Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we’re blessed with a wide array of top-notch streams, but the plethora of cool water trout havens can make narrowing down a few regional hotspots a daunting task.
To make that task easier on you we’ve compiled a short list of some of our favorite Appalachian trout hot spots.
1. Chattooga River Headwaters, N.C.
A federally protected Wild and Scenic River, the Chattooga River is one the longest free flowing waterways in the South. It’s also a highly sought after destination for fly anglers from all over the country. The river forms much of the border between South Carolina and Georgia, but its headwaters are located in North Carolina, where it flows out of a small stream on Whiteside Mountain. This section is particularly inviting in the early spring. To access the Upper Chatt head to Whiteside Cove Road. If coming from Cashiers off of Highway 107, you’ll travel about 4 miles before reaching the well-signed parking area for the Chattooga River Trail. A scenic but somewhat strenuous hike into the cove will get you to a part of the Chattooga that many people never visit.
2. Seneca Creek, W.Va.
Located in northeastern West Virginia, Seneca Creek is often touted as one of the state’s best wild trout streams. It is home to feisty, native populations of brook and rainbow trout, and has been included on Trout Unlimited’s annual list of 100 best trout streams in the nation. If you’ve got the time, the best way to experience Seneca Creek is a multi-day backpacking trip. This small tributary is accessible from Elkins, W.Va., by way of Briery Gap Road. Once on Briery Gap continue for 2.5 miles until you find Forest Service Road 112. Take a right here and 11 winding miles later you’ll find a trailhead for the Seneca Creek Trail on your right.
3. James and Shenandoah Rivers, Va.
Both these rivers are recognized as premier fishing destinations, known for aggressive and healthy smallmouth populations. The numerous islands, boulder fields, rock garden, and clay banks of the James afford anglers the opportunity to boat fish up to and over 20 inches, while the pebbled bottoms, grass beds, and undercut ledges of the Shenandoah form a fly fisherman’s paradise.
4. Conasauga River in the Cohutta Mountain Wilderness, Ga.
As the largest contiguous stretch of untrammeled wild lands east of the Mississippi, the Cohutta Mountain Wilderness offers a level of solitude that is rare in the Southeastern United States. As any good fly fisherman knows, when wilderness solitude and mountain rivers collide, prime trout fishing tends to ensue, and the Cohutta’s waters are no exception. Closest to Ellijay, Ga., is the Conasauga, which can be accessed by way of the 13-mile Conasauga River Trail. If you’re planning to camp, there are nine backcountry spots along the trail, and multiple river crossings make water friendly shoes and trekking poles a must. Start at the Betty Gap Trailhead.