Eight Miles of Beautiful Catawba River Fishing Spots

By Tom Keer

Nov 15, 2017

The Catawba River runs for 3285 square miles and along the way there are lots of fish to catch.  If you're looking for trout, trout and more trout head to the mountains and fish the stretch below Lake James.  The river is quickly becoming a premier trout stream in the Tarheel State.

North Caroling fishing is good, and trout fishing in North Carolina is strong, and for some time the Catawba River has been a fishery on the upswing.

The Catawba River runs for 3,285 square miles but the trout water begins along the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge mountains.  The stretch below Lake James is one of the primary Catawba river fishing spots for trout because the dam creates a tailwater.  Water temperatures are cool in the summer and warmer in the winter, and the river is stocked with brown, rainbow, and brook trout.  In October 2011, the NC Wildlife Resource Commission stocked nearly 10,000 brown trout in the 8-10 inch size.  Because of the river's fertility the browns grow about 3/4 of an inch per month.  The state follow up that initial stocking with 5 supplemental stockings over the next four years.  Needless to say anglers find plenty of trout per mile in the river.

Where to fish on the Catawba is somewhat of an issue as wading access below Lake James is very limited.  As the majority of the riverside property is private there are only two river fishing spots.  The first is at the Watermill access off of Watermill Road in Glen Alpine and the second is below the Bridgewater Hydro Station on Lake James.  Publicly owned land are in the four state parks in the basin of the Pisgah National Forest.

Most Catawba River fishing is done by driftboat.  Most boats launch in the Bridgewater Public Fishing Access Area takeout by Morganton's water-intake dam.  Catawba River fishing spots along the eight-miles of river include riffles, runs, and pools.  If you've got your own boat then dial up the livery for a ride.  If not, call one of the fly shops in the area, they've got a number of excellent guides who can get you on some hot Catawba River fishing action.

Depending on the season and hatches, a lot of the fishing is with a floating line and dry flies.  River fishing rigs can include subsurface work with nymphs and emergers.  Tossing streamers in the fall entices big browns looking to put on some weight before the winter.

Get in your last licks by heading to the Catawba before it gets too cold.  You'll be glad you did!

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.