SMOKY MT. 'BOWS'
Not every fisherman has the luxury of just being able to pack up and go. Family, work and social obligations take up most of our time. Chasing that pay check and working for that retirement is a top priority. The occasional week end fishing trip on a trout stream is a rare indulgence, especially considering the cost of the equipment and the trip. The chances of taking an extended trip are remote at best. But mentally I plan anyway. I've bought the guide books, talked to my fishing buddy and have even been tucking some money away for a few years. I'm finally going to make the time; Destination - the 'Great Smoky Mountains National Park!'
The Smokies provide a wide range of fishing opportunities; big deep meandering rivers, roadside wading, hiking trails to remote mountain streams or fishing local parks in urban areas. All these opportunities are within easy driving distances from urban areas like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Cherokee or Bryson City.
Licenses: Fishing the park requires the possession of either a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license. You do not have to purchase both as long as your fishing is confined to the park. Licenses are not available for purchase in the National Park but are available in the nearby towns. If you plan on fishing within the Cherokee Indian Reservation a special Indian permit is required. It may be purchased in Cherokee. Park rangers and Department of Natural Resource personnel are ever present. On this trip I was stopped twice and checked to see if I was in possession of a valid license.
Fishing & Equipment: Park rules require the use of flies or lures only! No live bait! Be sure to check the park regulations for more specific details prior to going. Within the park brown trout are found in the deeper, wider and slower waters, and brook trout in the headwaters and higher elevation mountain streams. Rainbows are the predominate species throughout the park. They are numerous and eager to cooperate. You'll not have a problem filling your creel several times over.
Fly shops can be found in most of the towns. They are very cooperative as far as providing information and carry a nice selection of equipment and local patterns, which I found very productive on the waters.
Safety is a must. Much of the water in the park is rocky bottomed with swift currents. Bring waders or hip boots. Many fishing situations may require the use of boot chains and/or the use of a wading staff. Better safe than sorry - a prudent fisherman would bring them along!
Guide Books: Prior to any major trip I pick up several guide books to check for access sites, parking, water conditions, preferred bait, etc. For the Smoky Mountains there are dozens of books available. The books were generally correct but don't rely on them 100% of the time. I was sent a couple of wild goose chases where the roads or the promised access sites were non-existent. I always make it a policy to carry a GPS.
When fishing the Smokies many of the roads traverse the course of the river. If there is going to be any fishing pressure this is where it will be. I spent the entire month of June fishing the park and never once felt any real fishing pressure. The waters are numerous and the access sites are literally everywhere. Parking lots, turnouts and off road parking are easy to obtain. I met many fishermen on the trip, but never did I feel pressured for fishing space.
Camping: On this trip I was not camping, but I am a camper and created the opportunity to check several of the campgrounds out for future outings. There are a lot of campgrounds, at least 10 developed ones, and many rustic ones. They are all adequate. RV campers may have to do some additional research because not many of the park campgrounds have trailer hook-ups. There appeared to be a shortage of camp stores in many of the campgrounds. That doesn't present a big problem because supplies can be found just a few miles from most campgrounds.
There is a lot to do for everyone in the family; organized camp activities, hiking, museums, fishing and swimming, wildlife watching, horseback riding, water falls, motorcycling and bicycling. Bicycling is very big in the Smokies - for every fisherman I saw there were at least ten bicyclers.
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge: For those of you who don't camp and want to make this a vacation for the entire family. This is the area to go to. Gatlinburg boasts of over 10 million visitors each year. Mom and the kids can spend their days in the town while you're off fishing. The city provides a trolley service which extends the entire length of the city. There are hotel and other lodging facilities to meet every budget. Shopping is very easy with over 400 gift and boutique shops, restaurants galore, and many activities for the kids like; the aquarium, arcade, amusement park along with many others.
Many of the resident and non-resident sportsmen hang out at a place called, "Smoky's Sports Pub & Grub," at the west end of town at Light #10. The food is delicious and reasonably priced. The libations are cold and several nights of the week they provide free entertainment. Carl Hill is the owner and a very friendly person. He'll be more than happy to provide you with some insider information on fishing in the area.
During the month of June, I caught and released over 400 fish, a few browns and brookies but mostly rainbows. I met a lot of wonderful fishermen and vacationing families. Whether you're by yourself, with some fishing buddies or with the entire family, I promise a wonderful trip, both on and off the water.
See you on the water…..