Romancing The French Broad

Rosman, North Carolina

October 2023

Article and photos by Jimmy Jacobs

Some years back I had a fishing buddy that was convinced the French Broad River was named for a vixen sporting a European heritage. Eventually we got around to researching the moniker to discover that was not the case.

The name of the stream dates back to the time when this area of Transylvania County, North Carolina was at the eastern border of the Cherokee Nation and still contested by the English and French. The Broad River over in Rutherford County to the east was then called the English Broad, while the river in question was referred to as the French Broad. The former stream flows to the Atlantic Ocean, while the French Broad makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico, via the Tennessee River System.

The Old Turnpike Road bridge at Champion Park.

The French Broad is thought to be one of the oldest rivers in the world, with its origin predating the upheaval that created the Appalachian Mountain chain. The river also is one of the few in the world that crosses a continental divide. All of that having been said, what does it have to do with fly fishing for trout? Actually, very little, but is an interesting jumping-off point for looking at the fishery.

All told the French Broad flows for a total of 218 miles from its headwater in the Old North State to Knoxville, Tennessee. There it joins the Holston River to form the Tennessee River. Surprisingly, the only trout water on the French Broad in North Carolina is composed of 10.8 miles of flow from Rosman east toward Brevard.

The French Broad was stocked with a total of 5,100 trout in 2023. Those fish were released in March through July. In March, April and May, the river received 520 brook, 520 rainbow and 240 brown trout each month. Those numbers dropped to 240 brook and rainbows each, along with 120 browns during June and July.

Brook and rainbow trou are most often stocked in the French Broad.

The river officially begins at the junction of its North and West Forks just west of Rosman, but also quickly picks up the waters of the Middle and East Forks. It then meanders to the east as part of the French Broad River Paddle Trail that is popular with canoeists and kayakers. That trail begins in Rosman at Champion Park River Access.

Champion Park River Access.

The stocked trout water on the French Broad start at its headwater, passes through Rosman and ends to the east at the Island Ford River Access on Island Ford Road (State Route 1110). At this bridge there is a paddling access and parking. Through out this stretch the river is a rather flat flow, with only occasional mild riffles.

Much of it also is rather deep, making float fishing the preferred method for anglers. Public access points for paddling are at Champion Park, Lyons Mountain and Island Ford accesses. Headwaters Outfitters also maintains a private launch site in Rosman, as well as a campground and access at Hannah Ford.

Fortunately, there are a couple of places where anglers on foot can access the trout water on the French Broad. The first of these is at Champion Park in Rosman. Just as the stream passes under the Old Turnpike Road bridge it forms a large, deep pool, then runs through a flat area with current, before entering a mild riffle. This is an obvious stocking point and usually holds some trout. The shoreline is open enough that fly casting is possible from the eastern shore in the park. You also can wade down into the riffle area.

The second option is located in Rosman Community Park, just outside the city limits and operated by Transylvania County Parks and Recreation, which also oversees the Island Ford River Access. The community park has baseball, softball and multi-use fields, but also borders a stretch of the French Broad. At a couple of points off the walking trail surrounding the multi-use field in the park, it is possible to wade into the river. This section offers a long stretch of easily waded water.

Wading at the Rosman Community Park.

The French Broad River may not be the namesake of a French lady, but she does provide some charming options for trout fishing when you are in the Rosman and Brevard areas during the spring and summer months.

In The Area

Headwaters Outfitters and Davidson River Outfitters are sponsoring the 3rd annual Forks of the River Fly Fishing Festival on November 4–5, 2023. The event is taking place at Deerewood Reserve on the French Broad River in Brevard and featuring local vendors, food trucks, live music, door prizes, raffles and good times for the entire family.

At 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, On The Fly South Editor/Publisher Jimmy Jacobs will be presenting a PowerPoint program on the South’s most unusual trout fisheries.

Come on out and join the festivities!