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North of Great Smoky Mountain National Park With A Fly Rod

Updated on December 25, 2015
West Prong of the Little Pigeon River in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
West Prong of the Little Pigeon River in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

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.

Below where the West Prong and East Branch of the Little Pigeon meet in Sevierville, Tennessee
Below where the West Prong and East Branch of the Little Pigeon meet in Sevierville, Tennessee

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.

A beautiful redbreast sunfish caught on the West Branch of the Little Pigeon River in Sevierville, Tennessee
A beautiful redbreast sunfish caught on the West Branch of the Little Pigeon River in Sevierville, Tennessee
A smallmouth bass caught where the West Prong and East Branch of the Little Pigeon River meet in Sevierville, Tennessee
A smallmouth bass caught where the West Prong and East Branch of the Little Pigeon River meet in Sevierville, Tennessee

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.

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    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      Nice hub. I enjoy fly fishing greatly, and this fueled my desire. Well done.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Ha! I watched people fly fishing for trout in downtown Gatlinberg with traffic whizzing by alongside of the river. Some very large trout were clearly visible in the water as we walked across the bridge to enter our hotel. Beautiful country aroundabout to fish in whether one catches anything or not. Rated up!

      SSSSS

    • Tod Zechiel profile image
      Author

      Tod Zechiel 4 years ago from Florida, United States

      Mr. Godwin: I saw people landing trout inside Gatlinberg also. I would suspect the trout fisher to be good as well.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Tod, this is a great visual and vivid hub on fly fishing at the Great Smoky National Park. Your photos were great to match the information. Voted up!

    • Tod Zechiel profile image
      Author

      Tod Zechiel 21 months ago from Florida, United States

      Thank you Kristen.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 21 months ago from Southern Georgia

      Hello again, Tod! I'd forgotten I'd commented on this hub, but it has been 3 years ago. I'd like to ask you what has been the largest bass you've caught on a fly rod? I've landed a few in the 4-5 pound range, but then, we have five ponds on our farm and they're loaded with trophy size bass and it isn't anything unusual to catch some in the 10+ lb. range with regular fishing reels.

      I'd rather fish with my fly rod any day and I especially love catching bluegill. I believe the Georgia record for bluegill is over 5 lbs. I can't imagine how much fight one of those would put up. :)

    • Tod Zechiel profile image
      Author

      Tod Zechiel 21 months ago from Florida, United States

      Randy, my largest bass was about five pounds - caught on a five weight fly rod. I have had a few larger ones on, but have failed to land them. I agree - a fly rod is far more fun and challenging to use.

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