The Nantahala River near Bryson City, North Carolina was known by the Cherokee Indians as the Land of the Noon Day Sun. High and steep rocky cliffs line this rough and tumble trout paradise for most of its length. Way up in the mountains near the Standing Indian Campground the Nantahala starts as many tiny brooks that come together to form the Nantahala proper. Wild rainbows abound here with a few browns thrown in the mix as well. Due to the clear water they are not easily fooled but a high riding Wulff or Thunderhead pattern will work if you’re sneaky about it. The river flows on through the private property of the Rainbow Springs Club and then on into Nantahala Lake. Part of the out flow or tail water either goes downstream into the original streambed or is run through a giant pipe to the power house many miles downstream. The upper river or the Delayed Harvest Section receives heavy stockings of trout and heavy pressure from the first week of October until the first week of June. During this time the regulations on this section are Artificial Lures Only Catch and Release Only. Anglers from all over the Southeast come here to fly fish. It is truly fly fishing nirvana. Beautiful scenery and lots of willing trout make this one of our favorite places to guide. Wayah Road parallels the stream the entire way and makes access a breeze. The rocks are slippery so be careful.
The lower Nantahala downstream of the power house is home to lots of trout and lots of rafters. Folks come from all over the country to raft this area when the daily water releases are going on. Before and after these releases will give you some sense of peace but when there’s a million folks on the river slamming into you in big rubber thingies it’s not as fun. There are several spots you can stand and fish while the water is on and avoid the rafters but you’ll have to go and find these for yourself. Be very careful if you try to fish during generation as the water is icy and powerful enough that you can easily drown if you make one wrong move. If you fish early and late in the day there is usually some kind of hatch coming off and you can have a wonderful time trying to fool these fish. Using long leaders and fine tippet will help. Matching the hatch can sometimes be critical to success down here.
*Nantahala River picture taken by local photographer, Steve Banakas. Visit more of his work at 500px.