North of Great Smoky Mountain National Park With A Fly Rod
The Opportunities North of the Park
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the United States - over nine million visitors annually. One third of the United States population is within a day's drive of the park. Chances are good that you and your family will vacation there. If you are like most fly fishers, "family vacation" and "fly fishing" are mutually exclusive activities. But if you are like most fly fishers, you travel prepared just in case a fishing opportunity presents itself. If you are staying in Pigeon Forge or Sevierville, Tennessee, you are in luck. Good fishing is minutes away and accessible if there is a family "down day" at the pool, or if like my family, no one gets up before 9:00 am.
The Orvis Stop
Sevierville has an Orvis fly store. It is a must stop. The employees can supply you with a map of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville area. The staff is knowledgeable about the panfish and smallmouth bass fishing in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. They can show you access points and fishing hot spots. Orvis obviously stocks up for trout fishing, but also carries an assortment of flies and equipment for these warmwater species.
The General River Layout
The West Prong of the Little Pigeon River flows through Pigeon Forge. Further downstream the West Prong flows through Sevierville. At the south end of Sevierville, the East Fork and the West Prong meet. In Pigeon Forge the water is more swift and shaded by deciduous trees. In Sevierville, there are fewer trees allowing more direct sunlight to the river resulting in productive riparian vegetation. The Orivs store employee emphasized fishing the riparian vegetation for smallmouth bass. Access is generally granted wherever there is a bridge or large store parking lot adjacent to the river. The Tanger Outlet Mall is a huge shopping area adjacent to the West Prong - perfect for an hour of fishing while everyone else shops. The City of Sevierville has constructed the Memorial Greenway bike path that is 1.8 miles long. Much of it is along the West Prong where there is good riparian vegetation.
Fishing The Water
Fishing both the East Branch and West Prong is fairly easy. The river bottoms are cobble with course sand bars. You can wade most channels, although you may want to walk along the bank when there are rapids. At the south end of Sevierville both branches meet and shortly after that the river is too deep to wade across. I was there in June and waded with nylon pants. The water was cool, but not uncomfortable. A nine foot fly rod works well, even up river with the deciduous trees along the banks. One can easily wade in the center of the channel and cast to the banks lined with trees.
This was my first attempt for fishing for smallmouth bass. I have to agree with the Orvis employee that the bass seek the low growing vegetation (willows?) in calmer water. An added surprise were the colorful and robust sunfish found in slower water under the overhanging deciduous trees. While I had some luck with poppers, subsurface was far more productive. I caught most of my fish on a fatal attraction (a bluegill patterned bait fish) and a chartreuse woolly bugger. Due to the current, weighted flies are preferred.