Category Archives: Little River

Little River fly fishing information.

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

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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.

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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!

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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

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9/6/2006 Little River GSMNP

I managed to get away for a day fishing with Tim Doyle. Tim is a good friend and local guide. He runs Smoky Mountain Flywerks guide service. We started out the day throwing big terestrials to over hangs and under cuts. This is one of Tims specialties and I learned a lot of great tips. My first fish was a 13 inch brown trout. This was my largest fish to date in the GSMNP. We continued fishing and ended up in a very well known place that holds some large browns.

After Tim caught a couple I started fish some likely spots. I had absolutely no looks and started working my way up stream. I was looking upstream and a flash of white caught my eye. I froze to get a better look. What I saw astounded me as the largest brown I have ever seen appeared before my eyes. He was lodged in a large slot on the stream bottom. I yelled at Tim, is that a fish. Your “F”ing right thats a fish he replied. Tim immeadeately knew what was on the menu.

While I stayed frozen, he placed two flies on a stick and threw it out to me. Hands trembling I tied on the two flies. On top was a small girdle bug and on bottom was a size sixteen bead head pheasant tail nymph. After four drifts the brown looked as though he had eaten and I set the hook, but nothing was there. At this point I was completly frazzled, hands trembling and my heart was ready to jump out of my chest. I took a couple seconds to recoupe. Three drifts later he ate and the party was on. He came to the surface and shook his in fustration. After a couple of good runs I managed to beach him in a small back eddy. This was my second fish and now largest fish to date in GSMNP.



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