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Fly Fishing the North River

Just in case you are not familiar with it, the North River is a tributary of the Tellico
River. The Tellico River is a large freestone stream that starts in North Carolina and
flows into Tennessee. The North River and Bald River are the two main tributary
streams of the Tellico River. It is best reached from the little town of Tellico Plains.

Although the Tellico River is heavily stocked, the North River tributary is not. It is
managed as a wild trout stream. It has a good population of both wild rainbows and
brown trout. It is my understanding that in the recent past, the upper headwaters
have been restocked with brook trout but I have not fished for them.  

The first three or four miles upstream from its confluence with the Tellico River, the
North River is a medium sized stream that is fairly steep with fast flowing water very
suitable for rainbow trout. The rainbows are very plentiful and usually fairly easy to
catch on attractor flies.

At the North River campground, the stream changes its decline to a moderate
slope. The flow slows down considerably and brown trout become fairly plentiful.
The stream is still about the same size as the lower high gradient portion, but it
almost levels out in some areas, creating pools that are very suitable for the
browns. A road follows along fairly close to much of the stream for the next three or
four miles upstream. It does leave the stream in a couple of places where the
stream is much less likely to be fished.

During the warm months of the year and during hunting season, the campground is
usually very busy. Even so, we have always been able to find plenty of undisturbed
places to fish the North River. Most of the campers that fish do so in the stocked
area of the Tellico River downstream.

Although this stream is said to have some very large brown trout, we have not
caught any. However, that is par for the course when you are dry fly fishing on any
small freestone streams that have large browns. They are fairly safe from anglers
unless one chooses to fish during low light conditions using tactics and methods
specifically suited for catching large browns. The odds of hooking one on a dry fly
are very low. It is possible and it happens every once in a blue moon, but it is not
I expect that the North River, like any other small freestone stream, has its fair
share of large browns. We have managed to catch several on dry flies up to twelve
inches above the campground along with a mixture of smaller rainbows. Below the
campground downstream to the Tellico River, we have caught the small wild
rainbows up to nine or ten inches in large numbers every time we have fished that
portion of the stream.

I wouldn't call the North River a blue-ribbon destination trout stream by any means.
It is relatively small, short in length and the fishing is generally no better than it is on
any of the similar size streams within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On the
other hand, the Tellico River and its tributaries the North River and Bald River are
certainly worth visiting.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh