South Mills Rainbow Trout
Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing South Mills River North
Fly fishing the South Mills River requires some hiking to
access its remote waters. The river begins just below
the Blue Ridge Parkway near Ashville, North Carolina.
It's a tributary of the French Broad River. The South
Mills River is listed in Trout Unlimited's "Guide to
America's Best 100 Trout Streams" Book. Its trout are
all wild brown and rainbow trout and the state of North
Carolina, manages it under its "wild trout" regulations.

This area is a popular hiking, horseback, mountain
biking, camping and hunting area as well as a fly fishing
destination. The lower part of the stream flows through
private property. The South Mills River has one major
tributary, Bradley Creek which is also a good wild trout
stream to fish.

The South Mills River runs for about twelve miles
through Pisgah National Forest land. It can be
accessed from several points but basically, it amounts
to the lower end of the stream that's on public land, or
its upper end near the Forestry Discovery Center. You
can access the stream from the lower end from the
Turkey Pen Gap Trailhead at the end of the Forest
Service Road #297 which is off Highway 280. You
can also access it from the end of Forest Service Road
#476 in the Pink Beds area. You have to ford the
stream several times (or use suspension bridges)
through its entire length. There are other ways to
access the stream but they require long hikes. You
wouldn't get very far during high water. The trail is also
a very popular horseback riding trail and that takes its
toll on parts of the trail.

The stream consist of one deep pool after another, all
at the ends of relatively short plunges. The decline of
the stream is moderate and the trail is fairly easy to hike
due to the relatively declination. It has both wild rainbow
trout and wild brown trout that grow rather large. The
trout probably average about eight inches but they get
much larger. Only single-hook artificial lures/flies are
permitted on the South Mills River.

Bradley Creek is also managed as a wild trout stream
and it flows entirely on public land. About three miles of
its uppermost waters can be easily accessed from
Forest Service Road #1206 and about three miles must
be reached by hiking. Trails follow its entire length. Fly
fishing Bradley Creek produces mostly rainbows.

This stream flows through evergreen trees and
mountain laurel. There are several small waterfalls and
cascades along the way. You will find most of the
rainbows in the fast water plunges and short runs. The
browns hide in the deep pools and in crevices
underneath boulders and rocks.  The trout stay active
during the hot summer because the stream stays well

The South Mills River has an aquatic insect population
consist of a large diversity of insects but only a few of
them exist in large quantities. As with any small stream
with wild brown trout, the larger brown trout are difficult
to fool. They tend to hide throughout the day and feed
only during periods of low light conditions. The rainbows
are easier to approach because they tend to hide
under the fast water surface turbulence. None
of them are easily fooled and you must make sure
you're not spotted.

The season runs year-round
Trout can be caught on warm days during the winter.
Spring is the best time for fly fishing the South Mills
River because of its hatches.
Summertime is okay but some of the water can get too
warm for good fishing on the hottest days.
Fall is the best time for big browns in the lower section.

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Trout Flies
South Mills River North Carolina
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Type of Stream

Rainbow Trout (wild)
Brown Trout (wild)


Western North Carolina

Nearest Towns


Good but hiking required to reach it

Non-Resident License
State of North Carolina

National Weather Service Link

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and
Trout Flies
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Priority Mail.