First and foremost, a HUGE shout out and thank you to mrl0004, waterfordcreek, & mysticm for their insight on fishing in the Smokies. Their intel made my trip planning easy, leading to a memorable one!
There is a special place in my heart when it comes to small mountain streams…I caught my first trout on a fly rod on Piney Creek in Colorado years ago, and I have been infatuated with that type of water ever since. Small streams choked with brush and cover give way to willing little fish with amazing colors if the cast is right. Then there is the solitude…Those who are willing to work for it will be able to find it even if it means you’re chasing something that might not pan out to what you had hoped for. So when it came time for a friend and I to chose our next annual National Park trip, Great Smoky Mountains National Park seemed to be the obvious choice. I wasn't going after the wild rainbows and browns in the park, but instead the native brookies that have resided there for centuries. Don't get me wrong, sometimes we can't be picky with the types of fish we are after, especially after traveling some distance to get there, but for this trip everything worked out as planned.
Our first day found us setting up camp in Elkmont Campground, right on the banks of the Little River which is full of wild rainbows and browns. Eager to get in the water, we set up as quickly as we could and set off with only a few hours of daylight left. First stop…Clingman's Dome. We knew it was going to be raining the next day and we at least wanted to get a good view of what was behind the naming of the park. I know, tourist stuff before fishing?! "When in Rome" I guess! After a couple photos, we were in the car on the way back down the mountain with an hour of light left to fish. We stopped at a trib of the Middle Prong of the Little River and within the first couple casts I brought to hand what I had traveled for. With the light fading, and only a few hundred yards of stream fished, it was time to head back to camp to recount the day and plan for the next.
Saturday morning we woke up to a light drizzle, which was enough for us to hurry through breakfast and get to the river before it got any worse…Well, a mile and a half up the Little River Trail, the deluge started. The river was holding and we fished for nearly 2 hours, albeit half-heartedly. Got into a few wild rainbows but nothing to write home about as I was stubbornly trying to catch fish on dries, and nothing more. At around 11, we called it a day and were completely soaked, rain gear and all. With the rest of the day ahead, tourist stuff again…Cade’s Cove & Sugarlands Visitor Center. By the time it stopped raining at 5pm, the rivers were all blown out, leaving us wondering if we were even going to be able to fish on Sunday.
As Sunday rolled around, clear skies and mild temps met us as we rolled out of our tents. Another hurried breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee and we were on the road again to a small creek northeastern side of the park. Well, we were in luck and everything cooperated, except for the rocks being as slippery as snot on a hardwood floor…took a swim in the little creek 3 times and ended up with a welt on my shin the size of a grapefruit. It’s as if God said “Hey guys, you’re gonna catch fish since you made it this far, but I’m gonna not let you off that easily.” We definitely had to work for it this time hiking 3 miles and 1200 feet up, all in anticipation of the possibility of it being fantastic fishing. Well, long story short, it was!
Monday came and we had half a day to try our luck in the morning, back up the Little River Trail. Better results that Saturday and in a much shorter period of time!
As we left, I couldn’t help but think that we only hit a small fraction of the over 800 miles of fishable waters in the park; I’ll be back.