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Fly Fishing for trout in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

Best places and tactics to fly fish for trout in the Great Smoky Mountains

free entry and 24-hour access to most of the park

Until I read up on trout fishing within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I had no idea about the variety of options that existed within the confines of the park. Nor was I prepared for how iconic some of the trout water would be in this destination – I feel like you could spend a week there and barely scratch the surface as it relates to the various trout waters inside the park.

Little River Outfitters in Townsend, Tennessee

The first thing I did to prepare was to contact Little River Outfitters in Townsend, Tennessee by email and ask which waters I should concentrate on for a few hours or up to a half day of fishing. Because I was traveling with my wife, I did not feel spending a half day with a guide would be well received, so I asked them to recommend hiking trails along fishable waters. Daniel Drake at Little River responded within a week with some great ideas as well as the suggestion to drop by the shop on arrival for current intel.

When I am fishing waters that are unfamiliar to me, I tend to hire a guide. But if that is not in the cards, I certainly will drop into the local fly shop for advice and to purchase the recommended fly patterns. In this case it proved valuable as I was able to focus in on a few select waters with fly patterns that would likely be effective in the small windows of opportunity that I would have to fish.

take the time to find your spot as there are so many good looking ones

The trout water there is like nothing I have yet to experience. Just driving along Little River Road between Townsend and Elkmont is to experience trout water Shangri-La. There is a lay-by nearly every quarter to one-third of a mile that overlooks very interesting and fishable pools and runs. It is nearly impossible not to stop at every lay-by to have a look or send out a few casts. The waters that parallel Tremont Road are equally as inviting.

Fly fishing for trout on the Little River

It is, however, definitely worth exercising patience and exploring various sections of the Little River before settling into one section or another that looks the most appealing. A word of caution here as well – do not be tempted to stop at the many big holes you see along both Little River Road and Tremont Road – especially those that abut parking lots. It is very likely the hole has been spoiled by bathers or tubers at some point in the day, particularly in the summer or early fall. I had the experience of arriving to a tempting hole only to have a large family arrive shortly after and dive in the pool while I was fishing it!

the trail head is just below Elkmont near the campground

So, considering the short time I was allotted for fishing, I focused my efforts on two separate sections of the Little River that were strongly recommended by the fly shop. The first was a section of the Little River along Little River Trail below Elkmont, which I explored for an hour or so one afternoon, but without success.

Little River along Little River Trail

I wish there had been time to cover more of the water, as the prospects looked good along this stretch, with lots of pocket water and inviting runs that were easily accessible from Little River Trail via clearings to the river bank every few hundred feet.

it can be quite a hike to the best part of the water

Fly fishing for trout on the Middle Prong of the Little River

The second was a section of the Middle Prong of the Little River along Middle Prong Trail. This water was spectacular and began with a stunning view to the Lynn Camp Prong Cascades within a quarter mile of the trail head, and this got the blood running early! The trail is an easy amble along the river and while the access to water is less frequent, there is still plenty of opportunity along a stretch measuring about four miles long.

Middle Prong of the Little River along Middle Prong Trail

A hint as it relates to this water – approach the first couple miles as an opportunity to practice a stealthy approach, as well as your nymphing technique, and then have your game on by the time you reach Panther Creek Trail. You will be rewarded for it (and I am not giving anything away that will not be found online or heard from Little River Outfitters!).

Best flies for trout fishing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

As regards the flies, I stuck to two dry patterns recommended by the fly shop – a Neversink Caddis and a Mr. Humpy, both in yellow, with a Green Weenie as a dropper. The dry / dropper pattern was slow to produce any strikes – perhaps I was not nymphing properly or the dropper was causing drag, I am not really sure. But as I reached a few miles upstream on the Middle Prong, I instinctively went to a straight dry fly, finally with success. I netted my very first Appalachian brook trout and proceeded to hook up on several more in succession using only the dry (and fish were caught on both patterns).

a beauty of an Appalachian brook trout

If you are contemplating a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for trout fishing, a stay of at least 3 – 5 days would not be out of the question. Next time I am there I will attempt a longer stay and include several interesting spots I scoped out in Wears Valley along the Little River Road.

Tight Lines!

I am not being compensated by my mention of Little River Outfitters. I am simply a happy client.

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