Content Produced in Partnership with Bryson City and Swain County Tourism
Nestled in the shadows of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the fly fishing destination of your dreams. A peaceful oasis with active waters, Bryson City, North Carolina's rivers, lakes, and creeks are brimming with trout — and serious bragging rights for anglers of all abilities. Virtually off the grid (87% of the community is federal land), this Swain County town is also dedicated to educating the public on conservationism, the history of fly fishing in Appalachia, and how to use fresh fish in the local culinary scene. It’s truly a fly fishing hub, complete with a series of colorful trout statues around town to guide you to the closest watering hole.
Cast a Line the Water's Fine
In addition to being home to Fontana Lake and a series of creeks and waterways in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City has four main rivers: the Nantahala, the Little Tennessee, the Oconaluftee, and the Tuckasegee. In other words, there’s plenty of places for you to cast a line and enjoy a day of fishing for brown, brook, and rainbow trout — or, depending on the waterway, bass and walleye. Remember, if you want to fish in North Carolina, you will need a fishing license, which can be purchased online in just a few minutes.
Cast a Line
The word Tuckasegee means “Turtle Place” in local Cherokee language, a fitting name as the Cherokee tribe originally used the river to catch turtle. Today, the Tuckasegee River runs right through downtown Bryson City, making it one of the most accessible — and most popular — waterways in the area. Amateur and experienced anglers alike can opt in on a float and fish session with several of the tour operators in town, including Fly Fishing the Smokies. A half-day float trip (wade trips are also available) with these folks will allow you to really admire the river, which is bubbling with rapids at some points and as smooth as glass in other spots. During our four-hour trip (excluding the coaching on casting we received from our guide) down the river, we caught seven rainbow trout, let several off the hook, and saw several other fishermen catching all afternoon. The entire process was easy, even for a fly fishing novice, and the pictures and stories make us look like master fishermen.
Learn Fly Fishing History
Fly fishing isn’t the only thing you can learn in Bryson City. The town also offers opportunities to learn about the actual history of the sport. Located in downtown Bryson City, The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians has exhibits and informational videos about fly fishing in the area, the evolution of the rod and reel, and notable innovators who have contributed to the advancement of fly fishing. The most impressive part of the museum, though, is the handmade flies. There are multiple display cases full of carefully constructed and painted baits allowing visitors to get a real sense of the craftsmanship that goes into these pieces. Entry into the museum is free, however, it is a non-profit so donations are welcome.
Winner, Winner Fresh Fish Dinner
What’s fly fishing without enjoying the fruits of your labor? Fresh Carolina trout is on the menu at several area establishments, but if you’re in downtown Bryson City, we highly recommend the Everett Hotel Bistro. Here you can find fresh trout cakes and Carolina mountain trout. The Bistro also serves North Carolina wines and beers, and some menu items have recommended pairings. We sampled the pan seared trout with cornmeal crust paired with the chef’s recommended Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA out of Asheville. It made for the perfect end to a day out on the water in beautiful Bryson City.