The Tuckasegee River in Jackson County hosts one of North Carolina’s premier trout fisheries.
On The Fly Freshwater
Article and photos by Jimmy Jacobs.
There are a lot of reasons for liking North Carolina’s Tuckasegee River as a trout-fishing destination. To begin with, its headwaters in the Panthertown Valley in southern Jackson County offer some of the best native brook trout fishing in the southeast.
Farther downstream the river provides not one, but two sections of delayed-harvest waters. In those areas, catching a slam of brook, brown and rainbow trout in a single day is not unusual. Also adding to the appeal of the river are long stretches of mostly wadeable water that are accessible to the general public for angling. And, it doesn’t hurt that the Tuck is the most heavily stocked trout water in the Old North State.
Once below the wild headwaters and beginning at the mouth of John Brown Branch, the next 12.7 miles of the river was stocked this year with 7,300 trout down to the North Carolina Highway 107 bridge at the village of Tuckasegee. The plantings were made up of 40 percent brook and rainbow trout each, along with another 20 percent of brown trout. That same ratio of species is used for all stockings on the Tuckasegee. The releases each month from March to May consisted of 2,100 fish, while a final stocking in June added another 1,000. This part of the river is open to fishing under the Hatchery Supported regulations.
From the NC 107 bridge down to a point 275 yards above the US 23/441 highway bridge in Dillsboro, 5 1/2 miles of the stream are regulated with delayed-harvest rules. Signs at that downstream location are posted on either side of the flow announcing the end of that regulated section. This spot was the site of a low-head dam that was removed some years back. The shoal that remains now is referred to as the Dillsboro Dip.
This delayed-harvest area is where the bulk of the stocking takes place on the Tuckasegee. Fish are released along here twice each month from March through May, as well as two more times per month in October and November. Each of those stockings consists of 9,800 fish, with a total of 49,000 trout planted in this section annually.
Below the Dillsboro Dip, another 7.4 miles of the river to the State Route 1534 bridge at the village of Wilmot, is stocked in the spring and open to angling as hatchery-supported water. In March to May, 1,400 trout are planted monthly, while a June release of 600 fish rounds out the stocking.
From the mouth of John Brown Branch, all the way down to Wilmot, the Tuck rates as big water. That means you have plenty of room for fly casting. Tackling the water in drift boats or rafts also is possible.
The second delayed-harvest part of the river consists of water near Bryson City in Swain County. That 2.2-mile stretch gets 27,500 rainbows and browns, divided equally in releases during March, April, May, October and November. Click here to see the story Bryson City’s Downtown Trout about that part of the river. The story appeared in the January 2022 edition of On The Fly South.
When it comes to catching all of those trout in the Tuckasegee, the angling usually is fairly simple. Dead drifting nymphs under a strike indicator, or in a dry-dropper combo are one good tactics. Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tails or red Copper Johns are often good choices for this sub-surface angling. In deeper runs, stripping a Wooly Bugger across the current also works well. Black or olive are consistent colors for this angling.
Some of the most exciting fishing, however, occurs in the afternoons on the delayed-harvest portion of the river. On warm afternoons in the winter the trout will start feeding on the surface. Tossing Blue-Winged Olive patterns can fool those fish. This type fishing picks up even more in the spring months. Dry fly patterns like Adams Parachutes, Royal Wulffs and Elk-Hair Caddis are good choices then.
Now that you’ve read all the good stuff, there is one caveat of which you should be aware. Because of high summer water temperatures, the fishing tails off badly in the July to September period. However, during those summer months, the part of the river downstream of the Dillsboro Dip hosts a very good smallmouth bass fishery. But that is a story for another time. Meanwhile, you can be putting together your plan to get in on the fall through spring action for trout on the Dillsboro Tuck this coming fall.