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 Chataloochee Creek
Cataloochee Creek is probably our most favorite stream in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park or at least one of the top ones. I guess the reason for this is its
remoteness and the fact it lies in one of the most beautiful sections of the park. The
Cataloochee Valley may not quite come up to Cades Cove in that respect, but
Cades Cove has a lot of visitors and it doesn't have a stream flowing down through
the middle of it - or at least it doesn't have one that's above the ground.
Cataloochee Valley lies in the northern part of the park not really close to anything.
Maggie Valley would be the closest area. Once you get to the valley, stream access
isn't a problem but you may not believe that until you are there. Exit #20 on
Interstate 40 will get you headed in the right direction. Cove Creek Road accesses
the valley. Its approximately ten miles to the valley and most of the drive is winding
up and down a mountain. There is one other way to access the valley around the
Tennessee north boundary of the park. It takes you over twenty-five miles of gravel
road. Once you are in the valley, you can access Cataloochee Creek fairly easy
from a road that closely follows it. The stream flows for about eight miles inside the
park's boundaries. There are several miles of tributary streams. It eventually
empties into Walters Lake on the Pigeon River just outside of the park.
Just above the Cataloochee Campground, the stream spits into its two main
tributary streams - Palmer Creek and Caldwell Fork. You would think Palmer Creek
is the Cataloochee Creek upstream from the campground unless you paid close
attention and look at the map carefully. I didn't and I made a mistake on our "Fly
Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park" DVD because of it. We have a
segment where we were actually fishing Palmer Creek that I called Cataloochee
This valley is the location where elk were stocked in order to reestablish them in the
park. One reason it was selected is it's in the most remote section of the park.
Some of you may not be aware of the fact that elk were plentiful in the Great Smoky
Mountains at one time. They were hunted out in the mid eighteen hundreds.
Cataloochee Creek is a very beautiful trout stream. In its upper portion in the area
of the old Palmer House, It has areas of long riffles. Heck, I believe I would move in
the Palmer House if the park would allow me to remodel it and live there. It would
probably also require a divorce The stream declines moderately in that area and
the water is rather smooth for a Smoky Mountain stream. It reminds me of the
Beaverkill in New York. You will find that catching trout in that area requires better
presentations because the trout can get a good look at your fly in the smooth flows.
It also takes better imitations of the insects. Much of the stream consist of short
riffles, runs and some rather long pools. You will find some stretches of fast pocket
water mixed in and some areas it is all fast pocket water. We would classify the size
of this stream as medium to large when compared to other streams in the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park but it's still a small stream as compared to other
trout streams in the nation.
Both brown and rainbow trout make up most of the population of Cataloochee
Creek. There are some brook trout in the very uppermost part of Cataloochee
Creek. In the lower area of Palmer Creek bordering the large meadow above the
campground, you will find a mixture of all three species where it is very possible to
catch a grand slam.
The trout average about as large as they do anywhere in the park as far as I can
tell. It's a very good place to catch a large brown trout. One of my customers told
me he helped the park officials shock a section of the stream sometime in the past
and the results were it contained fewer trout than many other areas of the park. I
won't try to dispute the test they made if this information is accurate but I will say if
that is true we sure haven't been able to detect it fishing. We have always been
able to catch a large number of good size trout in Cataloochee Creek. If anything,
we have averaged more than we have in most other streams. However, it doesn't
take a stream that supports a huge number of trout to catch a lot of them. It's only
one of several factors and I'm not certain just how much the population affects the
"catching". I know we have fished some of the highest populated streams in the
United States with the results being about the same as many other streams with low
populations of trout.
The stream gets a little pressure in the early summer and early fall seasons. Many
of the anglers that fish it camp due to its remoteness. Most any other times you will
have access to all the water you want out of sight of other anglers. It's a pure
pleasure to fish this creek. In many areas it fishes like a western trout stream. It's
fairly easy to cast in most places and fairly easy to get around in the stream. The
lower area of Cataloochee Creek is mostly pocket water but it has some sections
that are a little more difficult to get to. The entire creek is accessible but it takes
some work to reach some parts of it.
Cataloochee Creek is one of the better trout streams in the park in all respects. It
takes a little driving time on dirt roads to get there even from Maggie Valley, North
Carolina, but it's well worth the trip. It's one of the park's better places to camp and
fish. As already mentioned, just above the campground it's possible to catch a
grand slam or brook, brown and rainbow trout all in the same area of Palmer Creek.
We haven't actually done that in that location but Angie and I combined have. We
only fish one at a time and on a few different occasions the combination of the two
of us have caught all three species in the same day at that location. I can also tell
you that we have had two days that the combination of the two of us fishing one at a
time far exceeded fifty trout on Cataloochee and Palmer Creeks. You can see why I
find it difficult to think is doesn't have a good population of trout. That wasn't trying
to set a record. We were moving cameras and heavy tripods around and constantly
delaying our fishing.
This stream has one of the better populations of aquatic insects in the park. Maybe
it's because the valley was farmed and populated by a few families at one time. One
reason for sure is its variety of water types and by that I mean it has some areas of
slower to moderate flows with soft, sand and soil bottoms versus almost all rock
substrate. It has areas of large cobble and small, gravel size rocks as well as the
large boulders that are typical of the Smokies. It has more crawler mayfly nymphs
than most streams in the park. Its Sulphur and Hendrickson populations are higher
than most other streams. It also has lots of net-spinning caddisflies that are not that
common in other streams in the park.
In a couple of days we will get to its many tributaries.