North Carolina Fly Fishing 5 min read

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

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

March 6, 2021

South Toe River in North Carolina

Have you been in the market for a new hobby? Perhaps you’ve tried fly fishing in the past and are just looking for new excursions. Some people just like the idea of planning their own trip over hiring a professional guide. 

No matter what you’re looking for, this guide to fly fishing the South Toe River has you covered. We’ll help you learn where to go, when to go, and what to take to ensure you have the best time on the water. If you’ve been looking to relax and enjoy nature, it’s time to start planning.

About South Toe River

Hiking along the South Toe River in North Carolina

The South Toe River is a small to midsize freestone stream located in the western part of the state near Burnsville. It offers good access for fly fishing with year-round regulations in place. The river starts at Mt. Mitchell, formed by two streams on the mountain and flowing down across the Blue Ridge Parkway

This river also gets water from Hemphill Creek, Rock Creek, Lower Creek, and Upper Creek. In the lower section, it joins with the North Toe River to flow into the Toe River for a very short distance. Then, it flows into the Nolichucky River. 

The South Toe River offers several different areas of access, including a section that flows through Pisgah Game Lands. Certain sections are designated as catch and release and artificial lures only, namely downstream from the Black Mountain Campground to the game lands border. 

South Toe River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of the best fishing spots on the South Toe River in North Carolina

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

Several other creeks flow into the river as it flows downstream and there is even a hatchery-supported section located below where it meets Clear Creek. You’ll find brook trout, brown trout, and rainbows in this river, with a mixture of wild and stocked trout in the hatchery sections and mostly wild trout with a few stray holdovers in the rest of the river. 

We’ll talk about some of these larger creeks in other guides, but just know that they’re all part of the reason that the South Toe River has so much to offer when it comes to fly fishing. The river itself has plenty of great spots, but the fact that you can combine several trips into one definitely makes it a hit. 

Plus, if you visit more than once, you’ll have to make quite a few trips before you find yourself fishing in the same area twice. There’s a little debate over which populations are most prevalent, but you’ll find all three kinds of trout throughout, offering plenty of fly fishing enjoyment.

Best Places to Fish the South Toe River

You can access the river without much difficulty throughout its length, but although the road crosses it in several places, you might still find yourself hiking in for the best fishing spots. Forest Service Road #472 offers some access to the upper part of the river, running alongside it for about five miles before ending at the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

In this area where there isn’t much practical access, it’s best to park, hike downstream, and then fish your way back upstream. It’s on a decline, so there are plenty of runs and plunges that drain into small pools. In the catch and release section that runs to the game land border, which is just over a mile long, you’ll find lots of good fishing, too. 

Below the campground, there’s a confluence of several other streams. This is where you will find wild trout regulations back in place. There are also several prime fishing spots in this three-mile stretch. 

Then, of course, there’s the stocked section below Clear Creek, which you can access from State Road 1169, or Halls Chapel Road. Celo Clinic Road offers access, as does State Road 80. While most of the access comes from the Forest Service Road mentioned above, there are other options on this river.

Best Time to Fish the South Toe River

Spring offers the best fishing in the South Toe River, which isn’t surprising to most people. After all, the aquatic insect hatches are what get the trout’s attention, and the water temperatures are perfect. This river does offer some good fishing in the headwaters during the summer months. 

Other areas may get too warm during the summer, but once fall comes, the conditions improve. Fall is second to spring when it comes to the best times to fish. In winter, you’ll find some trout on warmer days, but the hikes may prove to be more treacherous, especially near the headwaters at Mt. Mitchell. 

Although this stream offers a decent amount of cover with its location flowing down from the mountains, it may still be better to fish at dawn or dusk to provide more cover for yourself. This is a popular area and fishing is good, but if the water is too clear the fish may be easily spooked. 

Consider fishing on days with more cloud cover, too, since the sun will give the trout more to be skittish about. If you want a true fly fishing experience, you want to come between March and May.

Best Flies for South Toe River

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

Gear Recommendations

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

South Toe River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a South 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

This river crosses highway 19 and runs along State Road 80 for a decent length. Burnsville is the nearest town, with Spruce Pine located just to the east. Therefore, if you’re driving in, it will be easy to get to the area so that you can get out on the water. 

Lodging and accommodations can be found along the major highways, and locals coming from Asheville will enjoy a day trip or a nice weekend excursion with only about an hour of travel. Mt. Mitchell is the highest mountain in the eastern U.S., so it sees a lot of tourism during the warmer months. Consider planning your trip during another time for a quieter outing on the river.

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

Feature image by Timothy Brown