Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Cullasaja River North
The very first time Angie and I ever laid eyes on the
Cullasaja River, we had never heard of it, yet we were
on our way to another stream in North Carolina to fish
for trout. We didn't fish the stream at that time, but we
thought it was a beautiful and from its appearance, we
thought it probably held trout. We made a point to
investigate it in the near future. The stream has several
cascades and waterfalls. Its Bridal Veil Falls is formed
by a small tributary that enters the Cullasaja River on
the opposite side of the highway from the river. It's
unique because you can drive behind, underneath the
falls. The next waterfall, Dry Falls, drops about seventy
feet into a deep gorge that runs along the highway for
seven miles. The final waterfall, which is actually a
series of cascades, is over 250 feet high. Of course, as
you may well imagine, the stream flows through a very
rugged area and is difficult to access in some areas.
The thirteen-mile long Cullasaja River begins at Lake
Sequoyah in Highlands North Carolina and flows from
there through the Cullasaja River Gorge and finally, into
the Little Tennessee River near Franklin. U.S. Highway
#64 runs parallel with the river its entire length. The
gorge is located on National Forest Land but below the
gorge, the river flows through private property. The
upper and lower ends of the gorge are difficult to
access but the middle area can be accessed from
several points along the highway. A Forest Service
Campground is located near the middle of the gorge
where a bridge crosses the stream.
The two times we have fished this river, we have not
seen another person fishing. I'm sure that isn't the
normal case because the stream is stocked by the state
and maintained as a hatchery supported stream. Both
times we fished the stream was during the Fall season.
From the number of wild rainbow trout we caught, we
have to wonder why it's stocked. The state stocks the
stream with brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout.
My guess is that it's to make the campgrounds more
attractive or to satisfy the locals. I'm not sure if either is
the case. It may be that it isn't capable of
supporting the required number of trout to satisfy the
state. The elevation of Highlands is over 4,000 feet.
Much of the water that forms the Cullasaja River is
directly exposed to the sun and this may be the problem.
The Cullasaja River has its problems according to the
locals we have talked to. Lake Sequoyah is fed with
water from another lake and several small streams that
flow through areas that have been developed. This
causes the water to muddy up fast after a rain. It takes
much longer to clear up than a normal forest stream. It
has three main tributary streams - Buck Creek, Ellijay
Creek and Peek's Creek, which is the creek that had
the horrible flood and mudslide in 2004. This is a case
where poorly planned developments have created huge
problems with what is a one of a kind, beautiful
With all the other fine trout streams in this area of North
Carolina, I couldn't say its worth a lot of effort to go out
of the way to fish, but for anyone visiting this part of
North Carolina, it's certainly worth fishing. Its a beautiful
stream with plenty of wild trout. In fact, we have yet to
catch a stocked trout from its waters. It appears that
most of the trout that are stocked are placed in areas
where they are easily and quickly caught.
The season runs year-round
Trout can be caught on most warm winter days.
Fly fishing the Cullasaja River during the Springtime is
the best time to fish it.
Summertime may get a little slow due to water
Fall is a great time to catch a large brown trout
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