Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Linville River North
Linville River is considered one of the state's better
trout streams by some anglers. It is also quite different
from many other North Carolina trout streams in some
ways. The uppermost part of the Linville River starts
close to Linville Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains near
the little community of Crossnore. Fly fishing the Linville
river is best during the Spring and Fall months.
The first odd thing you may notice about the Linville
River is that instead of being the typical fast flowing,
headwater stream, it flows only moderately in its upper
sections. It meanders along as if it were going to stop;
however, its upper waters are located at a high
elevation and the water still stays well oxygenated. In
that sense, it's more like a Western alpine headwater
stream than an Appalachian mountain headwater
stream. It runs right along state highway #105 to Linville
and then continues flowing moderately along U. S.
highway #221 to Crossnore.
The Linville River is small to medium size stream in the
Crosnore area with plenty of water. From Crossnore, it
flows onto National Park property at the Blue Ridge
Parkway near Linville Falls. Although the stream has
plenty of wild trout, it's stocked by the state. I guess this
is primarily because of its easy access. Even when the
stream gets on the park service property, it's still
stocked by the state of North Carolina. I would do well
as a wild trout stream in my opinion.
About three miles downstream from its intersection with
the Blue Ridge Parkway, the stream flows into the
Linville Gorge Wilderness. The falls and 1100 acres
around them are owned by the National Park Service.
There is a visitors center and several trails that lead to
various observation points of the falls and gorge.
The Linville Gorge changes things drastically. The river
declines over 1800 feet in elevation in just a few short
miles. It flows over Linville Falls and becomes a fast and
turbulent stream downstream from the base of the falls.
At least the easy road side access goes away. Its about
a 1400 foot change in elevation from the ridge to the
stream, so getting in and out of the canyon isn't easy.
The river can be accessed by a few very steep Forest
Service trails but it's very difficult to fish the river on a
day trip. Once in the gorge, or canyon would be a
better word, the Linviille Gorge Trail follows the stream
through the entire length of the canyon.
This section of the Linville River has deep plunge pools
and large brown trout. The state still stocks this section
of the river, but at least they use fingerlings. I'm sure
they don't use them to make the trout grow up to be
more like a streambed trout. They do it because its
much easier. I would be interesting in knowing how
many fingerlings actually make it, if that is still the
It wouldn't be a good idea for anyone to fish this area
by themselves. It would be difficult to get out in an
emergency situation. As just mentioned, it is also very
difficult to get into the canyon, fish any length of time,
and get back out the same day. The canyon section is
approximately fifteen miles long. Near the end of the
Gorge the river flows into Lake James.
Another weird thing about the Linville River is the two
dams. The dam at Lake James and another one on the
Catawba River. That would be normal except there's
only one lake. The two original lakes merged into one
after a flood and all the water is released through the
Linville Dam. That makes it a full size tailwater large
enough that it can be fished from a boat. The tailwater
section is also difficult to access in most areas and its
difficult to impossible to wade, for that matter. It's also
stocked by the state of North Carolina.
In my opinion, the best thing going for this stream is the
Linville River Gorge. If it were not for that, I guess there
would corn cans stowed every few feet up and down
the river. Although the gorge is a very tough area to
fish, it is the only thing saving a beautiful, wild river. Fly
fishing the Linville River in the gorge isn't easy, but it is
well worth the effort to do it.
The season runs year-round
Trout can be caught most days of the winter
Spring is the best time for fly fishing the Linville River
due to the hatches.
Summertime is okay - the water in the gorge stays cool.
Fall is the best time for big browns in the lower section.
Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Trout Flies
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
Floating 4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5X, Nymphing: 71/2 ft., 3 or
4X, Streamers 1-2X
Dry fly: 5X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X, Streamer
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 Size Fly Lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
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