Beautiful landscape of two sections of Forney Creek coming together in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Forney Creek


A man kneeling in Forney Creek holding a fish he caught and a fly rod and fishing net.

Forney Creek is perhaps the most formidable stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). In terms of accessibility, anglers must either hike long distances or take a boat across Fontana Lake to reach the fertile lower sections of the creek which have more open space for casting. Be sure to print out maps in advance if you choose to hike because the signage isn’t always clear, and don’t consider pulling a cart along because some stretches of the trails are narrow and require climbing up rock inclines. Travel light unless you plan to traverse the trails on a horse.

Fish Species

fly fishing north carolina

Brook Trout

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Rainbow Trout

fly fishing north carolina

Brown Trout

What's Special About This Water?

The water moves fast, forming eddies in deceptively deep pools. In some places, fallen trees create natural dams, raising water levels where trout may congregate. Other areas feature dual deluges raging along both banks which eventually merge into a single rapid flow further downstream. Most of Forney Creek is cloaked in trees, requiring grace and finesse when casting.

Hikers may spot deer, turkeys, wild hogs, or bears, but encounters with other people are rare due to the difficulty of navigating these trails. Timber rattlesnakes and copperheads are occasionally seen, but these venomous reptiles keep to themselves unless threatened or stepped upon. Wild hogs have also been spotted around Fontana Lake when the water level is down. Forney Creek is not a destination for beginners, but experienced outdoor enthusiasts would welcome the demands of the rough terrain, rugged conditions, and natural obstacles.

Beautiful landscape of a waterfall flowing into a river surrounded by green foliage.

Best Time to Fish

Forney Creek is open for fishing year-round. Spring is the ideal season due to the insect hatches. During the summer, stick to the headwaters where the creek is coolest; if you wet wade, you can lighten your load, too. Fall brings rich rewards of lovely foliage and cooler weather, along with an opportunity to reap the benefits of the brown-trout spawn.

A young man kneeling in a river holding a fish just below the surface of the water while a man looks on.

Trip Planning

Forney Creek isn’t for everyone. Even the most experienced hikers and anglers might find the trip challenging. The place is secluded, so check the weather before heading out, and bring a buddy along if you plan on camping. While roaming the campgrounds, you might come across the remains of homes built when logging communities inhabited the area. In the 1930s, the federal government played the eminent domain card to push these folks out and establish the GSMNP; a century earlier, most of the Cherokee people were forcibly removed from this region as well.

Latest Fishing Reports

Additional Information

Technique and Tips

Casting space is especially tight here, except for the lower reaches of the creek. Scaling fallen trees and slick boulders requires some agility and athleticism when setting up decent casts in cramped conditions. Bow-and-arrow and roll casting often come in handy.

Go-To Flies

We’d recommend Yellow Sallies, Stimulators, Caddisflies, and Griffith’s Gnat.

Types of Trips

We guide walk-and-wade trips on Forney Creek.

Nearby Towns

  • Fontana Village
  • Bryson City

License Requirements

All anglers aged 16 or older must have a valid North Carolina or Tennessee state fishing license for Forney Creek and most other streams in the GSMNP. Both resident and non-resident licenses can be purchased from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Getting There

From Bryson City (approximately a 9-mile drive):

  • Head northwest on Everett Street toward Bryson Avenue.
  • Continue onto Fontana Road.
  • Continue on Lakeview Drive E.

By Boat:

  • Forney Creek flows into Fontana Lake.
  • Boating across Fontana Lake to get there is the simplest route.