While hot weather and trout fishing don’t necessarily make the perfect angling marriage, here are some “cool” destinations where the action remains fine despite rising temperatures.
Although such is not the case, it would have been fitting had a trout fisherman written “What is so rare as a day in June?” The author was American poet James Russell Lowell.
That is because for those who thrill to the joys of rainbows rising to evening hatches or a big brown chasing a flashing spinner in water turned murky in the aftermath of a spring shower, May and June must rank, along with October, as the “glory” months of the trout fisherman’s year.
Indeed, many anglers savor the splendors of a Tennessee spring and then proceed, as the heat and humidity of a southern summer lay their stifling hands on the land, to become hot weather couch potatoes. That’s a downright shame, because even in the midst of dog days the savvy trout fisherman can find action aplenty.
Here are some thoughts on several destinations, which can punch your ticket on a trip to beat the summer doldrums.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The Little River and its major feeders, the Middle Prong (locals call it Tremont) and West Prong, form one of the major systems on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Much of the Little River proper runs right alongside Little River Road (State Route 73) and as a result it gets plenty of angling pressure. And, particularly in the area of The Sinks, more than a fair share of swimmers and tubers use it.
But catch it at dawn when everything is right, cast in the gloaming when there’s a good hatch of yellow sallies, or be a stream on one of those occasional days of overcast and mist, and you can know magic. It is big water by Smokies standards, and there is probably no finer place to match wits with trophy wild browns anywhere in the park.
The upper reaches of the Little River, along with the Middle Prong, fit into the more typical high country type of trout stream. That is to say, they are really creeks.
Upstream of Elkmont the Little River is really the East Prong. It is fast moving, rugged, and characterized by a mixture of plunge pools and pocket water. Much the same can be said of Tremont.
The East Prong is accessible by vehicle along its lower reaches, with asphalt for the 2.3 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute and then gravel for an additional 3 miles to a gate where there is parking and a turnaround.
For the upper reaches of both streams, shank’s mare is the only way to go. For the fit and adventurous that enjoy getting back of beyond, the upper reaches of the streams in this system — including feeders such as Thunderhead Prong, Sams Creek, Jakes Creek, and Fish Camp Prong — there are opportunities aplenty. At present Lynn Camp Prong is closed in connection with brook trout restoration efforts.
WEST PRONG OF THE
LITTLE PIGEON RIVER
The park portion of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River (not to be confused with the West Prong of the Little River) closely parallels U.S. Highway 441 from its headwaters all the way to the park boundary just outside Gatlinburg. But that doesn’t mean it is easily accessible over all of its drainage.
Part of it is right at roadside and readily visible, but two long sections — one in the sprawling valley residents that once lived there called the Sugarlands, and a second upstream of the Chimneys picnic area — lie in deep gorges with the road high on the ridge above them. Either offers an opportunity to get away from traffic and people.
But even when one is right at roadside this is a stream that is kind to anglers in two ways. It holds lots of rainbow trout and, in its upper reaches, increasing numbers of speckled trout. As a son of the Smokies I am constitutionally incapable of calling them brookies.
Moreover, for a stream of its size the West Prong is about as open as one could wish. This is thanks to the occasional heavy rain, which scours the streambed and keeps vegetation pushed well back. In other words, wayward casts aren’t quite so problematic and the fisherman doesn’t find himself, as my Grandpa Joe used to put it, “fishing for squirrels.”
For these Park streams, and others, keep in mind that only single-hook artificials are permissible-no bait and no treble hooks. Most opt for flies, and in summertime a good choice is a dry-fly and dropper combo with the floating portion of the rig featuring a buoyant pattern such as a Thunderhead, Parachute Adams, Royal Wulff, Tennessee Wulff, or Royal Trude tied on a size 14 hook. Trail it with a small beadhead nymph (size 16 or 18 hook) pattern such as Cooper John, Tellico, Prince, or Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear and you should be in business. Should a sudden shower turn the stream dingy, change to a streamer such as a Black Matuka or Wooly Bugger.
These days you don’t see all that many spin fishermen in the park, but that shouldn’t suggest this approach is ineffective. In my boyhood there were old-timers who filled creels with impressive limits trip after trip using in-line spinners such as Panther Martins with two of the three treble hooks clipped or an old mountain favorite, a gold Colorado blade trailed by a Yellarhammer fly tied on a long shank hook. If the water is dingy, such tactics and be highly effective, and anyone interested exclusively in big trout might want to consider clipping all but one hook off a Rapala and slinging it in big, deep pools.
SOUTH HOLSTON RIVER
The South Holston River, one the finest tailwaters anywhere and arguably as fine a brown trout fishery as the Southeast has to offer, and it has plenty of rainbows as well.
The stream is especially noted for spring Sulphur hatches and cold-weather Blue Wing Olives, but thanks to running through limestone country it has a super food base with lots of hatches and a wide variety of trout edibles. Fishing here in the summertime can be super technical and checking with a local store or outfitter is advisable. One plus is that you won’t face quite the same crowds, whether you are drifting in a boat or wade fishing, to be found in the prime months of spring. There are scattered walk-in access points off of State Route 44 and launch areas provided by near the Weir below the dam and in Bluff City.
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