Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Davidson River North
The Davidson River is considered one of North
Carolina's best trout streams. From the headwater
section down to Avery Creek, the stream is managed as
a wild trout stream. Fly fishing only is allowed and it's all
catch and release. Below Avery Creek the stream is
stocked by the state on a regular basis. It has a very
healthy trout population and easy access. It is one of
North Carolina's most popular fly fishing destinations.
Fly fishing the Davidson River can be a true pleasure.
This stream is fairly close to Ashville, North Carolina,
and is quite easy to reach from the interstate. It is
heavily fished, especially in the lower section from the
fish hatchery down to Avery Creek. The stocked area of
the stream is also heavily fished. It isn't only fly fishing
that the stream is popular for. There are tubers glore,
canoeists, picnics, kayakers, and people just swimming.
During the summer months, you want find many pull offs
along Highway #276 or the forest Service Road #475
that doesn't have vehicles parked.
The Davidson River is a beautiful freestone mountain
stream. It has a large population of trout and many
trophy size fish. This is mostly due to the year-round
catch and release regulations. The stream has a good
supply of many different species of aquatic insects and
other food for the trout.
The Davidson River can also become crowded in places
with anglers. There's a good reason for it. Anglers catch
and release a lot of trout. It is the great fishing that
makes it crowded. One way to deal with the crowds of
Summer is to fish early and late in the day.
Don't forget that you can fish the Davidson River
year-round. Fishing is often good in the middle of Winter
but certainly Fall and Spring may be the best times to
fish the river. One often overlooked feature of the
Davidson is its headwaters. They are small but well
The section of the Davidson River from the Avery Creek
confluence downstream to the Forest Service boundary
is heavily stocked with trout. It receives month stockings
of rainbows, browns and brook trout from March through
August. Many of the trout are harvested but this section
also has a large number of holdover trout. There are
also some wild trout in this section. During the winter
months you want find many anglers fishing this section
and fly fishing can be rewarding and fun.
Upstream of Avery Creek, it is strictly
"catch-and-release" fly fishing.
The catch and release section has some large pools
where trout can be sight fished. The water is often gin
clear and the fish very wary due to the heavy pressure
but it is still possible to catch trout in this manner.
The main tributary is Looking Glass Creek. The stream
is very small above the falls not far above its confluence
with the Davidson of just over a mile or so. The small
tributary has some rather sizable fish up to the falls
even though the stream is still rather small.
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Upstream of the Pisqah State Fish Hatchery,
the Davidson River becomes more of the
typical, small mountain stream. It has a good
population of wild rainbows and brown trout. It
is mostly all pocket water. Most of the trout
are relatively small, averaging about six
inches in length but going up to twelve. The
water has a much higher pH than the water
downstream of the fish hatchery. The aquatic
insects are mostly clinger mayflies and
stoneflies. Few anglers fish this section of the
Davidson, so you don't have to worry about
The section of the Davidson River from the
diversion weir downsteam to downstream of
the hatchery receives almost all of the fishing
pressure. It isn't exactly easy to catch trout in
this section of the river. The trout are large,
well educated fish. They constantly see
anglers and flies. As mentioned above, it very
crowded on the weekends. It is much better to
fish this section during the week.
There's a substantial amount of water that's
diverted from the Davidson River through the
fish hatchery. It is common to see large trout.
The water below the fish hatchery is different
from the freestone section above it.
Fly fishing the Davidson River is good
Fishing during the winter can be good on
warm days. Midge imitations produce good
Spring is considered the prime fishing
season on the Davidson River. The
hatches bring good dry fly action.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Davidson
The trout in the Davidson River can become
very selective at times. There are plenty of
aquatic insects and lots of fishing pressure
that cause that. The Davidson is a typical
larger size, eastern freestone trout stream
with runs and riffles leading into pools. It is
very easy to access in the lower portion from
a roadthat closely follows along the water.
The slower or moderately moving water and
the bottom composition in some areas of the
stream permit Green Drake mayflies to exist
in rather plentiful quantities, something that
is not usually present in the Southeastern
Appalachian trout streams. This is one of the
most popular hatches even though I doubt it
is all that productive of a hatch from a fish
catching standpoint. The large mayflies
attract anglers about as well as they attract
Like all the streams in Eastern North
Carolina, the Davidson has had more than
its fair share of low water during some years.
It normally has a very good population of wild
brook trout in its headwaters along with
plenty of wild rainbows and browns in the wild
trout section from its headwaters down to the
stocked portion of the stream.
It is not what most anglers would call an easy
trout stream to fish. That just makes it that
much better as far as I am concerned. It
does offer a challenge. You normally have to
do more than merely cast an attractor fly
upstream a few feet to consistently catch
trout. On the other hand, it is not a difficult
stream to fish. Angie and I have always done
fairly well and managed to catch some nice
trout the several times we have had the
opportunity to fish the Davidson River.
The hatchery fish are constantly feed and
food is flushed downstream. It is also the
reason the trout grow to large sizes. The
average size trout is probably over 16
inches. Some go up to 20.
Catching these trout is usually difficult. It is
far more to do with the constant
disturbance of anglers than anything else.
Sloppy presentations won't cut it. At times,
perfect presentations don't seem to food
them. It is the constant pounding the fish
get that's the biggest problem. The fishing
can be much better if you simply get away
from the hatchery and fish further
downstream. There's plenty of large trout
downstream all the way to Avery Creek.
Just to be certain, we are clear on the
regulations, from the Davidson’s
headwaters downstream to Avery Creek, is
classified as "Catch-and Release",
/Artificial Flies Only water.
Just below the town of Pisgah Forest, there
is a privately managed "trophy" section of
water. Davidson River Outfitters manages
this three mile section of the stream.
You wouldn't want to fish an imitation of a
Quill Gorden just after the hatch ended,
because there would only be eggs in the
stream. If you pay attention to the hatch
chart, you should be able to determine
what is most available for them to eat at
any given time, or at least confine the
items on the list to a few choice selections.
Most often the larger brown trout feed on
non-insect food items. Using a streamer
may be the best approach. They work the
best under low light conditions where the
trout don't have a good opportunity to
closely examine the streamer.
The biggest mistake I see being made on
the Davidson River is anglers continuing
to fish a dry fly when nothing is hatching.
That works sometimes in streams where
the trout feed purely opportunistically, but
not often on the Davidson. If the trout are
not responding to dry flies, fish a nymph.
This will greatly increase you odds. Of
course if you rather catch one trout on a
dry fly than ten on a nymph, there is
nothing wrong with that approach.
Concentrate on what should be the most
available food for the trout to eat at any
one time. This doesn't necessarily mean
what is hatching. In fact, most often, there
isn't anything hatching. It could be
something getting ready to hatch and
becoming concentrated in areas the food
normally doesn't exist. It could be some of
the insects that has yet to hatch during
any given time.
Davidson River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
Davidson River and in all stages of life that
are applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have a much
higher degree of success, give us a call.
We not only will help you with selections, you
will learn why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92%
of the thousands of our customers will use
nothing else. 1-800-594-4726.
The Davidson River has a very good
population of aquatic insects due mainly to
its variety of types of water. You have both
fast, pocket water sections and moderate
flows with long pools with short riffles and
runs between them. You have both rock,
boulders and sand and gravel areas of
bottom, as well as soft, silty type bottoms.
Midges hatch throughout the year on the
Davidson River, but become more important
during the times there isn't anything else
hatching. They are most effective during the
The Blue-winged Olives are the most
consistent hatches throughout the year
because of the various species of mayflies
that are called BWOs. The baetis species
begin to hatch in the middle of February,
and sometimes even on warm January days.
These hatches last through April. In late May
and June, you will find hatches of larger
Eastern Blue-winged Olives. One species of
these hatch again in late August and
September. There will be another wave of
hatches of baetis species in October and
Little Winter Stoneflies and Little Early
Brown Stoneflies hatch in January through
early March. Different species of Little Brown
Stoneflies hatch in April. Some of these are
Both Blue Quill and Quill Gordon mayflies
begin to hatch in early March. The Blue
Quills can continue hatching through mid
April. The Quill Gordon hatch ends about
the first week or two of April.
Brachycentrus caddisflies, American
Grannoms, usually called Little Black Caddis
hatch in March and early April. In May, June
and early July, you will find hatches of Green
Sedges. Their larvae, called Green Rock
Worms, can be effective throughout the
year. Hatches of Cinnamon and Spotted
Sedges start occurring in late May and last
all the way through September but they are
spotted and inconsistent. Fall can bring on
some nice hatches of Great Autumn Brown
Sedges in October and early November.
Hendricksons start hatching in mid April
and last for about a month, or until the
third week of May. March Browns hatch
from the faster water during May and early
June. Light Cahills hatch in May and early
About the first of May, Little Yellow
Stoneflies, called Yellow Sallies start
hatching. These hatches can last into late
June. There's one species that will hatch
in late September.
Little Green Stoneflies hatch during late
May. Giant Black Stoneflies hatch in the
evenings in early May. This hatch last for
about three weeks. Nymphs are most
effective for the hatch.
Sulphur mayflies and Eastern Pale
Evening Duns hatch in late May. The
PEDs start first and a week or two later,
the smaller Sulphurs being hatching.
These hatches last about a month and are
not very consistent. Eastern Green Drakes
hatch during late May. This is a two or
three week long hatch that is popular on
the Davidson River. The spinner fall, is the
most important stage of the hatch. It
occurs in the evenings.During the months
of June, July, August and September,
terrestrial insects become important.
Imitations of ants, beetles, inch worms
(moth larvae) and grass hoppers work
during the summer.
Don't forget to have a good selection of
streamers. The large browns feed on
minnow, baitfish, sculpin and small
crayfish. These work great during the
brown trout spawning period and anytime
during low light conditions.
We recommend our "Perfect Fly" trout flies
not only because they are by far the most
realistic of the food in the Davidson River,
they are also the most effective at
catching trout. Many of the flies been
tested and proven effective there. We
receive email and calls complimenting our
flies from anglers coast to coast just about
every day. This one is from Craig
Lancaster, a North Carolina resident and
avid trout angler, referring to a trip on the
March 10, 2010 9:28 AM
From: Craig Lancaster
Just wanted to let you know about our fishing trip this past
weekend. We fished in the Davidson River gorge and did
fairly well considering it was 19 degrees when we got
there. I ended up with double digits of fish in less than
four hours fishing. I started out with your little winter
stonefly and caught a few fish high sticking in runs. I then
switched to a dropper rig of your perfect fly blue wing
olive nymph and quill gordon nymph and things started
heating up. I pulled two fish out of the first hole with the
flies. I also landed a nice 17" brown on the bwo nymph
that put up one heck of a fight. Again, want to
compliment you on your flies they are far superior to any
other flies out there and look extremely realistic. I
especially can't wait til summer I love the perfect fly
Fishing is good during all but the very
hottest days of summer.
Fall is an excellent time to fish the
Davidson River. Some big trout are caught
each year during the spawning season.
Davidson River Fishing Report:
11/29/13 Water has been very cold, in mid
40s and lower. Customer reported catching
a few trout on our Perfect Fly Cream midge
pupae and larvae imitations before last
increase in water levels. Water levels are
down and warm weather anticipated.
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