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  1. Default SC and NC flies question

    Hello All,

    I am relatively new to fly fishing and would love to hear opinions on what flies work best in the rivers of North and South Carolina. I am very close to the Chattooga river in SC but sometimes travel to the Davidson river in NC (Also the East fork, West Mills and other rivers in that area) and was recently on the Green river, also in NC.

    I am interested in all patterns for all seasons, as I am just trying to build my knowledge of fly fishing.

    Just in case: I am talking about Trout flies, wet and dry, and would greatly appreciate any information you can give, especially specifics (colors, sizes, presentation methods, etc.).

    Thank you to all who can help and I look forward to conversing with you further.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: SC and NC flies question

    Hey Benford, welcome to the board.

    You have a mix of different water down there—some freestone mountain streams, some tail waters below dams, and probably a mix of wild, holdover, and stocked fish. Here’s a generic assortment of patterns that should cover a lot of bases, including some of the smaller stuff that’s probably hatching now (small Blue Winged Olives and Midges). Hopefully some of the folks that fish down your way will chime in, these are pretty effective throughout the East, but always defer to the local experts.

    Don’t feel you need all of this, in all sizes, all at once, and it also depends on what stuff you like to fish and the types of water you hit. “Core” patterns should be in your box first in a size or two in the range given, and the ones marked with an asterisk “*” are “ nice to haves” once you’ve covered the basics as you start building a collection. Some of the flies you won’t need until it warms up a bit like grasshoppers and other later season stuff, so you can add those down the road. There are tons of other patterns, and i'm sure i'm leaving out a lot of peoples favorites, but here goes:

    A basic fly selection for Eastern tailwaters, mountain streams and put and take fisheries

    Blue Winged Olive 16-20 (this imitates many different species that cover hatches all year long, even in winter)
    Light Cahill 14-18 (for light colored mayflies in late spring through summer)
    Griffiths Gnat 18-22 (for midges and small mayflies all year long, even in winter)
    Adams Parachute 14-20 (Generic medium shade mayfly imitation, good for slow water)
    *Rusty Spinner 16-20 imitates a number of mayflies final life stage including many Blue Winged Olives)
    *Yellow Sally 14-16 (summer mayfly)
    *Gray Fox Variant 12-14 (great to skitter May-September and does a good job imitating some of the larger mayflies, including the Green Drake if you get them)
    * You may also want to check in a fly shop to get a sense of major mayfly hatches on your waters. Not all streams get them, but some major hatches to look for in the East are Blue Quills 16-18, Quill Gordons 12-14, Red Quill/Hendrickson 14-16, March Browns 12-14 and Sulfurs 16-18. The Adams, Blue Winged Olive, Light Cahill and Gray Fox you'll be pretty close to matching size and shade of these hatches, but more specific patterns might be better when fish key in on the naturals. You could try classic patterns in those names and sizes, or Sparkle Dun versions (a bit better in slower water and they also do triple duty as an emerger/dun/spinner). These hatches may overlap a bit, but generally they should start with Blue Quills and Quill Gordons popping early March through April, Hendricksons (Mid March through April), March Browns (Mid March through early May), and Sulfurs (Mid April- May) guesstimating based on when they occur up here, which is a bit colder and later.

    Caddis Patterns 14-18 Mix it up a bit with different styles and colors. Some good choices to pick from are Elk Hair Caddis for fast water, X Caddis for slower water, Delta Wing for spent caddis, Hemingway Caddis for skittering, Lawsons caddis for small sizes. Pick some in different colors (body/wing): gray/brown, cream/tan, olive/tan, black/dark gray. The black caddis patterns 16-18 also do a good job of imitating early winter stoneflies which should be out soon. If you see caddis or other stuff on the water and don't have an exact match, try to match the size of the natural (or smaller) in whatever color or style comes closest, and if that doesn't work try swinging a soft hackle wet fly.

    Fast Water Dries (also good indicators for fishing with a nymph dropper)
    Royal Wulff 12-14
    *Humpy (yellow or red) 14
    Stimulator (yellow and/or orange) 12-14 (also imitates stoneflies and caddis in mountain streams)
    *Stimulator (green) 14 (also imitates caddis and stoneflies in mountain streams)

    Grasshopper 10 or 12 (summer)
    Ant (black) 14-18 (summer)
    *Beetle 14-16 (summer)
    San Juan Worm 8-12 red and pink (anytime good for tailwaters and anywhere after a runoff)

    Soft Hackles- Partridge and Green and/or Partridge and Orange 14-18 (these are good searching flies as well as imitations of emergers, drowned adults and are hard to fish wrong)
    *Deep Sparkle Pupae Green 14-16

    Nymphs (at least some with some bead head to use as droppers)
    Pheasant Tail Nymph 14-18 (great alone or as a dropper, this imitates the nymph form of many different mayflies, including Blue Wing Olives)
    Gold Ribbed Hares Ear 14-16 (alone or as dropper, imitates many fat bodied mayflies and also cased caddis larva)
    Zug Bug or Bead Head Prince Nymph 14-16 (fish alone or in front of or behind a bugger, imitates small stonefly nymphs, large mayfly nymphs and cased caddis)
    WD40 and/or Zebra Midge 16-20 (winter and tailwaters alone or as dropper)
    *Green Rockworm 14 caddis larva pattern for riffles. Fish near bottom with split shot)
    *Copper John 14-16 (alone or dropper)
    *RS2 14-16 (alone or dropper)
    *Lightening Bug 14-16 (fish alone, with dropper, or in front or behind a woolly bugger)

    Streamers (good any time)
    Bead Head Woolly Bugger- black and olive sizes 8-10
    Muddler Minnow 8-12 (imitates sculpins and can also be fished dry for a grass hopper)
    Black Marabou Muddler 6 (for deep pools, high water, big trout fly)

    Egg patterns 14-16 (for stocked trout)
    Y2K peach
    *Yarn or Cactus Chenille Eggs in Chartreuse, Apricot, Pink
    *Sucker Spawn cream
    *Crystal Meth/Trout Crack apricot/burnt orange

    As far as presentations go, here’s a few links. For dry flies, this is a link to Part 1 of a two part article, (with a link to part 2 at the bottom)
    Dry Fly Presentations--Part 1 | Feature Article | Westfly

    And this is the same dealio for wet flies, Part 1 of two:
    Wet Fly Presentations--Part 1 | Feature Article | Westfly

    Hope this helps a bit. Keep asking questions, especially in the General Discussion or Coldwater Forums – they get a lot of traffic from folks all over that can help get you off to a good start. You might also want to look into joining a local Trout Unlimited Chapter. Maybe these guys are close to you:

    It’ll really help your learning curve, and you’ll be able to get a lot of advice on where to go, what to use, casting clinics, tying classes etc etc. and meet some new buddies.

    Good luck!


  3. Default Re: SC and NC flies question

    Very, very helpful! Thank you, peregrines.

    I may have to move the following question to one of the more popular forums as you said, but:

    When tying on multiple flies, most often 3 do I know what order to put them in?

    I've been told the heavier ones should be at the bottom to pull the smaller ones down..the 'emergers' are to be near the surface and so on.

    Any advice here?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: SC and NC flies question


    Good question. There are a lot of different ways to go depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

    First step is check your regs to make sure you can fish more than one fly on the waters you fish. Some special reg water may not allow it.

    When I fish droppers I usually use 2 flies. Less tangles when casting.
    I tie them in-line, with the point fly (last one at the end) usually to the bend of the lead fly with an improved clinch knot. Some folks tie directly the dropper to the eye of the lead fly.

    I fish a couple of different set ups dry/dropper, heavy/light and light/heavy depending on my "strategery".

    Dry fly (lead) and soft hackle, emerger or nymph as the point (last) fly. The dry fly serves as an indicator (but will also take fish often enough), and suspends the point fly near the surface. The dry has to support the dropper, so I usually use a larger size fly on top than the dropper. Distance from lead to point varies from 12 -30”. If there is a hatch going on and insects on the surface, but no sign of feeding on top I’m hoping that fish might be feeding on emergers or nymphs coming off the bottom a little deeper so I’ll go with 30-24”, but if I see bulges or splashes usually 12-18”.

    Good dry/dropper combos to try:

    Tailwaters all year, and winter fishing- When fish are on real small stuff a size 18 Black Elk Hair Caddis with size 20 Zebra Midges, 18 Soft Hackle, 20 Bead Head (BH) or 20 unweighted Pheasant Tail Nymph. The Black EHC imitates some of the small winter stoneflies that should be out and about now or soon, and perhaps midges (sorta), and the small droppers imitate emerging mayflies (Blue Winged Olives, Blue and Black Quills) and midges. Another to try is an 18 Griffiths Gnat (imitates a cluster of midges) and an unweighted 20 Pheasant Tail Nymph (BWO's, Black Quills, Blue Quills).

    Medium to slower water stretches of freestone steams- Sparkle Dun and unweighted Pheasant Tail Nymph, Emerger pattern or Soft Hackle same size or smaller than dry. Elk Hair Caddis with Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Soft Hackle, Pheasant Tail Nymph or caddis pupae can be same size or smaller if unweighted, or smaller if weighted.

    Mountain, fast water streams- a big bushy fly like a size 12 Humpy, Wulff or Stimulator for the dry and a Copper John or BH Pheasant Tail size 16

    Hopper-Copper-Dropper- this is the only 3 fly rig I use. It’s a summer thing for me, when I’m trying to drum up stuff and nothing seems to be going on. I use a 10 or 12 Grasshopper or Stimulator on top, a Copper John in the middle and a 16 BH Pheasant Tail Nymph or BH Gold Ribbed Hares Ear on point.

    Float tubing on lakes- I’ve never done it, but where casting isn’t an issue, you can use a dry fly and several midge pupae/larvae patterns as droppers on tippet as long as 20 feet (!?!) to fish different depths. Basically you flop everything overboard and kick yourself away from it to “cast”. The dry floats around on breezes and serves as an indicator. Not sure how you actually land a fish though, unless you have long arms.

    Good Nymph to Nymph combos (make them different patterns)

    Heavy nymph followed by lighter nymph-

    Deep swinging a soft hackle- if you want to get a little deeper than just a soft hackle you could use a weighted fly in front (lead fly) in place of a split shot. 12-16 BH Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear or 16 BH Pheasant Tail Nymph followed by a soft hackle. My favorite though would be a Green Deep Sparkle Pupae followed by a Partridge and Orange as a good prospecting combo to cover a lot of water and it’s easy to fish.

    Fishing deep on slower water 12-14 BH Prince or 14-16 BH Hares Ear followed by a 16 BH Pheasant Tail or Copper John

    Tailwaters- since you want to use small flies here, it makes sense to put the smaller one last on a lighter tippet, and use the lead fly to get deep. A 16 BH Pheasant Tail Nymph followed by a 20 Zebra Midge is a good choice to try if nothing is going on up top.

    Lighter nymph followed by Heavy Nymph (good where you can get away with heavy 3X–4X tippets tippets.)

    Fast Mountain Streams 12 BH Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, 12 BH Prince or 16 BH Pheasant Tail Nymph followed by a heavily weighted size 8-10 stonefly nymph, 10-12 BH Prince, or 8-10 BH Woolly Bugger

    Prospecting combo for riffles- Green Rockworm followed by heavy stonefly nymph. Both of these critters like highly oxygenated water so this is where they live.

    Some links that might be helpful:

    Good basics here on nymphing and some good stuff on the left with links to reading water, dry fishing flies etc:
    Fly Tying Materials, Hooks and Hackle

    And some good info on fishing nymph dropper rigs
    Fly Fishing, Droppers and Tandem Rigs - MidCurrent
    Fly Fishing, Dropper Flies and Tandem Rigs - MidCurrent

    Hope this helps.


  5. Default Re: SC and NC flies question

    Once again, very helpful information peregrines, thank you much. I'm headed to the river tomorrow and hope to put some of what I've learned here to good use...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: SC and NC flies question

    Good luck! Let us know how you do.


  7. Default Re: SC and NC flies question

    Well I was a bit disappointed...I had one decent rainbow about 14 inches, but the guy I went with caught quite a few including a 21 inch brown about 4 1/2 pounds, that was a fun fight to watch.

    He's the one who's been teaching me fly fishing and he's been fishing the rivers around here for almost 20 years.

    Apparently I have to learn to cast softer because my setup is hitting the water a bit too hard and spooking the fish. Reading about casting softer is one thing, doing it is going to take more practice...back to basics

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: SC and NC flies question


    Hey congrats on the fish. Sounds like a nice one. What were you and your buddy catching them on?


    PS Sometimes I find that aiming for a point a couple feet off the surface helps prevent me from dropping the tip on the release, which drives the fly line into the water.

  9. Default Re: SC and NC flies question

    Hm, helpful tip, I'll give that try.

    His and my nice fish were actually both caught on a san juan worm. We were trying blue wing olives on top, pheasant tails, copper johns, various midges and hairs ears...but he dropped a worm on the end of his setup to go right along the bottom and almost instantly started landing his fish, so I dropped one too.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: SC and NC flies question

    Cool. Glad you dialed them in. If you were fishing a tail water, a lot of times they have aquatic worms, if not, it may have been the depth--- you could also try a heavy nymph with a lighter nymph trailer in those situations if you need to get deep and run out of SJW's (it's starting to snow here and you've got me fishing in my head....)


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