Anglers who want a new challenge often look to fly fishing. This hobby can provide a whole new world of adventures in fishing and North Carolina is home to some of the best rivers, creeks, and streams for it. While there are several guides that can show you the way, sometimes it’s more fun to go it alone.
In this guide, we’ll help you plan the perfect DIY fly fishing trip to Straight Fork, a great trout stream located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll learn where to go, when to go, and what to expect when you arrive. In no time, you’ll have the ideal trip planned and be on your way. Let’s dive in.
Fly fishing the Straight Fork in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Straight Fork is one of the many trout streams that traverse the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, it’s also one that’s quite hidden to the average visitor. The locals know where to find it and the Cherokee Nation residents will be able to point you in the right direction because it is normally accessible by passing through their lands where it combines with the Raven Fork.
This beautiful stream is not heavily fished, but then neither are most of the streams in the actual National Park boundaries. It’s beautiful, and it is easily accessible from Straight Fork Road where it meets the park entrance at the fish hatchery. Of course, this isn’t for stocking the creek-- the catch is all wild.
The hatchery operations are used in water outside of the park for raising trout outside of the park grounds to use in other locations. The lower five miles or so of the Straight Fork creek runs along the road, and then it veers off into heavy brush and some less-than-pleasant terrain.
Straight Fork Map and Fishing Access Sites
The stream in general offers shallow waters that are great for wading and it is wide enough to cast a good fly line. While there are several streams that go overlooked in the park, Straight Fork is probably one of the best for trout fishing that’s worth checking out. Plus, you’ll never have to fight crowds and you’ll be able to explore the park at the same time.
In this creek, you’ll find brook trout in the upper part, but there are also some rainbows and browns to be had. As we mentioned, everything is wild, and the creek provides good year-round access for those who want to fish. The mountains can be a bit treacherous in the winter months if you’re not careful, but the weather is generally mild in the areas around the creek.
Best Places to Fish the Straight Fork
It’s best to access the stream from Straight Fork Road that enters the park, where you’ll find ample parking and plenty of walk-in access to the stream. The waters are good here and you’ll find plenty of trout, although you might want to wander a bit away from the road to find the fish that may be spooked by the public parkland population.
Look for the few miles of stream that run near Straight Fork Road upstream if you want the best catches, but you’ll really find something in just about every area. That is, of course, with the exception of the area that runs near the hatchery, as the activity from the hatchery often scares the fish into other areas of the creek.
For the most part, people park on the road or in the park itself, and then wade or hike up the stream to get to the less accessible areas. It’s a little rough, but worth the trip. You’ll find rainbows, browns, and brook trout throughout most areas of the creek. You can also access the creek from Balsam Mountain Road, which is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Best Time to Fish the Straight Fork
There are plenty of options at this year-round creek if you’re looking to plan a trip. Thanks to the mountain setting, fly fishing can be good just about every single day if the weather is right. Of course, you’ll tend to have better odds if you come during the spring months when the hatches are fresh and the fish are most active.
Even during hot summers, Straight Fork Creek is sheltered by heavy tree cover, so the water stays cool enough to allow for good fishing. In the fall, you’ll enjoy more eager fish as the waters cool and the beautiful colors of nature surrounding you in technicolor. Upstream is the best during these months.
Winter does offer some opportunities for good fishing, so long as the weather is warm enough. The creek is easily accessible, so there are no real seasonal terrain issues to consider, either.
Best Flies for Straight Fork Creek
The insect hatches are this stream are limited as the stream bed routinely gets scoured during heavy rains. That said the wild and native trout that reside here will eagerly rise to a well presented dry fly.
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Straight Fork:
- 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 Straight Fork. 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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Straight Fork Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Straight Fork 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
There’s less to worry about in terms of travel when you choose a destination like this that’s in a National Park. There will be plentiful lodging and food options nearby, along with camping options throughout the park. Plus, you’ll be minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which provides access to the entire region.
You’ll do well to get a car if you’re flying into the area because you’ll need to drive into the park. Make sure you check for any current park restrictions or updates before you go since the National Park Service can change things with short notice.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in North Carolina