Tag Archives: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

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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IF4 Townsend, TN 11/7/15

IF4-POSTER-SMALLThis year, at Fly Tyers Weekend, the Southeastern Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers will host an evening of fun, after a day of watching free fly tying demonstrations.

Right here, at Tremont Lodge and Resort, you can view a showing of the IF4 International Film Festival. A BBQ dinner, beer and soft drinks will be sold at the evening event.

All profits from the auction and raffles will benefit the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians in Cherokee, North Carolina. Sunday morning, you will be back at the Tremont event center, meeting and watching more Free fly tying demonstrations. What a weekend this is going to be.

You can buy tickets at Little River Outfitters in person, or conveniently buy them online by clicking the “Buy Now” button below. Learn More about the Film Festival by CLICKING HERE.

Buy-Now-Button

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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.

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Its all about location…

We are blessed here in Tennessee to have several great spots for trout.  Tailwaters and wild streams abound here in the Volunteer state, and no matter where you live, you are close to great opportunities to fly fish for Rainbows, Browns and Brooks.  This brought a thought to mind.  What spot in our state is the best place to live if you fly fish for trout?

The primary criteria I used in my assessment was drive time to various locations.  It might be that you live five minutes from Tims Ford, but if you want to fish the South Holston you better be ready to drive.  I was in search of the single spot where, with a reasonable drive time you could reach more than one trout fishery within the state.  It was very tempting to expand the search so that I could include the wonderful opportunity found in North Georgia, Southern Kentucky, and North Carolina; but Tennessee is the criteria. 

There are several bodies of water that I did not include.  Not because they are bad locations, but I just thought it would be easier to use the high producing locations that can easily accommodate a lot of anglers.  The rivers/ locations I used are: Caney Fork, Clinch, Holston, South Holston, Watauga, Hiwassi and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I also tried to avoid an “as the crow flies” philosophy when determining distance.  Anyone who is familiar with Tennessee and East Tennessee in particular knows that you might be just over the mountain from a location, but getting there is a little more involved than just hopping over the ridge.  It had to be from point A to point B drive time.

After consulting several mapping services and calculating the quickest drive time to each location, here is what I found. 

If you are an avid fly fisherman in Tennessee and your primary target is trout, the best place to live which gives you the most opportunities to fish multiple rivers in pretty much the same amount of drive time is….

Masterson Road in South Knox County Tennessee.

If you are a fly angler for trout and are lucky enough to live on Masterson Road, here are your relative drive distances to fish each of the subject waters.

129 miles to the Caney Fork (2 1/2 hours)

129 miles to the South Holston. (21/2 hours)

104 Miles to the Watauga. (1 hour 45 min.)

65 miles to the Hiwassi. (1hour 15 min)

39 miles to the Holston (45 min)

38 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (45 min)

31 miles to the Clinch River (30 min)

Keep in mind that this is drive time based upon legal driving speeds.  Depending on how badly you want to be in the water, your drive times may vary.

If you live within a good rock throw of any of these waters, consider yourself lucky.  Those who live in Clinton, Bristol, New Market, or Townsend have immediate access to trout and if you are one of those people my hat is off to you for your selection in location.

But if you are like the majority of us and have to drive more than ten minutes to get to the river, then you might want to consider Masterson Road in South Knox County.  I mean its always good to have options isn’t it?

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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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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

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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.

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