DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Tuckasegee River in North Carolina

Whether you are new to fly fishing or just looking for a new excursion, planning your own getaway can be a great choice. Fly fishing can be relaxing, fun, and a great way to explore the many creeks, streams, and rivers in the country. North Carolina is home to some of the best. 

Forget paying a guide or having someone try to tell you “their way” to fish the Tuckasegee River and others. With this guide, we’ll tell you where to fish, when you should go, and where you’ll find the best action on the stream, no matter what you’re looking to catch.

Some friendly competition fly fishing on the Tuckasegee River

This river gets its start in the mountains, where several tributary streams join to create two forks, known as East and West. Both branches of the river are dammed, creating a cold water discharge that combines into a single river for trout that offers year-round fishing. There are several areas of this river to consider adding to your bucket list. 

First, of course, you need to know all about the river and what it offers. For starters, this river is a lot like some western tailwaters in several ways, offering rock ledges and lots of riffles and runs, making ideal trout feeding grounds which means you’ve also got prime fishing grounds. The scenery might be different, but the water is very similar to other streams and creeks in the area. 

The most popular areas of this river are the two Delayed Harvest sections which spans for about seven miles combined. Most of the creek is easy to wade, so long as the dam isn’t running. Small drift boats can be used in some areas when the waters are high or the dams are releasing water. Make sure that you check water levels before you plan a trip so that you’re prepared. 

The two different dams can affect the flows significantly, but there is also a scheduled list of discharges that you can follow to help you in your planning. If the flows are low, you can wade almost the entire river and find plenty of room for casting a good line. This is one of the first delayed harvest streams in the state and has proven the program successful. 

There is more pressure and crowding on this stream, but generally, it’s worth the experience.

Tuckasegee River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of boat ramps and fishing access points on the Tuckasegee River in North Carolina

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Best Places to Fish the Tuckasegee River

The most popular reach of the river is the upper delayed harvest section that starts in Webster at the lowest NC 107 crossing and continues down to the old dam site in Dillsboro. There are several parking pull-offs and options on North River Road, which means access is not an issue. You can also float this section when the water levels are high enough. 

There are a few miles below the delayed harvest section that are still prime with fish, but not as popular among fly fishers so you might find fewer crowds. Be careful of deep holes when you’re wading, but that’s usually easy to avoid if you’re paying attention. 

The trout are generally cooperative in all areas of the river, so you won’t have to worry as much about finding the perfect location here. Even the heavily-fished sections still have plenty of fish thanks to heavy stocking and the delayed harvest program.

Best Time to Fish the Tuckasegee River

You can find good fishing on this river almost all year long. The delayed harvest status means that keeping fishing is restricted from October to June, and all hatchery-supported waters are closed in March to allow for their operations to take place. 

The spring is the best time since the hatches are ripe and the fish are ready to move. You’ll find browns, rainbows, and brook trout stocked all along the river, and will generally have good results fishing in the fall and winter months, as well. Just remember to follow the regulations and guidelines based on the section of river that you’re in. 

Fortunately, signs and information are easy to find. If you do travel during the summer months, you may find the occasional good fishing since the dam releases create more cool water inflow. However, it may be harder to find good fishing on warm days when the water levels are low. 

Like most rivers, there is really no “wrong” time to visit the Tuckaseegee River for a fly fishing trip, so long as you plan ahead and check the water levels to know what type of fishing to expect. Just follow the regulations for posted sections that are not open year-round.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Tuckasegee River. The USGS stream gauge at Barker's Creek, 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.

TUCKASEGEE RIVER AT BARKER'S CREEK, NC

  • Flow: 1350 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 4.94 ft
.
USGS

Fly Box - What You'll Need

The Tuck has good wintertime hatches of blue-winged olives, midges and black stoneflies.  Spring and early summer are when a variety of larger mayflies and yellow stoneflies burst onto the scene.

Caddis are the big draw on the river though, with black caddis in early spring yielding to brown caddis from late spring into fall. Some large green caddis also garner a lot of attention mid-summer to fall.

Terrestrials such as ants, hoppers and beetles are also important throughout the summer.

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

Tuckasegee River Fishing Report

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

The Tuckasegee River is located outside of Dillsboro and Sylvia, North Carolina. These towns offer choices for accommodations and dining and will also provide fly shops and local tips on helping you get the best fishing on your trip. Those driving into the area will find that the stocked section runs right along the North River Road area outside of these towns. 

You can find camping and other lodgings in the area if you want to save money on a hotel, and if you are coming to the area from out of state, Asheville Regional Airport is about 55 miles away.

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

Feature image by Gerry Dincher

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