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Fly Fishing in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park

by Chris O'Byrne

Chris O'Byrne spends his days teaching AP courses at Lake Region High School.  On Occasion you will find him working in our fly fishing shop, or selling a kayak.  He shares his insight on this recent trip to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park---and how about the fantastic photography! 

Who is the best basketball player ever?  Who wins, Superman or Batman?  Which is better for relaxation, an ocean view, or a mountain view?  Wonderful, timeless questions all.  Last June, because I care, I diligently researched one half of question #3.
 Our fly fishing trip to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) offered relaxation and more.  Hiking, history and lots of nature awaited us.

Fly Fishing in the Great Smokey Mountains

To prepare for the trip, I made use of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map.  The topographic representation allowed me to examine trails and altitudes to select likely fishing spots for each day.  National Geographic maps also show the road network of the given area, allowing us to plan driving routes for each day.  I studied the map for several weeks before the trip.  I studied the map each night, and because the National Geographic maps are waterproof, I took it right to the field, and referred to it often.  The map study showed that much of the fishing in the GSMNP, is best done with some hiking.  We did not make use of the many campgrounds in The Park, nor did we want to do much fishing in the many miles of water readily accessible from the roads.  We planned on walks of a few miles to fishing locations.
     We started with the upper portion of Abrams creek.  During the drive in, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies escorted us, and we encountered our first Black Bear.  The calm creature allowed us to stop and get out of the car to watch him (her?) a little more closely.  We walked from the Adams Creek Trailhead at Cades Cove, to a point about half way up to the falls.  As it was late in the morning, the best approach was to swing nymphs down-stream.  I was rewarded with the first fish of the trip, a small Brownie, tempted out from under a large rock by a Hare’s Ear Nymph.  I was fascinated watching a Kingfisher work up and down the stream.  Seclusion is tough to come by on this part of Abrams, and the fishing slows by afternoon, but The Park provides plenty of other activities.  After the walk back to the car, where we chanced on a Mountain Diamondback Rattlesnake, we drove to the Caves Cove Visitor’s Center to observe the historic displays. 

 Fly Fishing by the Waterfall

The grist mill is fully functional.  A Ranger operates the mill while giving an attention grabbing lecture.  The only light in the entire building is the sunlight which seeps through the cracks. So my Spotlight brand Rechargeable Flashlight enabled me to study the massive but intricate gearings located in the darkness at the bottom of the mill.


 Day two; we set out for The Ramsey Prong of the Little Pigeon River.  The Ramsey Cascades Trail is approximately four miles from parking lot to Ramsey Cascades.  We chose to fish a spot two to three miles up the trail.  The hike was pleasant, with wading boots, hiking stove and emergency kit carried comfortably in backpack.  During the hike we spotted a Hedgehog, which darted across the trail and up the hill, and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds.  Once stream side, we dawned wading boots set packs aside and began fishing.  Wading at this altitude amounts to shorts walks through cold water, even n the summer, and climbing over boulders, to reach the small pockets on the other side.  In one large pool, a stone fly flitted around.  There were many fish present, and I took a fine rainbow by dapping into a little plunge pool.  Two others were hooked and released earlier than I planned.  As the fishing slowed in the late morning we prepared a streamside lunch, and studied the stream.  Then we changed into dry socks and hiking shoes for the hike down.  Later we made the long drive to Chattahoochee Valley. 

Cooking on the Trail

I had watched some Elk on a previous visit and wanted to make that experience part of this trip.  The extra time in the car was rewarded with a lengthy  view of a mother and baby moving through a grassy field.

 On Day 3, we opted for the section of Abrams Creek below the falls.  The map showed a short walk from the Abrams Creek campground, over a small hill, to a secluded stretch of Abrams Creek below the falls.  The stream is fairly wide here, and on both sides tree covered hills frame the pretty creek.  Due to the limestone of Cades Cove, Abrams features a great deal of mossy growth on the rocks.  With proper boots, wading was easy, but we spent some time pulling flies out of the plant life on the bottom.  Once he got the hang of this, Mike Donhaiser caught a nice Brown Trout casting a black nymph down and across the stream.

We spent several leisurely minutes changing out of wading gear for pleasant hike out.   We stole a few minutes to watch wildlife, cast to a few small trout rising on Kingfisher Creek.  While we walked, we planned our next trip; Sanibel Island for Snook on the beach.  And the ocean view!

Trout on the Trail in Great Smokey Mountain National Park


 Andy Thornal Fly Fishing Gear

Allen Wyatt
Allen Wyatt


4 Responses

Kevin Boyett
Kevin Boyett

October 31, 2011

Yea great job Chris lol


September 03, 2010

Without a doubt that man deserves a raise.

Fred Wiechmann
Fred Wiechmann

September 01, 2010

Chris…why was I not with you???

Rhonda Bornman
Rhonda Bornman

September 01, 2010

Awesome adventure Chris!!

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