Fishing in Townsend Tennessee

By Little River Outfitters Staff

What We Catch

Brook Trout are the only truly native trout to the Southern Appalachians. They are found in high elevation streams, around 3,000 feet and above. Brook trout generally average in size from 3” to 9,” though brookies up to 12” have been caught.

Rainbow trout are the most abundant trout in Smokies streams. They are a favorite of fly fisherman for their willingness to eat a dry fly and the great fight they give once hooked. Rainbows are found at almost every elevation in the Smokies with the exception of some high elevation brook trout streams. Rainbow trout generally average in size from 4” to 10” and on rare occasions up to 14”.

Brown Trout are highly sought after trout in Smokies streams. These wary trout are found in larger streams with generally slower water. They can be very skittish and sit in different places in the stream from rainbow trout. Brown trout prefer better cover, undercut banks, overhanging branches, rock ledges etc. They also sit at tailouts of pools. Brown trout generally average in size from 4” to 10” but some browns can reach the size of 20” or larger.

Smallmouth bass are aggressive fish and put up a great fight. They are found only in a few lower elevation Smokies streams. Lower elevation streams outside the GSMNP like Little River between Townsend and Maryville and the Little Pigeon River through Sevierville are great smallmouth fisheries. Smallmouth generally average in size from 5” to 12” but much larger fish can be caught.

Where to Fish

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over 700 miles of wild, free flowing mountain streams to fish. Many of these streams are easily accessed along Park roads (please only park in paved or gravel pull-offs). Hundreds of miles of other streams can be accessed by hiking Park trails. Several excellent maps exist to help you find streams and trails. One is included free with the GSMNP Fishing Regulations. Another is the Trails Illustrated Great Smoky Mountains National Park Map available for $9.95.

If you are visiting the Townsend area you will find miles of quality flyfishing close at hand. Little River is one of the largest streams in the Smokies. It is home to smallmouth bass in its lower reaches, rainbow and brown trout in its middle sections and even brook trout in its headwaters. Excellent flyfishing for rainbow and brown trout can be found along the Little River Road which connects Townsend to Gatlinburg.

Little River can be split into five distinct sections: Little River above the Elkmont Campground, Little River above Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, Little River below the Sinks, Little River through Townsend, and Little River below Townsend. Above the Elkmont Campground Little River is accessed by the Little River Trail. This trail is an old logging road, so it provides easy hiking and a break from the crowds and roads. This is an excellent place to fish in the summer when tourist crowds are at their peak. You will find brown trout for a few miles then just rainbows and eventually the brook trout.

Little River upstream of the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area is a great place to fish. The stream is a nice mix of large pools, long runs and broken pocket water. This section has excellent dry fly fishing most of the year. It is also home to some of the largest brown trout in the Smokies as well as a large population of rainbows. This section of river is accessed by the Little River Road.

Little River below the Sinks can offer varied fishing throughout the year. The Sinks is a waterfall on Little River. It is below a bridge and is a popular stop for sightseers. There are some nice stretches of pocket water in this section of river but mostly it is large rapids and deep pools. This section of river can be harder to fish, but it can also be rewarding.

Once Little River leaves the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park it takes on a different nature. Fishing Regulations change. It becomes subject to Tennessee State Regulations. A trout stamp is required of all anglers 16 and older who are fishing the water (no matter if they are fishing for trout or not). This section of Little River is stocked with rainbow trout by the TWRA. You can access the river near public bridges and picnic areas. Please be courteous of private land. In the summer months this section of the river will see the most traffic by people in tubes. Early and late fishing will be best. You will find stocked rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and red-eye bass in this part of the river.

Below Townsend Little River is a great smallmouth bass fishery. In the summer you will find big slow pools as well as riffles and shoals. Old Walland Highway follows along this section of river and provides access. There is a lot of private land here so be mindful when looking for places to park.

Middle Prong of Little River (Tremont) is another excellent stream to fly fish. In the summer you might find a few smallmouth in the lowest reaches of this stream but mostly you will find rainbow trout. There are some brown trout here, but they are generally hard to come by. In the headwaters you will find brook trout. There are three main sections to Middle Prong: along the paved road, along the gravel road upstream of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and Lynn Camp Prong. Lynn Camp Prong and Thunderhead Prong come together to make the Middle Prong of Little River. Lynn Camp Prong is accessed by the Middle Prong Trail at the end of the Tremont Road. This section of stream offers great rainbow trout fishing in the many plunge pools. Thunderhead Prong offers a perfect escape from the crowds. The fish will be relatively small in these streams averaging between 4” to 7”.

Middle Prong along the gravel section of Tremont Road is a favorite place to fish. There is a great mix of broken pocket water and plunge pools. Due to the gravel road this section of river can become muddy quickly in a heavy rain though it does tend to clear out fast. There is a gate on this section of river that is closed on occasion due to bad weather. Middle Prong along the paved section of Tremont Road is a wonderful spring-time place to fish. This section has a good mix of long pools and broken pocket water.

West Prong of Little River joins with the Middle Prong and Little River at the Townsend “Y” just inside the GSMNP. This is a small stream, but it is full of small, eager rainbows. It is easily accessed along the Laurel Creek Road which goes to Cades Cove. Here you will find small pools and pocket water. Several miles up, West Prong leaves the road and continues back into the mountains where it can be accessed by trail. West Prong’s small size makes it one of the first streams to become fishable after a heavy rain storm.

Abrams Creek is found inside Cades Cove. This is a very popular stream to fly fish. All of the articles which have been written about this stream has given it almost mythical standing among Smokies streams. To access Abrams Creek you must drive the Cades Cove Loop Road, an 11 mile, one-way road. The Loop Road is often choked with traffic and is closed until 10 am for bike traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from the second week of May until the last Saturday of September. Half-way around the Loop Road is the Abrams Falls Trailhead. This is where you begin fishing Abrams Creek.

Abrams Creek is accessed by the Abrams Falls Trail. You will find beautiful pools and great riffles. Rainbows are what you will catch here but some of the largest in the Park. Abrams Creek is EXTREMELY slippery so use extra caution and maybe even a wading staff. The “Horseshoe” is a popular section of the creek but not to be attempted without preparation. On this section of stream the Abrams Creek leaves the trail and makes a horseshoe bend around a ridge. This section takes a full day to fish; set aside at least 8 hours. There is no bailing out midway through. You are away from the trail, in the river, and climbing the ridge is not recommended.

Closer to the Gatlinburg entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is even more streams. West Prong of Little Pigeon River is one of the highest gradient streams in the eastern US. The headwaters of this stream are teaming with brook and rainbow trout and are easily accessed along the New Found Gap Road. This is one of 8 streams in the GSMNP where it is legal to catch and keep brook trout (as long as they are larger than the legal keeping size of 7”). At this point the stream is actually named Walker Camp Prong and it is flowing right along the roadside. This is great high elevation stream, small, rocky and cold, making it a perfect destination in the hotter parts of summer.

Further down the mountain towards Gatlinburg the river leaves the road just a little. It can be accessed by Quiet Walkways. This is a great place to fish during the busier times of year if you are looking for some solitude. Some sections of river here can be strenuous to navigate. There is large boulders and plunge pools. Downstream of the Chimney Tops Picnic area you will catch almost only rainbow trout.

Just outside of Gatlinburg the stream is a mix of pocket water and large pools. This can be great fishing in the Spring and early Summer. As the West Prong of the Little Pigeon leaves the National Park it goes into Gatlinburg where the fishing regulations change to those of Gatlinburg.

Middle Prong of Little Pigeon (Greenbrier) is located a few miles north of Gatlinburg along US 321. Most of this stream is accessed along the Greenbrier Road. It is a large stream and can be good fishing for rainbow trout. The head waters of this stream, Ramsey Prong and Porters Creek are home to rainbow and brook trout.

Many other wonderful trout streams wait for you in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Grab a map and try different streams. They are all full of trout.