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South Mountains State Park

North Carolina Secluded Mountain Gem

South Mountains State Park consists of 12,800 acres nestled in an out of the way portion of Burke County near the town of Morganton, North Carolina.  The park has over forty miles of hiking trails and a waterfall with a stunning eighty foot drop. The park is also home to some excellent delayed harvest, and wild trout waters.  The primary stream winding through the park is the Jacob Fork.  The Jacob Fork is a medium sized free stone stream with a good mix of slow deep holes and fast moving mountain pocket water.  As you cross the small bridge leading to the entrance to the park you will notice a promising fishing hole on your left. This hole has a large over hanging boulder and the deep slow run at itís base looks as though it must be home to a very happy trout.  The stream follows the road from here to the main parking area which is about four miles from the entrance gate.  Most anglers park here and follow the stream side path to fish the three quarter mile section of delayed harvest water. As the grade of the path increases so does the flow of the water. There are some excellent riffles and pockets in this section that will hold good numbers of trout. The delayed harvest section of the stream is stocked with hatchery trout and the usual catch and release regulations apply from October until the first Saturday in June. Only single hook, artificial lures are allowed.

During 2005 the North Carolina Wildlife Resources will stock over 6000 Rainbow, Brook and Brown Trout in Jacob Fork. Some of these are almost always quality fish. I personally have hooked a fish in the lower section of this stream that, much to my surprise, nearly took my line to the backing before breaking off.  On another trip after a night of heavy rain, Jeff Paisley and I pulled numerous fish from very swift water using large black woolly buggers.

At the end of the delayed harvest section of the river you will find a smaller stream that winds itís way up the mountain side, designated as Wild Trout Waters. While I have yet to fish this section I looks promising and locals have indicated that it holds a population of self supporting trout.

There are three disabled access points located on the stream at key locations. Two of these are located in the delayed harvest section and the third is located in the wild trout section.   The parkís trails still show the signs of damage from recent hurricanes and flooding but overall access is still very good.  Fishing pressure can be heavy at times and even if you do not see many anglers you will still run into large numbers of hikers. Since the river is so close to the trail, it is not uncommon to look up from angling and see that you have an audience marveling at your casting prowess.  Usually this happens just as I get hung up in a nearby tree. At any rate be prepared to answer the age old question ďare you catching anything?Ē several times especially on the weekends.

It is important to note that South Mountains State Park is known for more than itís trout and hiking trails. A park ranger that I know considers it to have a healthy population of Copperheads and Rattlesnakes.  The park even has a sign discussing the Timber Rattlers that populate the area. On three trips to the area to date I have seen only one snake which swam between me and a fishing buddy while we were wading.  When ever I fish this or any other area known for snakes I am very careful to stay on the beaten path, make sure that my steps are planned and noisy, and always look before placing my hand anywhere near rocks or fallen logs. Most snakes will avoid you as long as they know you are coming before you get there.


The park can be reached by calling 828-433-4772

To get to South Mountains State Park: 

From Interstate 40 take exit 105 NC 18 South and go 9.5 miles. Turn right onto Sugar Loaf Road and go 4.3 miles to a stop sign. Turn left onto Old NC 18 (state road 1924) and go 2.6 miles to Gap Road. Go 1.4 miles and turn right onto Mountain Park Ave.  Follow this road approximately four miles to the parking area. Click here to view the google map of the area.


Flies to consider when visiting South Mountains State Park:

   Nymphs:      Gold Ribbed Bead Head Hares Ear sizes 14,16,18.

                       Bead Head Pheasant Tail sizes 14,16,18.

Streamers:       Woolly Buggers in black and olive.

       Dries:       Midges to match the naturals.

                       Adams and Female Adams sizes 16,18,20.

                       Blue Wing Olive sizes 18,20.

                       Caddis Patterns.






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