canopy that is great to get the fish to come out, but sometimes makes a good cast a little challenging.

The best fishing will be found in the upper part of the North Mills River, but there’s a lot of water to cover that’s worth exploring. This water comes down from a reservoir that flows over a dam, which means that it is often quick to warm up when the weather turns. 

Plus, the river is shallower, so it is often best fished in the cooler months of the year when the waters can stay cold enough to keep the trout happy. The North Mills River is located outside of Asheville, offering easy access via most major highways. It’s also part of the North Mills Recreation Area, which is clearly marked.

You’ll find parking in the recreation area, where you’ll register and pay a fee to fish before hitting the water. Keep reading to learn all about exactly where to go and when to visit to get the best experience, and what you’ll need to bring to ensure the fish are biting.

North Mills River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of best fishing spots on North Mills River in North Carolina

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

Best Places to Fish the North Mills River

The lower part of the stream is wider and shallower, which means it warms up faster and doesn’t offer a lot potential for hold-over trout. That said, it is stocked heavily and provides good action early in the season. If you want the best fishing in the North Mills River, you’ll want to focus your attention on the upper section of the river. 

You can wade in or hike along the shoreline from the Recreation Area, heading upstream through a couple of tight canopy sections. You’ll find some open areas where the creek is wider and will provide plentiful room for casting. Look for deep pools along the way, not only for fish but so that you don’t break an ankle. 

When you see the North Mills Recreation Area sign, you’ll drive about five miles down that road until it dead ends. This is where you’ll find the parking lot and registration area, and where you can wade into the river to get started on your fishing. 

Feel free to walk up and down the river to test out different areas and see which ones are best for you. The “hot spots” can change from day to day in a fickle, shallower river like this.

Best Time to Fish the North Mills River

You will always find ample opportunities for catching great trout on the early spring days as the hatches are happening. This is prime time for trout in almost every trout fishery in the eastern US, including North Carolina. Spring offers cooler water and plentiful food, which means the fish are less likely to be spooked or discriminate about what they’re eating. 

The summer gets too warm in lower areas of this river for any good fishing. And remember with the delayed-harvest regulations, you can’t keep fish in certain areas during the months of June through September. Once things cool down in October, though, you’ll again find the fishing picks up and the trout are more eager trout to take a fly. 

Winter offers some potential, but again this depends on the temperatures. If it’s too cool, the fish won’t be biting as much. Check the weather reports, but for the most part, we’ve been having mild winters that make for much better fishing opportunities.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the North Mills River. The USGS stream gauge near Mills River, NC provide a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.


  • Temperature: 71.78 ° F
  • Streamflow: 50.4 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 1.64 ft
Temperature GraphStreamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Flies for North Mills River

The trout in this river, like most of the trout in the state, are in tune with the local hatches. Mayfly, caddis and stonefly imitations will get their attention with ease. Simple attractor dry flies will usually do the trick. Just remember to keep some streamers and nymphs on hand case you need to try something different. 

Specific imitations are going to be more successful in catching holdovers that are larger in size. Streamers that imitate sculpin will definitely be a great choice for bigger catches in this river, as well.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the North Mills 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 7-1/2-foot 3-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the North Mills River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

North Mills River Fishing Report

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

Fishing Regulations

The stream is managed under delayed-harvest regulations. From October into June it is catch-and-release, single-hook, artificial lures only.  June through September, it is open under hatchery-supported 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

The North Mills River is located just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, providing easy access for those traveling from out of town. There is plentiful lodging in the city, as well as along the highway on the way to the river. You’ll also find dining, fishing and outdoor shops, and more. 

You’ll need a car to get to the designated parking area in this rural river. If you are flying in, make sure that you rent one. Weather doesn’t usually impede travel, but you’ll still want to check the forecast to make sure it’s good for fishing.

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