Finding New Creeks
I have been asked the question "How do you find all of those creeks?" at least a hundred times. I would say the number one answer is to become friends with Bobby Kilby, who at this point has caught trout in over 1300 NC creeks. Aside from that, I would say read books, study maps, and go explore. Fly shops will only give you "the party line" about where to go, and many fly fishing bloggers and you-tubers notoriously leave out the names of the creeks they post about. Below is a list of resources I have used to find new trout streams in North Carolina:
NCWRC website - lists public mountain trout waters by county (all waters on Game Lands are designated as "wild" trout water, but some do not actually contain trout) https://www.ncpaws.org/PMTWS/TroutSearch.aspx
A Catalog of the Inland Fishing Waters of North Carolina, by Frederic Fish (out of print). This is an absolutely amazing work! Fish listed the streams by major watershed, adding tributaries as you progress upstream. He gives information about access roads and the type of trout found in the creeks, although some of that information has changed since this book was first published in 1969. Many streams that contained brook trout back then now only have rainbows or browns. On a positive note, several creeks that he said were too polluted for trout in 1969 now have clean water and healthy populations of trout. This is the absolute best source for finding undesignated streams.
Western North Carolina Fly Guide, by J. E. B. Hall. Hall includes a few creeks that you will not see listed in other guide books. He includes information such as the best time of year to fish the creek and what flies work best, and he does not exaggerate about fish size. This book is loaded with pictures, but most were taken in the winter. Hey, a guide's gotta work the other three seasons!
Fly Fishing the Blue Ridge Parkway - North Carolina Section, by Sam R. Johnson and Mark H. Woods. Johnson has very detailed information about the streams he has fished, including several tributaries that you will not find in other books, and most of the time he is spot on. He gives much less detailed information about the streams he has not fished, and completely leaves out some pretty good streams that are actually closer to the Parkway than some he has included. Well, he does say on the cover that it is "An Almost Accurate Guide Detailing Over 200 of the Best Rivers, Streams and Creeks".
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Angler's Companion, by Ian Rutter. I think this is the best of the guide books about streams in the park, mainly because of accuracy and ease-of-use. I really like the way this one is organized, and there are lots of good pics. You will find more up-to-date information about fish populations, fishing quality, and methods than you will in the other books about the park. You can tell that Ian and his wife Charity have actually fished all of these streams (and in the last 30 years).
Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An Insider's Guide to A Pursuit of Passion, by Jim Casada. This one is way more than just a guide book. Casada is a great story-teller and an old school Smokies fly fisherman, and he includes information on many tributaries that are not fished by many. For many creeks he has not personally fished, he includes Bobby's information and rating of the creek. Of all the books mentioned here, this one is my favorite read. It is so full of local history that I use it as a source for my "Southern Appalachian History" class.
The Ultimate Fly-Fishing Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains, by Don Kirk and Greg Ward. This one provides better information for the Tennessee side of the park than for the NC side. Kirk, who recently passed away, tended to exaggerate fish size, and there are pictures of fish that I know did not come from the stream being covered. This one is a fun read though, because Kirk was also a great story-teller, and he took several subtle shots at Casada in this book concerning who was the real expert.
North Carolina Waterfalls, by Kevin Adams. I know this book is not about trout fishing, but I know of only a few waterfalls in WNC that are NOT on trout streams. Adams gives much more detailed information on access than any fishing guide book. I have caught trout in several new creeks that I found in this book, but have never seen listed as trout water anywhere. I went on the hunch that if it runs into a trout stream, it may also have trout, such as the creek on the cover (it did!).
Topo Zone - this is a great website to use for online topo maps of NC. Use the topo map mode to find tributaries of trout streams, and use the flat map mode to see private property lines. I have spent countless hours studying topo maps, and have discovered several good streams that way. https://www.topozone.com/north-carolina/
Garmin etrex 20 GPS - This is a great tool for finding tributaries that run into the mainstream on the other side from the trail or road.