Fishing the Ridge - Top Destinations for Tight Lines (On One Tank)
By far, without a doubt, I’d bet the farm, a solid gold guarantee the number one question we receive when it comes to fishing is: “What are some good places to fish within a couple hours of Charlotte?”
Well, here you go….here’s our list for the go to spots if you need to get a fly in the water on one tank of gas.
Where: Wilson Creek
Routinely listed (and fished) by local anglers as one of the top rivers to fish in North Carolina, this body of water is easily accessed and offers a multitude of deep pools, fast runs, and sizable fish. You’ll find both Delayed Harvest and Hatchery Supported options along the miles of pristine water, including the popular Gorge Section inside Pisgah National Forest. There are also some terrific tributaries tied to Wilson Creek including Gragg Prong….these require some hiking and are a slightly more advanced wild water fishery (make sure you practice that roll cast and leave the heavy gear at home).
When: Best time to hit WC is during Delayed Harvest (for more info on DH, follow this link). You won’t have to battle the swimming hole and day-trip folks as much as you would in the middle of the summer.
What: Bring anything from a 9’ 5 weight to an 8’ 3 weight. Flies will depend on the time of year, Fall or Spring, but make sure you have a good selection of droppers and top-water dries.
Where: Helton Creek
Located in the northern part of Ashe County, near the Virginia border, this Delayed Harvest stretch of trout water is home to a ton of great open areas of big water - with the occasional small deep pool - and ample opportunities to catch some larger hold-overs. Helton has been known to produce some serious numbers if the conditions (water level, flow and clarity) are right. Accessing Helton couldn’t be easier (it follows Big Helton Road for most of the DH section) so keep in mind that weekend’s can be a little busy. Also be mindful of the private land that runs the length of the river….the locals see a lot of traffic and can be a little hesitant to offer “free parking”.
When: Delayed Harvest from October to June is by far the best time, but since Helton is a lower elevation fishery (aka below 3000 ft), we suggest sticking to late Fall or early Spring for your best chance a great numbers day.
What: Bring the 9’ stick. 4 or 5 weight is the go to size and pack plenty of Stimulators and droppers for the big browns and rainbows that call this stretch home.
Where: Upper to Lower Watauga River
Probably our most diverse recommendation for a public fishery, the Upper DH section of the Watauga River is a staple in North Carolinians - and for neighboring states - as well. With the popular Upper stretch beginning in Valle Crucis Park located behind the Mast General Store, you can spend an entire day working your way to the Lower section catching brooks, browns and rainbows, some wild, some hold-overs and some great stocked trout action as well during stocking times. As with most public access fisheries, parking can be a little crowded on the nicer weekend days, so plan ahead and jump in car during the week or on a cloudy day and there’s a strong chance you’ll have the water to yourself.
When: Most stocking happens in the early Spring and fall so make sure you’re watching the stocking schedules (found here) from the North Carolina Wildlife folks.
What: If it casts line, bring it. You can catch the Troutfecta on this stream so feel free to bring anything from an 8 footer to your nymphing rod. It all fishes well and, as usual, make sure you have a healthy helping of Stimulators and Midges. Pats Rubber Legs in purple or black also work really well during early Spring.