Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Whitewater River North
The Whitewater River is known for its waterfalls, not its
fly fishing opportunities. Upper Whitewater falls, located
in North Carolina, is over 400 feet high and is one of
the highest in the Eastern U. S. The other one, located
in South Carolina, is just slightly smaller. The thing that
makes this a stream well worth noting, is the fact it's
maintained strictly as a wild trout stream. It has a very
good population of wild rainbows and brown trout.
The river flows through public property owned by Duke
Power Company, managed by Toxaway Game Lands,
and Nantahala Game Lands. The lower border is the
South Carolina/North Carolina state line and the upper
border of public land is near the mouth of Silver Run
creek, a small tributary stream.
The Whitewater River is a medium size stream. It can be
accessed from where state highway #281 crosses the
river but both its downstream and upstream waters must
be reached on foot. There's a road near the bridge that
leads to the Overlook Trail which accesses the Upper
Whitewater Falls Overlook. You can then access the
gorge downstream by taking the trail at the overlook.
The trail is very steep, with switchbacks but gets you
down to the river and across it on a log bridge. Fly
fishing the White River is good in the short section
between the falls from there downstream.
You can also access the river in South Carolina just
downstream from the Duke Power Company's Bald
Creek Project. It requires a short half mile hike to the
river from a parking area. There's approximately a mile
of water below the upper Falls in the state of North
The upstream portion of the Whitewater River above
the highway #281 bridge can be accessed from a trail
that follows the stream. Most of the river in North
Carolina lies upstream from the bridge. This trail isn't a
formal hiking trail but rather one probably created by
anglers. The flow of the river in this area is more
moderate and more suitable for brown trout than
rainbows although it contains both species.
There's also access along the river from state Highway
#107 south of Cashiers. There's a mixture of public
access and private property along the road. This is the
best area to fish the Whitewater river in our opinion. Of
course, you don't have the extreme ruggedness and all
of the beauty of the area near the falls.
The streambed near the falls is almost solid rock and
provides little in the way of aquatic insects for the trout
other than strong, clinger stoneflies and a few species
of clinger mayflies. The upper sections of the river has
more aquatic insects as well as more baitfish and
We have only fished the Whitewater River a couple of
times and not but a few hours each during those times.
In both cases we made stops from trips to the
Chattooga River in South Carolina and these stops
were combined with trips to the Upper Chattooga and
Thompson Rivers, along with some other small streams
in North Carolina that fed into Lake Jocassee which is
located just across the state line in South Carolina.
I should also mention that the South Carolina water is
maintained under the state's wild trout regulations, but
the river is stocked with fingerling rainbow and brown
trout. Of course, these trout can swim upstream into
North Carolina. This river probably averages thirty feet
wide. It isn't the small, stream you may picture it to be,
not having seen it.
I would think that the brown trout in the lake move
upstream to spawn in the Fall. I have not verified that
but the lake is full of trout and I don't see why they
wouldn't although they can only go a short ways. The
rainbows probably do the same in the Springtime.
The season runs year-round
Trout can be caught on most warm winter days.
Fly fishing the Whitewater River during the Springtime is
the best time to fish it.
Summertime may get a little slow due to warm water
Fall is a great time to catch a large brown trout
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing: 71/2 ft.,
3 or 4X, Streamers 1-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
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or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Photo Courtesy of Steven Maslar
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