Whether you’re a seasoned angler looking for the next best catch or just getting started on fly fishing, it can be a lot of fun to plan your own excursions. Sure, guides are great, but unless you want someone else’s idea of a good time, it can often get in the way.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about planning your own trip to fly fish Wilson Creek in North Carolina. In no time, you’ll be ready to cast a line and catch some trout in some of the most scenic lands in the country.
Fly fishing Wilson Creek in North Carolina
Wilson Creek flows from Grandfather Mountain, with its headwaters emerging near the Blue Ridge Parkway just above Edgemont. This is a freestone stream that is full of wild and stocked brown and rainbow trout. The creek offers relatively good access and is known as a National Wild and Scenic River.
This long creek flows through various public and private sections, and there are two main areas for fishing, known as the Wilson Creek Gorge area and the upper headwaters. Each has its pros and cons and both are worth a visit if you’re coming to the area just to see different types of fly fishing environments based on water flow and features.
Wilson Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites
The lower gorge section is about two miles long and pools into a large area near a campground, where there are plenty of deep pools and riffles that the trout love to hide among. The upper section of the creek is more typical of a mountain stream but offers less easy access. There are also some tributaries in the area that are worth a visit while you’re fishing Wilson Creek, so feel free to hike around and explore.
Wilson Creek has a heavily stocked area that is a Delayed Harvest Section, which is popular for anglers of all kinds. Here, there are plenty of brook trout, rainbows, and browns that are stocked by the state to offer great angling throughout most of the year. The entire creek is rather popular, but there isn’t a lot of pressure in any one area.
The majority of the waters in this creek are catch-and-release with fly fishing only and single hook only regulations in place. The creek is also closed during March and the hatchery areas have special regulation fishing times throughout the year to consider.
Best Places to Fish Wilson Creek
You can access the gorge near the Brown Mountain Beach Campground where it pools and is heavily stocked. This access comes from Ralph Winchester Road off of State Highway 90, which provides steep trails to get down to the stream. You will also find more public access above the gorge that is mixed among private lands and offers plenty of pull-off access.
The upper part of the creek has more difficult access because it takes about half a mile to reach the good fishing areas. You can gain access from Forest Service Road 192 and Forest Service Trail 258, but make sure that you have a map with you at all times because the trails are complex and not very well-marked in this area.
You can find trails throughout the upper section leading to the creek and its tributaries (see map above), where you will find a good selection of trout without a lot of pressure. If you want to check out the delayed harvest section, you’ll find it downstream of Lost Cove Creek Bridge, following State Road 1328 from Highway 90 to the Phillips Branch bridge.
In any of the areas, you’ll be sure to find plenty of trout when you come during the best times of year to fly fish in North Carolina.
Best Time to Fish Wilson Creek
Speaking of the best times to fish, there are some regulations and seasonal considerations to keep in mind. The hatchery-supported waters all have their own regulations and you will want to check whether the waters are accessible before you go. None of the waters are fishable during March.
As far as finding the best catches, you have probably guessed that the spring is a great choice because of the hatches. The aquatic insects are a favorite of the trout, after all, and that continues to be the case into the early summer months. In the headwaters, summer fishing remains decent but elsewhere isn’t much good.
The fall is a great time to come to Wilson Creek, offering great catches with a good population of all kinds of trout. Plus, there is tons of natural beauty of the changing seasons to appreciate during your visit. You will find trout on most of the warmer days during the winter months, but accessing the creek may be more challenging depending on the weather.
Best Flies for Wilson Creek
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Wilson Creek:
- 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 Wilson Creek. 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.
Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!
Wilson Creek Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Wilson Creek 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
Wilson Creek is pretty far off the beaten path, with the closest major cities being Johnson City and Asheville. Those traveling into the area will probably choose to fly into Winston-Salem or Knoxville, although Charlotte is another option. Locals can enjoy a weekend getaway to Wilson Creek and still have time to relax when they get home.
A car will be necessary to reach the creek, but you’ll find plenty of lodging, dining, and accommodations in the area due to the popularity of the state parks and outdoor activities present. Private cabin rentals and camping are also popular choices for accommodations during your visit.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in North Carolina
Feature image by Ken Thomas