Upper Watauga River North Carolina
Copyright 2017 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Upper Watauga River
In North Carolina
This is the same Watauga River but it's the
headwaters that lies above Boone Lake in North
Carolina, rather than the Watauga tailwater below
Wilbur Dam that's so popular and well known. The
problem with the uppermost parts of the Watauga
River in this area is access, or I should say the lack of
it. Most of the stream runs through private property;
however, the parts that's on public land are worth
fishing. The stream holds brook, brown and rainbow
The Watauga River starts out at the bottom of Grand
Father Mountain in North Carolina at Banner Elk, North
Carolina, near Boone. From its beginning downstream
to North Carolina #1580, the stream is under the
state's wild trout regulations. It's very small and there's
little water to fish because above the bridge at Highway
#1580, it flows mostly through private property. From
the North Carolina #1580 bridge downstream to the
mouth of Boone Fork Creel, a tributary stream, it flows
entirely on private property.
From the North Carolina Highway #1557 bridge to the
Highway #105 bridge, and from North Carolina #1114
bridge to the North Carolina #194 bridge at Valle
Crucis, the stream falls under the state's "Delayed
Harvest" regulations. There's about two miles of fishing
in the "Delayed Harvest" section.
North Carolina Highway #105 runs along the stream
for over a half mile just above the bridge in this
section. Upstream from that point, Shulls Mill Road
follows along the river for almost a mile in the "Delayed
Harvest" section. Access is easy from the Shulls Mills
Road with plenty of parking areas and spaces.
The Watauga isn't exactly a small stream in the
"Delayed Harvest" area. It's rather large, averaging
about forty feet wide and even wider in places.
The river flows along a golf course in one area. It flows
on a low decline in this area and is open enough that
casting isn't a problem. It has plenty of large boulders
and rocks distributed throughout its waters creating
many holding places for the trout.
There are plenty of both wild and large holdover trout
in the upper Watauga River in the "Delayed Harvest"
area and above there in the headwaters. It's a good
place to catch a large brown trout. It's by no means a
great destination stream, but one well worth fishing if
you are in the area.
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Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing: 71/2 ft.,
3 or 4X, Streamers 1-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The season runs year-round
Trout can be caught many days during the
Spring is the best time for fly fishing the
Upper Watauga River because of its hatches.
Upper Watauga River Hatches and
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
Upper Watauga River and in all stages of life
that are applicable to fishing. If you want to
fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
The Upper Watauga Rivr has a very diverse
population of aquatic insects that hatch
throughout most of the year. There are
several mayflies and caddisflies that reside
in the river that you wouldn't expect to find in
most Eastern Appalachian mountain
The most consistent hatch is the usual
Blue-winged Olives. There are several
species that hatch months of the year. The
best hatches start in February and last
through June. There is a second hatch that
occurs in October and early November.
Little Black Winter Stoneflies start the first
hatches of the year in late January. These
can hatch into March. Little Brown Stoneflies
(actually in the same family as the Little
Blacks) hatch in March and until the middle
The Giant Black Stoneflies start hatching the
third week of April. It can last for six weeks.
The Yellow Sallies start a couple of weeks
later and hatch into the first of July. The
Yellow Sallies are plentiful.
The Golden Stoneflies start about the last
week of May and can hatch until the last
week of June. These are sparse hatches.
One of the first mayflies to start hatching are
the Blue Quills. They start about the first of
March and can last until the middle of April.
Quill Gordons start about the same time and
last about a month. This is one of the better
The Hendricksons start hatching about the
first of April. The hatch last about a month
but is usually not very heavy but enough to
get the trout's attention.
American March Browns start hatching near
the end of April and last almost two months.
This hatch is never concentrated but well
Eastern Pale Evening Duns start hatching
around the first of May and last through June.
About two weeks after this hatch starts, the
Sulphurs start hatching and last almost two
months. Locals refer to both of these
hatches as Sulphurs and they are very
There are also plenty of Light Cahills that
hatch in late May and June. You will find
them in the faster water.
Slate Drakes start hatching in late June
and continue on through September.
These large mayflies are very important to
Mahagony Duns start hatching in late
August and last for about two months.
There are a few Grannon Caddisflies that
hatch in March. The hatch last about a
Green Sedges are fairly plentiful in the
creek. They normally hatch from about the
first of May through June. There are also
some Little Short-horn Sedges that hatch
near the same time.
The Cinnamon Sedges and a few Spotted
Sedge species of caddisflies hatch from
about the first of May through July. These
are the most important caddisflies. They
are plentiful in some areas of the creek.
The Great Autumn Brown Sedges start
hatching in October and can last until
Summertime is terrestrial time and
imitations of grasshopper, ants and
beetles. Inch worms also are plentiful and
fall and get blown into the water. The
terrestrial become important about the
middle of June through September.
Midges hatch throughout the entire year
but are most important during the winter.
Streamers are effective in the creek,
especially when the water is slightly high
and stained. Imitations of sculpin, small
minnows and small crawfish will work great
We always recommend "Perfect Flies".
They are not only the most realistic
imitations you can purchase, they are the
most effective flies you can buy. They have
proven to work great on the Watauga River
on many occasions. We hope you give
them a try if you haven't already done so.
Summertime is marginal, the water can
become too warm.
Fall is a beautiful time to fish this stream
and a good time to catch one of its large
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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