Three Days of Fly Fishing the Smokies in Cataloochee Valley

facebookbadge

Elk are the headliners in Cataloochee Valley, but there is some great fishing too.

Elk are the headliners in Cataloochee Valley, but there is some great fishing too.

Charity and I noticed some blank days on the guide calendar and decided we needed to take advantage of the break. Even those of us who live in the Smoky Mountains like to take a few days to get away and do nothing more than camp and fly fish.

After a quick scan of a map of the Smokies we decided to head for the Cataloochee Valley. We haven’t fished there this season and it’s always fun to see the elk. We remembered the mild temperatures and brook trout after we arrived in the valley.

Charity fishing on Palmer Creek

Charity fishing on Palmer Creek

Those of you who have followed our fishing report will remember all the great weather we’ve been talking about. Our time at Cataloochee was no different. We wore light fleece jackets in the morning as temperatures dipped into the mid 50’s. Afternoons were pleasant and close to 80. Water levels were absolutely perfect and water temperatures were anywhere from 60 to 62. Absolutely amazing for August!

The streams fished best with dry flies. I caught a few fish on beadhead nymphs, but felt like I did at least as good if not better on dries. Terrestrial patterns like the Elkmont Ant did pretty good, but in the end it was pretty tough to beat a good old Parachute Adams.

Trout about this size are pretty standard in the streams that flow through Cataloochee Valley

Trout about this size are pretty standard in the streams that flow through Cataloochee Valley

Specks (brook trout for those of you outside the Smokies) have made an impressive comeback in Cataloochee Valley. We’ve heard about fly fishers picking up some specks in the main stem of Cataloochee Creek over the past few years. We’ve been catching them in Palmer and Little Cataloochee, but that’s where we’ve spent the bulk of our time the past few years when we made the trip.

We actually caught more specks than anything else this trip and that includes a good deal of time spent on the main stem of Cataloochee Creek. If you haven’t been there, the stream is roughly equal in size to Deep Creek, Tremont, and Hazel Creek. In other words, this is a big stream for specks to be the main catch. Rough Fork was nothing short of superb when it came to brookies. Charity had a real chunky one on that flipped off the hook just as I was focusing the camera. We both figured it was about 9″ long. We caught specks as low as the group camp site which is pretty low in the valley.

We caught more brookies than we can remember that were about this size

We caught more brookies than we can remember that were about this size

Brown trout have traditionally been the main reason we’ve fished Cataloochee Creek. Long pools in the valley directly adjacent to meadows have always made for some superb terrestrial fishing. Browns are as abundant in Cataloochee Creek as other streams, but now we’d have to rate the creek as a top roadside destination to catch a Smoky Mountain grand slam. As always, the brown trout will be the toughest third to land.

I missed a real nice brown on an Elkmont Ant. It wasn’t a beast, but no less than a foot long. We didn’t land many browns on this trip compared to specks and rainbows, but we hooked enough browns to keep it interesting.

This is typical of the brown trout we landed. This one was in the campground.

This is typical of the brown trout we landed. This one was in the campground.

If you can swing a free day you should head on over to Cataloochee. It’s always a beautiful place to visit and you’ll probably see more elk than fly fishers.

A cow elk grazes in the valley with her calf

A cow elk grazes in the valley with her calf

Fly Fishing for Brook Trout in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Comments

  1. Chris Seep says:

    Ian,

    My wife and I caught several brookies and rainbows in Palmer creek and the Cataloochee. One rainbow in Cataloochee adjacent to the campground yielded a 9″ ‘bow. The largest I managed to catch in my first trip to the Smokies. Thanks for your help.

    Chris

  2. Thanks for the great report on the Cataloochee area Ian. That’s one area in the Park that I haven’t fished very much over the years. I think I’ll head that way tomorrow to try some new water. Kinda burned out on fishing the TN side.

  3. John Switow says:

    I just thought of it; that was the first time I have ever caught a Smoky Mountain Grand Slam!
    John

    • John,

      Much of Western North Carolina hasn’t quite recovered from the drought quite as quickly as East Tennessee. We were there just after a couple of days of good rain, but already the stream has fallen from 50 cubic feet per second to closer to 30 cfs. Since you’re from Tennessee you’ve probably noticed how Little River gets higher after a good rain but tends to hold and not drop very quickly. The water table in NC just hast recharged yet, but probably will over the winter.

      Ian

  4. John Switow says:

    Hey Ian,
    I read your post on Cataloochee, I had similar results, though didn’t fish Rough Fork. I wish I had! I was amazed to catch a brookie just above the campground! That would be amazing if they manage to reclaim that creek without any help. The day I went 8/9 was a mistake, there was a family reunion there that day and there were a good 200 people in attendence! Never saw an elk. I saw only 4 other fisherman just the same though. Water was pretty low as well. Hope you all are well.
    John