Copyright 2014 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Oconaluftee River GSMNP North Carolina
The Oconaluftee River is one of the tougher streams to fish in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park for several reasons. It is tightly enclosed as we just mentioned and that makes
casting a problem in many places. You rarely have a clear area for a back cast. You must
use all types of creative cast. Below the confluence of Bradley Fork, the river is almost
double what it is above the Bradley Fork. Casting isn't so much of a problem. The lower part
is bordered by open sage grass fields in some areas. This provides some great hopper
fishing in the late Summer and early Fall. There's lots of cover and a very irregular bottom.
Above the Bradley Fork, the Oconaluftee River isn't that large of a stream and is very tightly
enclosed with tree limbs. It is the typical pool, run and riffle type freestone stream with a
medium gradient that is not to steep, yet steep enough to keep a good flow of water. It has
an abundant amount of cover. Huge boulders form large pockets. There are deep holes and
shallow short sections of riffles. Some runs are long and deep. There is a lot of places for
the brown trout to hide. Undercut banks are plentiful in most areas. Tree roots provide
additional cover for the trout but also make it difficult to fish a nymph.
As mentioned in the Hatches section, the Oconaluftee River has some excellent hatches and
seems to have more insects than most other streams in the park with the exception of
Abrams Creek. Some hatches are huge. When there is a hatch underway, you are far better
off using an imitation of the insect hatching than generic or attractor flies. Following closely
with our hatch chart will provide a big advantage fishing this river.
Short upstream cast are normal as it is with most other park streams. There are several
places where "high stickin" a nymph will pay well. This river has a very good population of
brown trout and some of them are very big. Streamers work good under low light conditions.
They also work when the water is slightly stained from heavy rains. I should also mention the
brook trout fishing in its many tributary streams is very good. It requires very small stream
tactics. The Bradley Fork could very well be treated as an entire stream within itself. It too
has a good population of both brown and rainbow trout and is one of the best streams in the
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Oconaluftee River, North