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

The North Toe River in Yancey County, North Carolina is an often overlooked trout fishery with a lot to offer.  With a mix of wild and stocked rainbow and brown trout, some of which get to be decent sized, the North Toe River is definitely worth a visit. 

Whether you’re new to fly fishing or just looking for a new trip, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll discuss where to go, what to take, and when it’s best to head to the North Toe River for a little fly fishing. You’ll find plenty of ways to relax and enjoy nature in this state. Fly fishing is one of the best, so let’s get started.

Fly fishing the North Toe River in North Carolina

The North Toe River starts in Plumtree and heads south to Spruce Pine where it then turns west and heads north toward Tennessee where it ends at the confluence with the Nolichucky River. Along the way it picks up its better known sister the South Toe River.

In the northern sections of the river, there are plenty of trout of both the brown and rainbow variety. There are some trout in the lower sections, along with a selection of smallmouth bass and musky. 

Trout fishing is best done from Spruce Pine upstream. The upper section is managed by the state’s stocking program and other private clubs to ensure a fresh, robust trout population at all times of the year. The delayed harvest area begins in the center of Spruce Pine and heads a couple of miles downriver, which is where anglers will find plenty of access. 

North Toe River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map fishing spots on the North Toe River in North Carolina

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

The river has some of the coldest, clearest water of the creeks and streams in the area, offering the right climate to provide for excellent trout fishing. You’ll even find some brook trout in certain areas of the North Toe River. Be forewarned that many sections right near Spruce Pine are private. 

Fortunately, landowners are good about posting signs to keep trespassers out. Just be sure to obey them-- the last thing you want is to be a disrespectful visitor. This river offers plenty of beautiful scenery and easy roadside access in most areas. 

You can also wade in this river, and make it to most of the best areas on foot. It’s longer than some of the nearby rivers and streams and is a medium-sized stream that is home to plenty of great angling no matter where you go.

Best Places to Fish the North Toe River

You should start near Spruce Pine and head upriver, where the hatchery-supported waters are well-stocked and access is plentiful. You can find access for boats onto this river, as well, which is helpful for the slightly deeper areas. Be sure to check water levels when choosing your location. 

There is plenty of trail access and roadside access along Roses Branch Road where the river runs into Rose Creek. You’ll want to pay attention to signs to determine whether you’re finding boat access or wade-in access, as it varies from one area to the next. 

The area at the lower section of the river has a lot of smallmouth bass if you want something different while you’re here, but honestly, you’ll have plenty of fun with the trout if you go to the sections we’ve mentioned here. 

Another important reminder here-- don’t wander onto private property by accident. Map out your trip ahead of time and if you see “no trespassing” signs, heed the warning. If you’re not sure, ask or avoid it and go somewhere that is obviously public access.

Best Time to Fish the North Toe River

Spring and fall are the best times for trout, as usual, and in the spring you’ll find plenty of bugs hatching to keep their attention. The fall offers great weather and plenty of activity where the trout are spawning, as well. 

You’ll want to avoid the river during the warmer days of summer as the fishing slows down, even in the well-stocked areas. This river does remain colder than most, making it a better choice during several times of year than other nearby options. 

You will find the opportunity to catch some good trout when you go during the winter, so long as the days aren’t too cold and the conditions aren’t too treacherous. Be careful if you are traveling during this time of year. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that this clear stream is best fished under the cover of darkness or clouds, so the time of day and cloud cover can have an impact on how well your day goes on the water.

Best Flies for North Toe River

The stocked trout in the North Toe River, in particular in the delayed-harvest section, are not too picky.  Most general attractor dry fly and flashy nymph patterns will do the trick.  The wild fish are bit more selective and may require you to more closely match-the-hatch.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the North Toe 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)

Need flies? 

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. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- 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)

Gear Recommendations

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

Need Gear? 

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.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

North Toe River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a North Toe 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 who are visiting the river will find some dining and other accommodations right in Spruce Pine and other nearby towns and cities. Of course, since it’s more remote, it may require a drive so you’ll want to rent a car if you fly in. Speaking of flying, you’ll be closest to Asheville for flights. 

There is plenty of camping in the area, along with private cabin rentals if you want something a little more remote. Feel free to check out the accommodations on I-26 or I-40 coming out of Asheville, as well as those on 221 and the towns along the route.

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

Feature image REF

About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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