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Fly Fishing in North Carolina: Neuse, Trent Rivers and Lake Fontana


North Carolina has more than 500 publicly accessible rivers, lakes and other fisheries to choose from, so it’s tough to know where to start.
So I thought I’d write the latest “From the Guides” piece on a pair of great fishing destinations situation on opposite sides of the Tar Heel State.
First up is New Bern, N.C., on the eastern side of the state, where the Neuse and Trent Rivers converge to offer the best fishing around, according to Matthew D. Waddell of Bluewater Charter Services (bluewatercms.com, 919-440-4285)
Waddell says New Bern offers up great fly fishing for trout, striper and red drum.
The best setup on these waters, according to Waddell, is a 7-9 weight rod, throwing “deceivers and clousers, and big poppers” on weight forward floating line.
If Waddell had just one tip for fishing in New Bern, the longtime guide says to “look for the fish busting first thing in the morning.”
Out west is Lake Fontana in Bryson City, N.C., a favorite of Captain James McManus of 153 Charters in Sylva (153charters.com, 828-421-8125).
“Lake Fontana has smallmouth, spots, white bass and walleye,” McManus said.
Now if you find a school of whites breaking the surface, anglers can reel in dozens of fish on minnow look-alikes and light-colored streamers. Whites will convene around structure and downed trees in and around coves and other hideouts. Just look for the boils and run a streamer through the strike zone at a constant speed.
Then there’s the spotted-bass bite.
Your best bet for spots is to focus on rocky shorelines and coves. For those who aren’t familiar with spotted bass, you also can identify these little scrappy fish by their bright orange eyes and distinct patch of teeth on their tongue.
And if you can’t get enough spot and white bass action in Bryson City,  Lake Hartwell in Seneca, S.C., is just a hop, skip and a jump away.
“Hartwell has Largemouth, spots, stripers and hybrids,” McManus added.
As far as gear, on Lake Fontana, McManus recommends use a 5 to 6 weight rod with “small streamers, poppers and ‘buggers.”
On the Hartwell, “any streamer , jointed streamer or popper that resembles a herring” is a good bet, McManus added.
“On both lakes, you have to pick the right time of the year when the fish are up in the water column.”
On both lakes, you’re going to have to cover a lot of water, so looking for fish busting the surface is a must.
And if you don’t get on any fish in one section of water, keep moving. It’s best to take a tournament-style approach to fishing these lakes. Keep moving and keep throwing.
“Fontana is 15,000 acres and Hartwell is 54,000, so you might have to cover a good bit of ground to find fish,” McManus added. “Not many folks fly fish these lakes, but at times you can have great success. But the main key is picking the right time of the year.”

Enjoy this piece? Check out our other "From the Guides" articles on:

Fly Fishing Ascension Bay: Sight fishing for bonefish and other saltwater species over the white sandy bottoms in Ascension Bay, Mexico.
Fly Fishing Northern New Mexico: The Chama River and other fine fisheries make New Mexico a hidden gem for fly fishers.
Fly Fishing Cape Cod: A look at some tips for for shore fly fishing Cape Cod.
Fly Fishing Cranberry River: All about fly fishing the tasty river in West Virginia.
Fly Fishing Colorado River: A closer look at the 16-mile stretch from Lees Ferry to Glen Canyon Dam.
Fly Fishing British Columbia: Pemberton gives anglers all sorts of fly fishing options.
Fly Fishing Helton Creek: The fishery out of Jefferson, N.C. provides some of the best fly fishing North Carolina has to offer.
Fly Fishing Owens River Valley: A look at the three different sections of the Owens and nearby fisheries in the Eastern Sierra.

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