The Davidson River
Western North Carolina Catch & Release Fly Fishery
Large trout, small flies, and beautiful surroundings are what await the angler who spends the day fishing the Davidson River.
Western North Carolina’s Davidson River is located near the small town of Brevard about a half hour drive from the city of Asheville.
The catch and release fly fishing only regulated section of the Davidson is known to many anglers as one of the top fly fishing rivers on the east coast. This is due in part to its excellent population of fairly large trout and it’s regular hatches.
The Davidson has been written about in countless fly fishing publications and has been listed as one of Trout Unlimited’s top streams. Much of the catch and release section is characterized by slow flowing pools giving the angler ample opportunity to sight fish to large Rainbows. Catching these fish is another matter entirely as the water is often gin clear and the fish very wary due to the heavy pressure they receive. In my experience it is not uncommon for these fish to refuse all but the most expertly presented fly. A weekday trip during the off season might get you a bit of solitude but even that might be doubtful.
The river is also home to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the Pisgah Forest Fish Hatchery. Both are worth seeing if you want to take a break from fishing. The area around the hatchery and the bridge leading to the parking area are very popular spots with both guides and anglers fishing on their own. This section provides the easiest access to the river but also gets some of the heaviest pressure. You might find a bit more privacy by simply taking a short hike upstream or down.
Hatches on the Davidson can be excellent at times with an almost daily hatch of midges. I have had success here fishing a size 22 gray midge that really did not amount to more than a ball of fuzz (gray ostrich hurl) on a very small hook. I tied it on the advice of contributing editor Jeff Paisley who suggested that the trout here see so many flies that it might make sense to show them something so small that they have to taste it to find out what it is.
In addition to the midge hatch there are also larger insects that hatch according to season. On a recent trip we encountered some text book examples of yellow caddis. If you are very lucky you might encounter the strangest hatch of all. The Hatchery Hatch as I like to call it occurs when the Pisgah Forest Fish Hatchery flushes a tank into the river. The tanks contain lots of trout roe and other nutrients and when the tanks are flushed the trout seem to hear the dinner bell ringing. This happened to me once and as soon as the water went muddy from the discharge every trout I could see began to feed. This lasted about ten minutes and during this time a fish was hooked on almost every cast. As soon as the water began to become clear again, the feeding activity went back to normal.
If you have never fished the Davidson, it is definately worth a visit. This is a river that should be on every anglers list of must fish waters in North Carolina. It can be a tough place to catch fish but you can be successful if you pay attention and adjust to the conditions around you.
Here are some tips for fishing the Davidson River:
Fish small midge imitations like the Griffith’s Gnat or cream midges in size 20 or smaller. Try to match the naturals that you see around you. Small flies like these can be difficult to see on the water. To help alleviate this try setting the hook when you see a fish roll where you think your fly should be.
7x leaders or smaller are necessary here. Fish the lightest and longest leader that you can be comfortable with.
Take a hike and get away from the crowd at the parking lot.
If you are fishing nymphs try cutting your strike indicator down to the smallest possible size. Try a small Bead Head Hares Ear, (18 or smaller) or a brassie or other caddis imitation. Fish the faster runs where possible.
A longer rod will help you to get a drag free drift by allowing you to “high stick” your fly through the holes. It will also help you get better distance from your casts.
Don’t be afraid to try something outside the box. These fish see lots of flies each day. You might improve your catch rate just by showing the trout something new.
The Davidson is located off of US Highway 64/276 about two miles North of Brevard, NC. Here is a link to the Google Map of the area.