100 Best: Davidson River
Location: Western North Carolina
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods: Fly, Spin
Species: Browns, rainbows, brook
Supporting Services: Asheville, Brevard
Short take: Easy access, big wild trout, but they’re wise
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapter: Pisgah
On the Bobby N. Setzer State Hatchery section of the Davidson, you’ll find anglers stacked up every 30 yards or so from spring through fall. Every lie holds browns or rainbows and they’re all huge. They’re also picky to say the least. Fish tiny midge nymphs on gossamer tippet. Your pals will cheer when you hook up and groan when you’re broken off by a lunker who knows just which stob to wrap your leader around. This is fly fishing only, catch and release water, only you ain’t doing the releasing.
About 150 yards below the hatchery, the stream reassumes its natural persona. Here it braids around an island, there it flows through a longish run of riffles, next it cuts hard and deep against a bank before welling up again in a set of shoals. Some of the mileage below the hatchery is fairly inaccessible by Davidson River standards and is well worth the short hike down the angler’s trail from the parking lot.
Just below the junction of National Forest Road 745 and US 276 Looking Glass Creek joins the Davidson. You can see the river from the road. Parking pull-offs are ample. The Davidson does not drop a great deal, so most pools come at the foot of gravelly runs. From its headwaters to just shy of the intersection of US 276 and US 64, the river runs through Pisgah National Forest. The forest service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Pisgah Chapter of Trout Unlimited have partnered in adding rock veins, woody debris, and other in-stream features to improve habitat. In addition, they’ve erected yard after yard of split-rail fencing and several interpretive kiosks at public picnic areas along the river. For more than a decade, the Pisgah Chapter has been a steward of the Davidson. Thanks to this work, the river is a consistent producer of better than average size browns and rainbows.