Great Smoky Mountains in Winter Around Gatlinburg or Townsend, Options?

JGO

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I will say this having spent years fishing both sides, I prefer the NC side for several reasons. First and foremost, I believe the state of NC manages their trout fishery far better than TN. More DH streams and better enforcement too. Licenses are cheaper in NC too. I can fish for trout in NC as a non resident cheaper than TN as a resident.

Both states have a lot of public waters, both inside the National Park and the National Forests as well. NC seems to me to pay more attention to its wild streams, stocked streams, DH and other more specific trout fishing regs far better than TN.
This is exactly the type of information I was interested in hearing about. Thank you for the reply.
 

NCAndy

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It's funny because as I read through the latest comments I think about the S. Holston, Clinch, Watauga as being pretty good. I have yet to get to them yet though, mostly because I can be floating my local water in less than 30 min. NC licenses are cheaper, something I've asked NC Wildlife to do something about, matching neighboring states. But for access in the Park, there really doesn't seem to be a big difference. Much of the NC side is on the lake and access there is either by boat or long hike. There are a lot of DH sections in WNC and that program has become quite popular, but different than the natural reproduction on say the SoHo.
 
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jayr

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It's funny because as I read through the latest comments I think about the S. Holston, Clinch, Watauga as being pretty good. I have yet to get to them yet though, mostly because I can be floating my local water in less than 30 min. NC licenses are cheaper, something I've asked NC Wildlife to do something about, matching neighboring states. But for access in the Park, there really doesn't seem to be a big difference. Much of the NC side is on the lake and access there is either by boat or long hike. There are a lot of DH sections in WNC and that program has become quite popular, but different than the natural reproduction on say the SoHo.
I was just going to add something about TN's tailwaters. They are managed pretty well, but I can also add about the Hiwassee. That tailwater is a shell of its former self. It was managed well back in the late 80's to early 90's and now it is managed more as a rafting stream. I also know a lot of poaching has really crippled the once former large trout it had.

I have fished the South Holston, Clinch and Holston. The South Holston is far better managed of those 3, with the Clinch coming in behind it. Our state agency, the TWRA, does not do near they job they could or should. At one time most of the tailwaters had trophy sections and single hook sections that they have done away with for years. Along with that some had slot limits, again they are gone. TWRA's method is just throw a bunch of pellet heads in a river and go. With regards to tailwaters in NC I cannot speak as I do not fish those, only bluelines.

As for management within the TN side of the GSMNP, that is National Park all the way. TWRA has no jurisdiction there nor do they stock there. Stocking within the park pretty much last occurred back in the 70's. I do not count the reintroduction efforts of the brook trout as stocking IMHO.

TWRA does have jurisdiction within the South Cherokee National Forest along with forest rangers. Their presence there is weak. Poaching, fishing out of season with regards to bait is not enforced as it should be. Their efforts are very lacking. I cannot speak for the North Cherokee, only the south.
 
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JDR

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The number of trout streams in NC that are not part of GSMNP is pretty remarkable. So, if you are interested in other areas that is something to consider. Look for Southern Appalachian Fishing Guide, by J.E.B. Hall. It is a fine publication. I really don't know much about fishing in Tennessee.
 

jayr

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Thanks, NCAndy! I really like getting different perspectives. I am kind of eager to break out the finesse rod. I hardly use it on the tailwaters I mostly fish. My original idea for fishing up in the Park was to go dry-dropper. What I'm going to end up doing, I have almost no doubt, is bring both setups with me. That is, if the Park isn't blown out, of course. In which case I might take my 6 weight with the sinking line and look in Townsend for an open bank where I can stand and swing streamers, hoping for a strike as it swings against the bank.
Well, how did it go?
 

jonbo

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Oops! my bad. I made my report in a PM from Jayr. I just realized I hadn't posted it here for all to see. I'm so easily mixed up! Here it is:

Hi guys, sorry it took me so long to get back, but, uhh, I kind of forget quickly about a trip when it wasn't too productive. This wasn't. I think it was just too cold, and my skill level isn't such that I can find fish that will bite when they're very lethargic. What I did was go to Abrams Creek. At the Smoky Mountains Fly Shop they advised me that that was really my only chance to find fish that were at all active. I had been somewhat hesitant, somehow imagining that I'd be completely alone in a somewhat dangerous wilderness. Imagine my surprise. Cade's Cove was packed with tourists (I don't know what I'd been thinking. LOL). It took me probably an hour after entering the Cove to get around to the AC trailhead. Then there were hikers marching all up and down it. It was just like any park I go to anywhere. Anyhow, I wasn't isolated, at all, except I was the only one fishing that I saw.

I fished in the afternoon, as advised. I fished the first part of the Creek where the trail follows it closely, then over the hill to the next part where the trail is close to it again. I dropped my nymphs into the deepest, slowest spots I could find, but nothing. I really thought that at the kind of long, deep hole on the other side of that first hill where the trail returns to the Creek that I'd find something, but nope. So, fish-wise, it's a bad report, I guess.

Now, as fishing nearly always is, it was still a great time. At one point 3 otters came cruising down the river past me. That was really cool, except I immediately gave up fishing that spot. One of y'all had warned me that Abram's is pretty hard to negotiate. I found that to be true, but not much beyond what I'm used to. The tailwaters that I regularly fished here in Arkansas/Oklahoma are just as filled with boulders/bedrock, and just as slick. What they don't have, though, are the rodadendron thickets! Those are fairly difficult to negotiate and add significantly to the difficulty of getting to any spot that one imagines might be productive. I think the water was up pretty high, too. Anyhow, I'm used to most of the difficulty, brought a stick, moved very carefully, and made it okay. It kind of slowed down my fishing though. I really didn't get a chance to explore very thoroughly. But I didn't get wet!

It was a great experience for me, fishing a notable creek far from where I live. Wish I had a better fishing report, but ce la vie (sp?). I want to thank you guys for the advise and help. You were great. I hope to visit again in a better part of the year, fishing-wise.

Jonbo, out!
 

NCAndy

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I went into the Park over the New Year weekend and also had a slow day. That's just how it can be this time of year, especially when the stream temps plummet as they had then. It's never a wasted day, but can be frustrating when compared to the DH or put and take sections outside the Park that are more accessible this time of year. I've had some of my best days and worst days in the winter, but consistency can be tough. Cades Cove is always a zoo.
 

jonbo

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I guess I'm a little blase about fishing for planted trout, or even pretty large trout. Where I typically fish both are pretty much all over the place and not too hard to catch, usually. when I get the chance to go to the Great Smokies, I get a hankering to fish for wild, presumably more wily, skittish trout. Now I knew it was pretty much the wrong season going in, but I couldn't do anything about it. I'm alright with the fact that I got skunked. "You pays your money, you takes your chances." I could have fished in Gatlinburg later in the week, but never got around to it. Thanks again, NCAndy and jayr. You both helped me out, a lot. (I'm not leaving anyone out, am I?)
 

DavidS1095

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Any tip for fishing this area in March? I’ll be there for a week and wanted to fish in the park. Always fished Yellowstone but changing it up this year and visiting this part of our beautiful Country. Any tips would help please.
Thanks you in advance.
 

jayr

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Any tip for fishing this area in March? I’ll be there for a week and wanted to fish in the park. Always fished Yellowstone but changing it up this year and visiting this part of our beautiful Country. Any tips would help please.
Thanks you in advance.
March is a tricky month in the GSMNP. It can have snow on the ground or be 80 degrees, sometimes in less than a week both ways. A lot also depends on which part of the month you plan on being there. It can rain a lot too blowing out the streams. High water fishing can be deadly, especially to those not familiar with the park.

your best bet is to prepare for both conditions. I would also stay at the lower to mid elevations. As you ascend in elevation, the water gets colder and the hatches progress from lower to mid to upper.

There’s lots of info out there on specific streams and I won’t name any on the internet, but you can find all kinds of info with a basic search.

ETA: When you say you will be in the park, where? TN or NC? Gatlinburg or Townsend area? If in or near Gatlinburg, the traffic absolutely sucks. At that time of the year depending on weather you may be fishing nymphs or dries or both. Stay with 5x or 6x tippet. Long leaders > 9’ or longer are not needed or of use in the park. Rod weights from 2-6 weight are good, with the 4 weight being a really good weight to have. If the wind picks up, get out of there. There are all kinds of dead trees, hemlocks, spruce, ash, etc. in the park. A limb can kill if it hits you. The park service closes more roads now than they used to years ago due to weather now.
 
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NCAndy

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One thing to be aware of, at least on the NC side, while the Park has no closed season, streams in NC with the exception of the DH sections, are closed. So as long as you stay in the Park, or DH sections in NC, you are ok. Tribal water has their own regs. Now as Jay said, March has a complete gambit of stream conditions. Typically the month is wet and without the tree canopy to soak up the water the streams run on the higher side. Each day is different though so come prepared for anything. I rarely, read never, use anything heavier than a 4wt in the Park. Some people do of course but that's just my bias to lighter gear. The tree fall issue is real and a constant danger. Wading can be slick.
 

jayr

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NCAndy said it well.

I agree with the 4 weight as well, I mostly throw 3 weights. The only 5 weight I throw is on my Far and Fines when I get them out. 6 weights are recommended on some web sites, but they are really overkill in the park unless maybe throwing streamers.

To further expand on the seasons on the TN side is to know that within the City of Gatlinburg, their season, license fees, etc, are totally different than the waters within the GSMNP, if that is a consideration.
 

DavidS1095

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March is a tricky month in the GSMNP. It can have snow on the ground or be 80 degrees, sometimes in less than a week both ways. A lot also depends on which part of the month you plan on being there. It can rain a lot too blowing out the streams. High water fishing can be deadly, especially to those not familiar with the park.

your best bet is to prepare for both conditions. I would also stay at the lower to mid elevations. As you ascend in elevation, the water gets colder and the hatches progress from lower to mid to upper.

There’s lots of info out there on specific streams and I won’t name any on the internet, but you can find all kinds of info with a basic search.

ETA: When you say you will be in the park, where? TN or NC? Gatlinburg or Townsend area? If in or near Gatlinburg, the traffic absolutely sucks. At that time of the year depending on weather you may be fishing nymphs or dries or both. Stay with 5x or 6x tippet. Long leaders > 9’ or longer are not needed or of use in the park. Rod weights from 2-6 weight are good, with the 4 weight being a really good weight to have. If the wind picks up, get out of there. There are all kinds of dead trees, hemlocks, spruce, ash, etc. in the park. A limb can kill if it hits you. The park service closes more roads now than they used to years ago due to weather now.
I will be in Gatlingurg March 7-13. The plan is to get up in the mornings for fish and spend the rest of the day with the family, and one full day of fishing.
Thanks for the info. I’ll make sure to keep track of the weather. Fingers crossed I get a good trip. I’m deploying soon after so this is my vacation before the deployment.
 

NCAndy

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I will be in Gatlingurg March 7-13. The plan is to get up in the mornings for fish and spend the rest of the day with the family, and one full day of fishing.
Thanks for the info. I’ll make sure to keep track of the weather. Fingers crossed I get a good trip. I’m deploying soon after so this is my vacation before the deployment.
Check in before you go. Maybe we can give some better info as it gets closer to your week.
 

Jamaicadiver

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My oldest Son and a friend fished the Park last week, Wed, Thurs,, and Fri.... slow. Went to check for advice at Little River Fly IMG_3034 (2).PNGShop and the guys told them "whatever your expectations........lower them". Did get a few and had a blast.
 

NCAndy

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My oldest Son and a friend fished the Park last week, Wed, Thurs,, and Fri.... slow. Went to check for advice at Little River Fly View attachment 30699Shop and the guys told them "whatever your expectations........lower them". Did get a few and had a blast.
It has been spotty for sure lately. I had a few good days on dry flies this past week in the mid afternoon when the sun was on slower runs. There were some BWO and midges coming off though no one fly lit them up. I had to change up often. Today after the latest flood with higher water it was slow, caught a couple on nymphs with the euro rod. Everyday is different, that's January.IMG_2532.jpg
 
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