Category Archives: Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountain National Park fly fishing information, reports, tips and tactics.

Little River

by David Knapp of Trout Zone Anglers

Species: Rainbow, brown, and brook trout and smallmouth bass
Angler Type: Wade or Boat
Access Type: Public or Private

Guides

Trout Zone Anglers
Fightmaster Fly Fishing
Frontier Anglers
R&R Fly Fishing
Smoky Mountain Gillies
Smoky Mountain Angler

Fly Shops

Little River Outfitters
Smoky Mountain Angler
Orvis Sevierville
3 Rivers Anglers

Lodges/Rentals/Hotels/Campgrounds

Docks Motel
Tremont Lodge and Resort
Elkmont Campground
Riverstone Lodge
Dancing Bear Lodge
Blackberry Farm

Good Eats

Miss Lily’s Café
Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro
Apple Valley Café

The River

Little River begins high in the Great Smoky Mountains on the flanks of Clingman’s Dome and Mt. Collins. The headwaters contain native southern Appalachian brook trout. The river grows from several tributaries and is a good sized trout stream by the time it passes the National Park Service Campground at Elkmont. The river’s character begins to change here from a backcountry pocket water stream, to a larger trout stream with large pools and larger trout. From Elkmont to Townsend, there are approximately 15 miles of excellent trout water. Rainbow and brown trout thrive in these waters. Some of the largest brown trout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park inhabit these waters. Flows at the Townsend USGS gauge average from 75 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the fall, to 400 cfs in the spring time. The best wading is anything below 450 cfs. Even at this flow, caution is recommended.

The river in the Park is too small for drift boats or rafts. White water enthusiasts enjoy paddling Little River during high water episodes. Outside of the Park in Townsend, private land makes floating almost mandatory. This upper section can be done in a raft at appropriate flows. Below Walland, Little River can be easily floated in a canoe or kayak. This lower water is strictly smallmouth and other warm water species fishing, but can be a relaxing way to spend a day.

Fishing

Water depths vary from mere inches in riffles, to well over 10 feet in the deeper holes. Use caution accordingly.
Floating in Townsend is a good option during the winter months when the state stocks some larger trout. Floating in warm weather can be good for smallmouth bass.

Legal Considerations and Fishing Regulations

Please be very conscientious of private property outside of the National Park. It is not recommended to wade the river outside of the Park unless you have definite permission to access the river.
In the National Park, there are special regulations to protect this unique wild fishery. A daily and possession limit of 5 fish with a minimum size of 7” is in effect. Fishing is allowed from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Fishing is limited to single hook artificial lures and flies only, no bait or natural scents. No double or treble hooks are allowed. Anglers are limited to using one rod at a time.

Outside of the Park, statewide trout regulations apply. A 7 trout a day limit with no bait restrictions applies on this put and take fishery. We recommend catch and release on the smallmouth outside of the Park. Further information on regulations can be found at the following:

TWRA Regulations

Great Smoky Mountain National Park Information

Rod and Gear Suggestions

7’ 6” to 10’ fly rods in 2-5 weights are ideal depending on the fishing. In the lower elevations, 8’6” to 10’ rods in 4 and 5 weight are recommended. In the high elevation waters, lighter and shorter rods are ideal for the small but eager native brook trout.
5’ to 9’ 4x and 5x leaders are ideal except in the fall when low water may require 6x tippets. Monofilament is fine for dry fly fishing but fluorocarbon tippets are recommended for nymphing.

Flies

The spring hatches bring anglers from around the country. A basic selection of standard flies should work most of the time, but check in with the local fly shops to see what hatches are on and buy proper imitations.

Some suggestions for the Smokies include Parachute Adams (#12-#18), Tan and Brown Elk Hair Caddis (#14-#16), Yellow Stimulators (#12-#16), Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymphs (#12-#20), Prince Nymphs (#10-#14), Tellico Nymph (#8-#14), Green Weenie (#12-#16).
Specific hatches in the spring and summer include Quill Gordons (#10-#14), Blue Quills (#16-#18), Hendricksons (#12-#14), Sulfurs (#16-#18), Light Cahills (#14-#16), Blue-winged Olives (#18-#24), Isonychias (#8-#12), Little Black Caddis (#16-#20), Little Yellow Stoneflies (#12-#18), Golden Stoneflies (#6-#12).

Summers are prime terrestrial time. Beetles, ants, and inchworms are all very important at certain times on Little River. The low elevations outside of the Park below Townsend may see some hopper action during windy days.
Midges hatch year round and are especially important in winter when they may be the only thing hatching.
On the smallmouth waters outside of the Park, Wooly Buggers, Stealth Bombers, Poppers, and Clouser Minnows should keep you catching fish.

Getting There

Tennessee highway 321 follows lower Little River from Townsend to Maryville. In the Park, Little River Road, Tennessee state route 73, follows Little River from the Park boundary to the turnoff for Elkmont Campground. From Townsend, follow 321 to the only stoplight in town. At the stoplight, leave 321 for highway 73 which takes you into the Park. At the Wye, the road splits. To fish Little River, turn left towards Gatlinburg. The road follows the river for the next 13 miles. If you are coming from Gatlinburg, take highway 441 to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Turn right onto Little River Road and drive approximately 5 miles.

GSMNP Maps

Local Weather Forecast

facebookmailfacebookmail

The Tennessee Tour

Let me first say how fortunate I am to live in an area that has such great and diverse fishing opportunities. East Tennessee has everything that a fisherman could ever want. From small mountain streams to tailwaters that fish like rivers in Montana and plenty of lakes in between.

Every year one of my really good friends, Wade, comes into town and we do a little fishing. The past couple of years we have always stuck to the tailwaters, but this year we realized that he had never fished in the Smokies. The streams in the Smokies are a true one of a kind experience, there is really no place that is just like them. So, this year we decided we would hit the Smokies. Day-One, we started on the Clinch and also got to fish with Doug (local east tennessee fishing legend turned corporate selling phenom ;-)). Day-Two we headed up to the Smokies for some small stream fishing and finally on Day-Three the South Holston.

The Clinch fished great. The water was slightly off color and there was a heavy fog on the water when arrived at 8am. We floated from Peach Orchard to Hwy 61. The fishing started off a little slow, but got good quickly and remained good until the 2nd generator caught us. Your standard rig of midges and pheasant tails produced as always under and indicator.

The Smokies, we woke early to find a band of really nasty storms rolling in from Kentucky. They were moving at about 60 miles per hour and looked really gnarly over the pleatau. Wade immediately thought the fishing would be done as he looked at the red masses on the radar screen. However, I had hopes that the storms would break up over the pleateu as I’ve seen happen on many occasion. So instead of rushing out to fish we hung back to see what would play out with the first band of storms.

What other way to wait out a storm than to spend the time cooking up some homemade biscuits and gravey. Let me restate that, this is no ordinary B&G, this gravey was made with Benton’s Bacon!, only the best ever, life changing bacon I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. When you cook it the smells will fill the entire house for days! It’s awesome!

First, wave of storms had passed and we took advantage of it and headed up into the Smokies. My original plan had been to take Wade into a special area that is tough to get into and fish. The only problem is once in this area you are basically stuck in the river until you come out at a trail crossing. When we got up there the water looked a little off color and it was starting to rain again. We knew that there was another storm on the way, so instead of betting our lives on fishing an area that would be subject to flash flooding, we opted for some high elevation road side fishing. We headed up to Walker Camp Prong. The fish cooperated wonderfully and we brought some really nice Rainbow trout to hand as well as a couple really nice brookies (however I left the camera in the car).  Para Adams produced all day as long as you got a good drift.

The South Holston, the fishing was just so so. They had been sluicing 250 cfs for the last couple of weeks and I had heard that the fishing was really good. However, we got there to find that they had completely shut the water off. I mean completely, nothing siltch, no water coming over the grates at all. It seems that they had decided to do a little house keeping on the wier dam. Fearing that it would take forever for them to get the water back on, we headed down to lower Big Springs road. When we arrived the water was about normal for low flow and we fished a couple of my favorite pull offs. There were a few sulphurs rising and the fishing was pretty consistent on dry dropper rigs. Later we headed back up to see if they’d turned the water back on and we fished up near the grates till the sun began to set.

Three full days of fishing go by so fast. It already seems like it happened months ago. There really isn’t enough time.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Troutfest and Fly Fishing Legends

Troutfest 2011 is complete.  I’m not sure on the total money raised, but I’m sure it is as good as always.  For those of you that are not familiar with Troutfest, check it out at Troutfest.org .  In my opinion it is one of the coolest fly fishing festivals in the United States.  Where else can you sit besides Lefty Kreh and Joe Humphrey’s while you all watch a kid from Knoxville, TN tie flies of his own creation. 

I may be a bit biased as I sat on the planning committee for 2009 and 2010, but trust me it is awesome.  The event is a result of the Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  Most people don’t know, but Joe Hatton (former lrctu chapter president) was one of the driving forces for getting the event started 8 years ago.  Since then, Byron Begley of Little River Outfitters ,has helped to grow the event over the last three years to where it is today.  In 2009 and 2010 the event grossed around $60,000 each year and donations of around $45,000 were donated to Great Smoky Mountain National Park both years as well.  Not bad for an event ran by volunteers.  I must give a hats off to all of them as without them it would not be possible.  There are probably around 100 volunteers each year that donate thousands of hours of their time to make the event a success.  It is truely a special event.  The feeling you get when attending and walking around is awe inspiring. 

Also, without the sponsors and exhibitors the event could not happen.  Here is a link to the Troutfest 2011 sponsors list.  We also get donations from many of the fly fishing industry manufacturers for our auction as well as attendance by all of the regional fly fishing industry manufacturer representatives; Randy Hamilton, Park Burson, Steve Burkhalter and Kent Edmonds to name a few.

One of my favorite stories is from two years ago when I had rented a cabin on Little River for the duration of the event.  I was waiting for my wife to arrive so we could attend the banquet.  There happened to be a swinging bridge just out from the cabin and I was enjoying the day and weather.  Just down from the bridge was a gentleman fly fishing.  At one point he looked up and asked the time.  His voice and face was oddly familiar and I figured that it was just one of my occasional fly shop customers.  However after second glance I realized it was Joe Humphrey and he was fishing 20 minutes before he had to be at a banquet, where he was a special guest!  I realized it is still just about the fishing and we all share that same passion.

This year was another great moment.  I have worked for the Orvis company as a Fishing Manager for 5 years now.  I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of the people that helped to build Orvis to where it is today.  Perk and Dave Perkins, Jim Lepage as well as many of the rod designers and product developers.  These conversations are usually in some sort of work setting or after hours cocktail meet and greet.  I doubt that any of them could recall our conversations.

However this year I had the opportunity to hang with a person who truly helped to develop me as a fly angler.  That man is Tom Rosenbauer and he as written many of the books that most of us read when we were just getting started or trying to take our angling pursuits to the next level.  He has developed fly patterns and created one of the most downloaded pod-casts ever and has worked for The Orvis Company for over thirty years.  You can find more out about Mr. Rosenbauer in an article by Fly Rod and Reel, Angler of the Year.  He is a true steward of the sport of fly fishing, but you won’t hear him saying that.  It was cool to sit and talk with both Tom and Joe Humphrey at the same time.  Joe, who is also of one Tom’s fly fishing hero’s has attended Troutfest for the last three years along with Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser.  All of these men are living legends in the fly fishing loop.

So, this year was a true treat when I was invited along to go fishing with the gang.  Robert Bryant, Southeast Representative for The Orvis Company; Clay Aalders, Owner of Smoky Mountain Gillies and Tom Rosenbauer.  Clay took us to one of his favorite stretches in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It was a rainy dreary day, but those are some of my favorite conditions to fish in.  The fishing was a little slower than normal, but it didn’t matter as you could sense that everyone was just there to have a good time.  Later in the day we moved to lower Little River and fished around the Metcalf bottoms area and had some great success.  I spooked one of the parks legendary monster Brown trout (yes, I will be back to see him during the next big rain with Mr. 7wt and a big ugly).  Everyone in the group also caught some really nice fish on dry flies none the less.  We fished till dark and left with smiles, all happy to have enjoyed one this nations great and beautiful places.

facebookmailfacebookmail

Warm weather and a New Year

Warm weather is on the way! I hope everyone is planning on fishing this weekend.

I’ll be working in the shop, Orvis – Sevierville, so stick one for me. If I did have the day off I’d would hit the Smokies and fish Little River for big brownies. They should Start getting active with the rising water temps. Be careful if the water is high.

Another good option would be the South Holston or Watauga rivers. Zebra Midges, Sulphurs and Blue Wing Olives would be great choices.

Tightlines and Happy New Years!

facebookmailfacebookmail

The Smokies and Acid Deposition

I just finished watching the Appalachian Trail documentary by National Geographic. It had a brief bit about our acid deposition problem in the smokies and Steve Moore and his crew were featured. We definately live in a beautiful place and we are very fortunate to have guys like Steve, all the Trout Unlimited folks, private individuals and corporations supporting such a wonderful resource. I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has helped preserve this jewel in the southeast that is Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

facebookmailfacebookmail

And it begins…

Some folks say that they don’t care if they actually catch fish. I am not quite so Zen in my approach. I hate to get Skunked. I really, really hate it. That being said, some of the best, most memorable days I have ever spent on the water were days when I only caught one fish. Maybe the conditions were lousy, and it was an epic struggle to get the one. Maybe the fish were being persnickety and it took all day and all of my skill and luck to catch that fish. Maybe I forgot some important piece of equipment and had to improvise. But these one fish days are the ones that always stick out in my mind. Today was a one-fish day..and it was wonderful.

It was a really long winter. The Tailwaters were blown most of the time, I am not a huge fan of fishing for stockers in the various Delayed-harvest waters, and while you can fish the Park all winter long, it isn’t the most productive winter fishery and we have had so much rain that it has been blown a good deal of the time as well.

Niki knew that I have been out of my mind from cabin fever. It is already weeks later than we typically get to fish the National Park for the first time, but the weather this weekend was supposed to be fabulous and for once the forecasters were right.


The first trip of the year is always a bit of a mixed bag. Today was no different. The water level looked perfect, 200cfs. It was crazy-clear, but that is to be expected when the water temp is in the upper 30’s low 40’s. There was still snow on the ground in the shady spots and North-facing slopes. There was a solid brown stonefly hatch along with a smattering of blue quills and other unidentified mayflies.

However first trip of the year is more about promise than results. The fish were sluggish, they were certainly not rising, there was a short window of opportunity when the sun was on the water and warming things up. This time of year we always want more than the river will give us. We were given just enough to remind us of how good it will be in just a few weeks.

But the day was special because I got to spend it in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, I got to spend it with one of my best friends and favorite fishing partners, and in the end I caught one fish. It was a really nice 12″ rainbow that took a Prince Nymph that I was high-sticking deep in a slower slot downstream from the Sinks. It will almost undoubtedly be one of the bigger fish I catch all year. And that one fish will still be special after the dozen fish days, 30+ fish days, etc. which I know are just around the corner.

H. Clay Aalders
www.smokymountaingillies.com

facebookmailfacebookmail

Change of Plans

Unfortunately, fishing plans don’t always work out the way you had hoped. TVA apparently decided that they needed to produce more electricity and therefore were running two generators both Wednesday and Thursday last week. Which were the days that Steve Sylvis from Nashville was planned to be here.

I had called Steve the day before and told him that things looked bleak for the Clinch or any other tailwater for that matter. Steve is a pretty easy going guy and said it was no big deal, and suggested we fish the park. I hadn’t been in the park for a while, so it seemed like a great alternative.

Steve brought along his friend/website guy/producer/publisher, named Peter (Pete I’m sorry I already forgot your last name). They wanted to get some video footage of us fishing the park. I called Doug to come along and we now had a new plan.

Wednesday morning we headed to Greenbier. We went almost all the way up to Ramsey’s trailhead before getting in the river. Doug, as always was the first one rigged up and stuck four fish right in front of the truck. Steve and I went down stream and landed a few. While we fished Peter bounced around between us getting a little video footage. He had positioned himself on a small bluff overlooking were I was fishing and after about ten minutes I hear him screaming and he takes off running. My first thought was snake, but when I saw him swatting at his hair I new it was hornets. I went the other way around the stream to see if he was okay. Sure enough he had crawled onto a hornets nest. He said he looked down and his waders were covered with them. Luckily he only got stung four times, and wouldn’t you know it I had left the first aid kit at home. He was a trooper and stuck it out for the rest of the day.

The four of us fished almost all the way up to Ramsey trailhead. Everyone caught a few fish and I learned how tough it is to film while fishing. It is also a little nerve racking knowing you have someone over your shoulder with a camera. Doug however showed us all up and seemed to do no wrong. Peter did a little fishing and caught his first mountain rainbow and brook trout back to back. Later on the way home we tried to catch a brown on Little River, but the fish didn’t cooperate.

On Thursday we didn’t have as long to fish, so we headed up to Tremont for a while. The fishing was a little slower than the day before, but it was the middle of the day. I had a nice Bill Dance hook set on my nicest trout of the day which resulted in the fish getting to keep my size 16 Yellow PMX.

Both days were pretty good and it was great to just sit around after dinner and listen to Steve tell stories about guiding in Alaska last year. It sounds completely wild somewhere I hope to be able to visit one day.

Tips from the Trip: The flies that were productive were a size 14 Parachute Adams, 16 Mr. Rapidan, 16 Yellow PMX and Pheasant Tail Soft Hackles. Also longer leaders seemed to do better than a short one. We also caught a good number of fish at the very bottom of a pool.

Tightlines,
Kris Maurer

facebookmailfacebookmail

More of a plug actually…


Not exactly an entry, but I finished my latest video for my Orvis Days presentation on Greenbrier Creek. Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCw6wVHaW88

facebookmailfacebookmail

Cataloochee Creek GSMNP


Since Kris, Doug, Scott, and Brett are all away at Yellowstone, I figured it was incumbent on me to post an entry. While I won’t claim that I wouldn’t have joined them if I could have (I am 6 weeks from fatherhood right now), you don’t need to travel halfway across the country to find good fishing.

I spent this past weekend camping with Niki on Cataloochee Creek. This is without a doubt my favorite Smokies fishery. Cataloochee is less than a 2 hour drive from Knoxville, just over the NC line off I-40. However, once you make you way up the steep, winding gravel road you are in another world.


The Cataloochee Valley was once a thriving community in the days before the park. There are over a dozen historic homes and buildings still preserved for you to visit. There is a small National Park Campground (around 2 dozen sites) located right next to a section of the stream. It is also the epicenter of the elk restoration efforts in the Park, and these magnificent creatures frequently make an appearance in twighlight hours every evening for your viewing pleasure.


The stream is a true jewel. It is different than the typical Park stream in that it has a much lower gradient that you would find on the Little or Little Pigeon Rivers. It looks like an Adirondak stream in its quiet, vegetation canopied character.


All three species of wild trout can be found within its waters. Browns predominate, though there is a healthy population of rainbows as well. This is the first time I have failed to complete my slam with a brookie as well. (This brookie is from a previous trip)


Due to the predominance of foliage, and lack of large boulders to hide behind, you need to be comfortable with longer casts and stealty movement. However, your patience will often be rewarded as the fish here seem to be a little more gullible than your average park fish, likely as a result of the lower fishing pressure this creek sees.


There are an abundance of larger fish in this watershed as well. This past spring I caught my personal record for the park, a healthy 15″ brown. I have also caught a number of fish in the 10-12″ range, though the average fish is still about 7″.


What I like best about Cataloochee though is the fact that I feel like I am in another world when I camp there. There are nowhere near the crowds that you would find on the Tennesee side of the park. In fact, I did not see a single other fisherman while I was there this weekend. There are miles of water to fish, and the solitude and beauty are truly a thing to be treasured.


As I said, I would have loved to have been able to travel to Yellowstone with my fellow TN Trout Bums, I can hardly complain. Cataloochee Creek is a gem, and you don’t have to drive 3 days, or take an expensive airplaine trip to get there.

facebookmailfacebookmail

It’s been a while / Gone Fish’n

It has been quite a while since I, or anyone for that matter has posted a blog entry. I think it has something to do with the fishing/guiding season going full swing.

I have spent at least 4 days a week in the National Park over the past 2 months. When asked about this, my standard answer is “I get to go to work in God’s Office every day”. This is more than a pet phrase I learned from Bill Perry in Guide School, it is something that I truly believe.

Back when I was on staff at Beaumont Scout Reservation during High School and College, the Program Director used to remind us that “This might be your 6th/7th/8th week out here, but it is the campers’ only week”.

These two phrases, while they may sound trite, make up the basis of my personal guiding philosophy. I realize that there are folks that spend 51 weeks in an office cubical, staring at screen-saver shots of fish, reading FlyFish Tennessee or other online resources, and wishing that they could be spending the day knee-deep in Greenbriar Creek or the Little River. When I think about this, the sore knees and back, the bumps and scrapes, and the mental and physical exhaustion I face after 4 straight days of guiding suddenly don’t seem so bad.

There is no feeling in the world like getting a new fly-fisherman (especially a child) onto their first wild trout. A close second is the feeling I get when I point out a specific crease/seam/pocket and tell the client to place their fly in that spot – and a fish immediately cooperates by rising to the fly. And at the end of the day, when a client shakes my hand, and tells me that they can’t wait to come back and do it again, I realize that I have the greatest job in the world.

facebookmailfacebookmail