The Great Smoky Mountains is a fisherman’s paradise. In fact, its rivers, streams and tributaries are some of the last remaining wild trout habitats in the Eastern United States. With over 2,000 miles of streams within the park boundaries, there are a variety of fly fishing sports in Gatlinburg and the Smokies. From isolated headwater trout streams to larger, cool-water smallmouth bass streams, there is something for anglers of all ages and skill sets. If you’re planning a trip to the area, fishing should be at the top of your list of things to do in Gatlinburg.
Best Streams for Fly Fishing Beginners
1. East Prong of the Little River
Easily the most popular stream in the park this is a frequented fishing destination so be prepared to encounter other fisherman along the way. The East Prong of the little river flows along much of the road from Elkmont Campground; therefore offering easy parking and access. This stream offers a variety of trout, rainbow, brown, and native brook in varying sizes.
2. West Prong of the Little Pigeon River
Also one of the most popular fly fishing streams in the park, West Prong of the Little Pigeon River is well-known for several reasons. First of all, this stream is extremely accessible. Starting from the main entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, this stream follows highway # 441 and can be accessed along the road for several miles. The lower, and more easily accessible areas, offer average size rainbow trout. Though, upper and more advanced parts of the stream also contain brook trout. This stream is good to fish year-round.
Best Fly Fishing Streams for Intermediate and Advanced
3. Anthony Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains
For visiting Fly Fishermen that are already spending time in the Cades Cove area, this stream is a perfect fit. The stream winds through Cades Cove and eventually disappears underground to resurface in another part of the park as Abrams Creek.
Wild rainbow trout populate this stream, and the lower portions are good places to take kids learning to fly fish and practice casting as it is wide in parts.
4. Abrams Creek
By far considered one of the best streams to fish in the park, Abrams Creek is quite different from other streams. Boasting special water chemistry with a higher pH than other more acidic streams in the park, this stream consequently contains more food for trout. Therefore, it contains a plethora of trout because of the great food sources it offers the fish.
Rainbow trout in this creek are more sizable than anywhere else in the park; Abrams Creek is considered the best rainbow trout spot in the park. One thing to note is that access to Abrams Creek can be tricky and difficult, so you should consider a guide or going with someone who is well-versed in the trails that lead to different parts of this creek.
5. Big Creek
Big Creek is one of the least populated fishing areas in the park. So if you are looking to get away from more popular fishing spots, this may be your best bet.
Rainbow trout are commonly caught in the lower parts of this stream. The upper portions of this creek, which are challenging to access, are known as good places for landing Native Brook Trout. These natives are also found on some of the small tributaries that branch off of Big Creek.
Fishing with the Family
Fishing is a great family-friendly activity in Gatlinburg. The thrill of that tug on the line, their hearts racing with the anticipation of catching a sneaky fish. However, fly fishing can be a challenge for little tikes or older family members that may have trouble with stream access, equipment needs, and complicated casting techniques. The Gatlinburg area offers many options that are calmer, more relaxed fishing endeavors that take some of the pressure off the parents. Additionally, Elk Springs Resort has many cabin rentals in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which can provide the perfect home base for your fishing adventures.
6. English Mountain Trout Farm & Grill
English Mountain Trout Farm & Grill is a restaurant in the Gatlinburg area where you can fish and eat your catch. This local joint has a trout pond fed by a freshwater stream and is chocked full of delicious rainbow trout. Your family can catch trout, have them dressed and clean, and then move on to the grill. The English Mountain Trout Farm Grill features a variety of options for devouring your catch. For example your fresh fish can be fried or blackened.
7. Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa
For family members that are excited to catch fish, but not so keen on eating it, this spot is perfect. The large pond at Big Rock Dude Ranch is stocked with BlueGill, Croppy, Catfish, and Bass. This pond is catch and release, so your loved ones can have the thrill of pulling it in, and then feel happy about returning the slippery fellow to his home.
Big Rock Dude Ranch supplies everything you need for your family fishing experience including rod, reel, and bait. Also, no fishing license is required and your fishing pass is good for a week so your family can return to fish to their heart’s delight.
8. Herbert Holt Park
For those seeking a more authentic fishing experience that is kid friendly, Herbert Holt Park is the place for you.This Gatlinburg City Park offers fishing for children and the disabled only. This park is also the site of The City of Gatlinburg Trout raising facility. Your family can see where the city raises the rainbow trout to be stocked in area streams. For this fishing experience your family will need to bring their own fishing equipment and bait; as well as purchase a fishing permit. Learn more here.
Fishing License Requirements
During the open fishing season (April 1- November 30th) anglers can fish anywhere in the Gatlinburg City limits or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as long as they possess a valid fishing license. The one exception is Thursdays, when you cannot fish within the Gatlinburg City limits. The City of Gatlinburg has its own trout farm and stocks rivers and streams on Thursdays; therefore fishing inside the city limits on these days is off-limits. These are good days to fish inside the park.
On top of the state of Tennessee Fishing License requirements, a local permit is required for residents between 13 and 64 years of age, and for non-residents 13 years of age and above.
Fishing is permitted year-round in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, though spring and fall are the best times to land trout. Fishing is allowed from 30 minutes before sunrise, to 30 minutes after sunset.
Open Fishing season: April 1st – November 30th
Anglers (fishermen) can catch a maximum of 5 trout per person for General Streams and 2 trout per child on Children’s streams. Total limit of trout per fisherman is 5.
Catch and Release Season: December 1 through March 31
All fish caught must be released immediately unharmed to the water. Possession of any trout is strictly forbidden.
Only single-hook artificial lures can be used during this season. The use of or possession of any live bait is prohibited.
The Great Smoky Mountains offers an amazing angling experience for all fishing enthusiasts, with its numerous streams and diverse trout populations. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced angler, there are several streams that will cater to your skill set. So, plan your trip today and enjoy the beautiful scenery and great fishing opportunities with Gatlinburg cabin rentals.
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