Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Adam Jones/Photodisc/Getty)
Gone Fishing
The Cataloochee Creek System is in one of the most remote sections of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and offers a smorgasbord of trout streams. On the other hand, some say Abrams Creek has the best fishing in the park.

There are nearly 500 miles of fishable streams in the Smokies, from the upper prongs of Forney Creek at over 4,000 feet to the mouth of Abrams Creek, where it spills into Chilhowee Lake at less than 900 feet. Brook trout are the only native trout, but after the logging days of the late 19th and early 20th century, both brook and brown trout were stocked. Now, these three species, along with smallmouth bass in the lowest streams, thrive here.

For first-timers, the Smoky Mountains fishing experience can be frustrating. Heavy vegetation grows around and over cold streams dotted with slick rocks. Fly fishermen can't find room to back cast. Stream banks are thick with rhododendron. The valleys are nearly always cool deep in the mountains. Then there's the other side of the picture—tall yellow birch trees looming over clear water as it flows over mossy boulders into a dark green pool, where a shadowy figure darts up from the deep, attacking your presentation.

Fly fishermen do not have the market cornered here; anglers with spinning rods can actually have an easier time casting the mostly forested waters of this park. Both fly and spin anglers can be found along roadsides—there is plenty of roadside fishing. However, a better experience is out there. The best fishing adventures in the Smokies are away from the roads. There are simply too many streams accessible by trail not to enjoy the one-two punch of angling for your favorite fish in a pristine mountain setting, minus the cars.

Five Great Smoky Fishing Adventures

1. The Horseshoe (Cades Cove)
Upper Abrams Creek, which flows out of the wide valley of Cades Cove, is a favorite stream with locals. A specific section, known as "The Horsehoe," is accessible via the Abrams Falls Trail. Abrams is one of the park's biggest streams, minimizing overhead vegetation. This is rainbow trout country. The rocks are notoriously slick, but the scenery is very rewarding as the creek leaves the trail and loops around a steep ridge cloaked in pine and mountain laurel. Start fishing The Horseshoe in the morning as it takes all day to get around it.

2. Little River/Fish Camp Prong (Elkmont)
The Little River is another of the Smokies largest streams. It offers roadside fishing, but anglers will best be served by hiking a couple of miles up the Little River Trail, where Little River and Fish Camp Prong come together. Both medium-sized streams offer quality angling for both rainbow and brown trout in a cathedral-like forest. Grizzled Appalachian trouters consider the upper Little River to be one of the most scenic angling settings around.

3. Porters Creek (Cosby/Greenbrier)
Porters Creek is better known for its spring wildflower displays than angling opportunities. This valley is exceptionally beautiful in spring, and continues to hold its own after that. The Porter's Creek Trail makes for ideal access on this rainbow trout stream that is surprisingly little-fished. There are numerous drop pools that let anglers test their skills on these wary trout.

4. Hazel Creek (Fontana Lake Area)
Hazel Creek has been lauded in sporting magazines for a century and it doesn't disappoint. Accessible by boat at its mouth, anglers can take a shuttle from Fontana Marina. The headwaters can be reached by a long hike from Clingmans Dome. Either way, big browns and rainbows, along with brook trout in the headwaters, await determined fishermen. Stream size ranges from large by the lake to small along its headwaters and feeder prongs. Just about any angling experience that can be had in the Smokies can be had on this stream. Consider camping overnight at one of the many backcountry campsites set along the creek.

5. Cataloochee Creek (Cataloochee/Smokemont)
Cataloochee Creek is the primary stream of the remote Cataloochee Valley. Open fields and old homesites make this stream and many of its feeder branches easier to fish than your average Smoky Mountain waterway. Rainbow and brown trout are the main catches, though smallmouth bass are rumored to be below the campground. Palmer Creek and Caldwell Fork are the most rewarding feeder branches to fish.

Fishing Outfitters
Little River Outfitters, located in Townsend, Tennessee, offers guided fly-fishing trips in the Smokies. These are wading day trips, though they do outfit for overnight trips in the park. The experienced guides specialize in all three prongs of the Little River and Abrams Creek, though they will go to other locales on special outings. They also offer a beginner fly-fishing school as well as advanced casting. But whether you are a beginner or a veteran trouter, these folks will put you on productive waters year-round. They can be reached at 865-448-9459. Fontana Marina offers shuttle rides to streams flowing into Fontana Lake. They can be reached at 828-498-2211, ext. 277.


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