South Mills River
Location: Pisgah National Forest, Henderson/Transylvania County, NC
Directions: Take I-26 East from Asheville, Take Exit 40 and turn right onto Airport Rd (280 West). Go about 11 miles. At the Henderson/Transylvania County line, just past Boyleston Creek Baptist Church, Turn right onto Turkey Pen Rd. This is a really rough road. Go approximately 2.3 miles to the end. You will see the parking for Turkey Pen trailhead.
Description: The South Mills is a wonderful wild trout stream 30 minutes from Asheville. It offers a mix of open and brushy settings with a variety of water types. You can reach the stream on foot in 10 minutes from the Turkey Pen parking lot but the farther upstream you hike the better the fishing. Wet wade it in summer.
Tactics: Fish are wild and hungry here. If you don’t spook ‘em, you’ll likely catch ‘em. In summer expect relatively low water. Be stealthy and work riffles, pockets, slots and shady spots with attractor dries like #16 Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Wullf’s etc. In deeper water adding a small dropper nymph like a PT or Hair’s Ear can help when fish are unwilling to surface feed. Fish light, a 2/3wt or Tenkara is all you need and there is no reason to be on heavier than 6X tippet. If water is up, smaller streamers (#10/12) are a good fall-back. These are wild fish, go barbless and please use good catch & release techniques.
Other: You can also access the South Mills River from the headwaters by driving to the Pink Beds and following the trail downstream. No matter where you start, make sure you have a trail map, food/water and a day pack with what you’ll need for the day. Check the forecast because once you’re an hour or two into the drainage you’re going to have to cope with whatever weather comes your way (and you can’t see it coming). It’s a good place to go with a friend.