Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2. Mahogany Duns
3. Little Yellow Stoneflies
4. Slate Drakes
5. Needle Stoneflies
6. Little Yellow Quills
13. Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
Fly Fishing The East Prong Of Little River (Exit from the Park to
The East Prong of the Little River is commonly referred to as “Little River”. It's one
of the largest streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National park. It's by far the
most fished stream in the park. There are two reasons for this. One is easy to
guess. It's one of the best streams in the park. The other is also pretty obvious to
those that have fished there before. Much of the stream is the most accessible
water in the park. A paved road follows it all the way from its exit from the part to
past the Elkmont Campground.
Brown and rainbow trout are present in the lower, middle and upper sections of the
stream and brook trout can be found in its uppermost part. Little River has some of
the best brown trout fishing in the park and due to its size, it has some of the largest
brown trout in the park. By lower part, I am referring to the section this article
covers. I'm calling the middle section the part from Metcalf Bottoms to Elkmont
Campground and the upper section, the part above Elkmont Campground including
Fishing Little River ranges from easy to difficult depending on when and where you
are fishing it. Most of the stream is fairly easy to negotiate. Some of it isn't. Some of
it is tightly enclosed with trees and overhanging tree limbs and other parts are two
deep to wade.
Little River is the most popular fly-fishing destination in the Great Smoky Mountain
National Park for even more than the two reasons I stated above. It's also
convenient to some larger metro areas such as Maryville, Pigeon Forge,
Gatlinburg, and Knoxville. It can easily be accessed from the Townsend area,
Wears Valley (the closest), and Gatlinburg.
The main part of Little River runs from what is called the "Y" downstream to the park
boundary at Townsend. The stream is rather wide in this area and frequented
mostly by tourist on float tubes or swimming and playing in the water during the
warm months. The only trout present would be the ones stocked by the state of
Tennessee that swam upstream from just outside the park in Townsend. In the
summer, the water stays too warm for wild trout and the stocked trout too for that
matter. Smallmouth bass exist in most of the entire lower section of the stream.
There's only a short section of the main river (after the confluence of the water from
the Middle and West Prongs) that's within the park's boundaries.
Trout found in the lower part of this section of Little River are usually difficult to
catch during the warmer times of the year because the warm water temperatures
can deplete the oxygen content of the water to a level below that needed by trout.
They begin to exist farther upstream at a point that's far below that generally
thought by most anglers. The browns are present much farther downstream than
the rainbows. Even so, much of the lower section becomes too warm during the hot
summer. The trout that do remain there, become lethargic and difficult to catch.
Even if you could, it's very unhealthy for the trout which can die due to over exertion
in the oxygen depleted water. The section below the confluence of Meggs Creek at
Meggs Falls, is generally too warm to fish during the hot summer, except the upper
part near Meggs Falls and then only during the early mornings and late afternoons.
This part of Little River is best fished during the cooler seasons. This section of the
river, especially the upper parts near Meggs Creek, does have some trout and
some very large brown trout at that. There are lots of deep pools, too deep to wade
in many places. It also has some very rough and difficult to wade water. The banks
are generally very high and steep and it is easy to slip off the rocks if you are not
very careful, especially when you are wearing wet wading boots. One area called
the Little River Gorge, can even be a little dangerous to fish at times. If the water is
high, you should be very careful or just avoid wading it altogether.
This area is fished by two kinds of anglers. The ones that don't know what they are
doing and are not aware it can be too warm to fish there, and those that know
exactly what they are doing and are pursuing large brown trout. These anglers are
mostly locals that are very familiar with the stream and the trout in that area.
From Meigs Creek upstream past a low to medium gradient area known as
“Metcalf Bottoms”, it's still possible for the water to get above seventy degrees
during the hottest parts of the summer. Most of the time it isn't too warm and the
fishing can be good for both rainbows and browns. If the water is above 65 or 66
degrees F, my suggestion would be to move upstream of Metcalf Bottoms.
Water temperatures above the waterfall at an area known locally as the “Sinks”, are
agreeable to the trout most of the time. The portion of the stream from the “Sinks”
upstream to “Metcalf Bottoms” usually holds far more trout than it is thought to hold
by most anglers.
The stream gradient is rather low through Metcalf Bottoms and you will find some
longer than normal riffles and runs and some longer, shallower pools. The area
around the Metcalf Picnic area is usually busy, and at times, even crowded. Fishing
can be very good there provided the water hasn't been disturbed. I should also
mention that due to the lower gradient and softer bottom in some areas, this section
of the stream has some crawler nymph mayflies and net spinning caddisflies that
are not that plentiful in many other areas of Little River. The smoother flows can
also demand some difference in the normal pocket water presentations.
One tributary stream in the lower section of Little River that's of importance to
anglers is Meggs Creek. This little stream has some brook trout in its upper
headwaters. You can access it from the Meggs Creek trailhead located near the
Sinks. You have to do some hiking to get to the best water. Its confluence with Little
River is easy to find. Meggs Creek Falls are visible from the Little River road.
Don't completely rule out this section of the Little River. It does have its good times.
Both species of trout can be caught in the upper part of this section above Meggs
Creek at certain times of the year and in the Metcalf Bottom area most of the time.
There's a lot of water (several miles) between Little River's exit at Townsend and
the Meggs Creek area. The closest and by far the fastest way to get to the area of
Little River between Meggs Creek and Metcalf Bottoms is through the entrance to
the park from Wears Valley.
Don't forget one very important thing. Brown trout can tolerate warmer (lower
dissolved oxygen content) water than rainbows. In any stream where both species
exit in areas where the water temperature starts to become marginal for trout, you
will always find that the brown trout exist farther downstream in warmer water than
the rainbows. The upper area of Little River, even some areas below the sinks, hold
some very large brown trout. Now don't go running there to make a few cast
expecting to catch one. They want pounce on every fly you toss at them. They
didn't get big being stupid.