Fishing the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

Bridge over Oconaluftee River, NC
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The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most visited tourist attractions in North Carolina and Virginia. But did you also know that there’s awesome fishing along the parkway?

When most people visit the Parkway, they just drive, usually checking out the scenery. But there are great towns along the route. There are plenty of places to turn off and look at the Appalachian Mountains. But there are also some wonderful towns along the way. Here’s where to stop for the best fishing along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Before you go…

The Blue Ridge Parkway is almost 500 miles long. In other words, you won’t have time to drive the whole thing and fish all in one day. You might want to think about making the Parkway a week-long trip. Or, you could pick a few spots on this list and make a weekend of it.

The locations on this list are ordered from north to south. All, of course, are within a day’s drive of one another. Before you go, either download a parkway map from the official website or pick one up at one of the local shops in the area. There’s also a mobile app you can download to guide you on your trip.

In many of these places, either a valid North Carolina or Virginia permit is acceptable for fishing. Be sure to check before you go.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a great route to the best fishing in the Appalachians. But it’s also not without its risks. Realize that the Parkway is a very windy road. While the route doesn’t have too many sharp turns, it’s critical to keep your eyes on the road. There are many cyclists and motorcycles on the Parkway, so be alert. You’ll also see deer and other animals on the road.

There is a very high chance that you’ll encounter fog along the Parkway. The fog is very heavy at times, and you may have very limited visibility. Rain can cause mudslides, and ice is extremely dangerous on the parkway. It would be practical to leave your headlights on for your whole trip, as you’ll pass through a few tunnels.

Along the Parkway, there are plenty of places to pull off the road and get a few pictures. Parking is always allowed unless you see a sign telling you differently. Overall, though, the Parkway is a very safe drive and well-maintained. Stay alert, use common sense, and enjoy!

Downtown Waynesboro, Virginia
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Waynesboro, Virginia

Waynesboro is one of the northernmost towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s also a favorite spot for fly fishermen. The South River runs right through the center of the city, and is the home of a trout fishery.

There are half a dozen campgrounds in Waynesboro, and all of them have beautiful mountain views. If you’re just making a side stop along the Parkway with your family, they might like to play disc golf or to go rock climbing while you fish.

The Upper South River is privately owned, but you can still get a landowner permit. The easiest place to go, though, is the Lower River. The area around Rife Park is stocked with salmon, and you’re sure to catch a few.

James River Trestle in Lynchburg, VA
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Lynchburg, Virginia

The James River flows through Lynchburg, Virginia. You’ll find smallmouth bass, muskie, sunfish and catfish in the river. You can also visit the Ivy Creek Park Lake. The lake is stocked with trout and catfish throughout the year.

Lynchburg is a historical city, founded in 1852. So there’s plenty for the history fans to do, from Civil War reenactments to museums. But if you’d rather do something a little more upbeat, you can visit one of the zipline parks in the area.

Staying in Lynchburg is definitely possible if you want to make a weekend stop. There are plenty of chain restaurants and hotels, or you could camp in one of the grounds along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Like other areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway, fishing is allowed with a valid license. Parkway waters can be fished with a license from either state, but the local Lynchburg parks may require a Virginia license.

Roanoke, Virginia
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Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke is one of the biggest cities along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and has some of the best fishing spots, too. One of the most popular spots is Smith Mountain Lake. It’s got 500 miles of shoreline, and you’ll find walleye, channel catfish, large and smallmouth bass and crappies. If you’re lucky, you could catch a muskie or white bass.

Largemouth bass are an especially popular catch. The fish in Smith Mountain Lake have weighed as much as eight pounds! You can catch striper by the dam, and crappies will live in the northern part of the reservoir. If you see fallen trees, there are probably crappies there.

If you’ve brought everyone along for your Blue Ridge fishing trip, there’s plenty for your family to do. There’s a (little) zoo in Roanoke, a science museum, and even a pinball museum. You can stay in the area at one of the chain hotels. But Roanoke has a lot of nice, locally owned inns, too.

Boone, NC waterfall
Image courtesy of Justin Fincher,, CC BY 2.0

Boone, North Carolina

There are two things you should know about Boone. First of all, it’s a college town; that’s where the Appalachian State Mountaineers play. Secondly, it’s a major tourist attraction in the fall. Everyone travels to Boone for foliage and football. That said, the rates in the hotels go up, and you’ll be dealing with a lot of crowds.

If you’re going to visit Boone, it’s best to go in the spring or early summer. All the college kids are either taking their exams or going home for the summer, and you’ll have the place to yourself.

There are a few places to fish in the area around Boone that you’ll love. You can visit Moses Cone Park, where you’ll catch bass and trout in Bass Lake and Trout Lake. Julian Price Park in Blowing Rock is beautiful, and Price Lake has bream and smallmouth bass.

Boone has a lot for your family to do, too. Just walking the streets is fun; you’ll find a lot of little shops to visit, and even a used record store. Yes, LPs! There are chain hotels and more than a few little locally owned places to stay. If you prefer, you can camp in one of the dozen or so campgrounds in the area.

Trumpeter swan on the French Broad River, NC
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Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is another college town. The University of North Carolina at Asheville is located downtown, but you don’t need to go downtown. You can do your fishing right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The center of Asheville is where two rivers meet. You’ll see the French Broad and the Swannanoa. The Swannanoa isn’t as big as the French Broad in terms of surface are, but it’s still a hatchery supported river. The French Broad gains speed in Asheville, so it’s best to stay on shore. But the River is wide, and a great spot for fly fishing.

Asheville is known for a few things. First of all, it’s a “crunchy” community. That means that there are very often festivals, live music and other events in the area. Secondly, it’s known for its beer. Take a side trip into the city and visit one of the breweries. There are a few in the area, and they make a great stopping point.

If you’re interested, you can also visit the Biltmore Estate. It was one of the Vanderbilt mansions, and you can tour the property and the house. Even better, you can stay at the Grove Park Inn. The Inn is haunted by the “Pink Lady,” the spirit of a woman who fell from a balcony in the 1920s. Bring your wallet, though–a night in the hotel will set you back over $300.

Strangely enough, Asheville is home to yet another pinball museum. There are also parks and museums in the area. Or, you can catch a play or a sports event at UNC–Asheville. There’s plenty to do in the city, and fishing is just one of them.

Bridge over Oconaluftee River, NC
By Billy Hathorn,,_Cherokee,_NC_IMG_5147.JPG, CC BY 3.0

Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee is where the Blue Ridge Parkway stops. It sits on a Native American reservation, and the Oconaluftee River runs through the town. The waters of the Oconalutfee are supplied by melting snow caps, so it stays cold through most of the year. That makes it perfect for trout fishing. There are both rainbow and browns in the Oconaluftee.

Before you go fishing in Cherokee, you’ll have to get a special permit. Because the land is on a reserve, you’ll need a tribal permit for everyone 12 years old and up. You’ll also need a North Carolina fishing permit (a Tennessee permit won’t be valid on the reservation).

If you’re traveling to the Cherokee reservation, you may be interested in visiting one of the area casinos. Harrah’s is the most popular of them. You can also take a look at Mingo Falls, a 120-foot tall waterfall. It’s one of the tallest in the Appalachians.

Despite the fact that it’s a largely wooded reservation, there are a few chain hotels in the area. You might especially like the Rover’s Edge Motel. It is, literally, right on the river. Unfortunately, you can’t fish from your balcony, but you’re just steps away from the river, which is stocked twice a week.