Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River (N 35.7089, W -83.3826):
In the Greenbriar section of the park, the Little Pigeon River boasts perhaps the most beautiful fishing locale in the Smokies. A medium-large stream, rainbow trout make up the majority of the fish you’ll find here. Easily accessible from Gatlinburg, it’s also a quick and easy escape with plenty of headroom for casting. Although the average fish size is lower here than in other rivers, tributary stream Porters Creek occasionally produces very large rainbows. The best summer fishing is about two to three miles upstream from the park boundary. The Ramsay Cascades trail provides access along two miles of hiking path, as well as stunning views from the waterfalls.
Directions: From Gatlinburg, head north on Hwy 321/73 (East Parkway) for 6 miles. Turn right on Greenbrier Rd. and continue 3 miles to river.
Oconaluftee River (N 35.5556, W -83.3118):
On the North Carolina side of the park, this watershed is known as one of the better brown trout streams in the Smokies. The wide, scenic river flows alongside Newfound Gap Road, making it easily accessible. Not too steep and not too slow, the river’s rippling flow and frequent pools provide ideal fishing habitat. South of the river’s confluence with the Bradley Fork stream, the stream’s banks are lined with idyllic grassy meadows. Travel alongside the river is easy, but you’ll likely share the views with hikers, especially when in close proximity to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. In the river, however, you’ll have as much room to cast as anywhere in the Smokies.
Directions: The best access is from Smokemont, just inside the NC entrance of the park. From Bryson City, take Hwy 19 to US 441 (Newfound Gap Rd.). Continue 4 miles to Smokemont Campground and confluence of Bradley Creek and the Oconaluftee.
Deep Creek (N 35.4644, W -83.4338):
If you’re seeking an overnight fishing adventure, head past the tubers on Deep Creek to the more remote upper waters. Numerous campsites dot the river between 4 and 6 miles from the trailhead at Highway 441. Once there, you’ll likely have a healthy mix of brown and rainbow trout all to yourself, and hopefully a delicious dinner of pan-fried trout before sleeping peacefully by the rushing stream. Favorite campsites include Nicks Nest (Campsite 58, 5.5 miles from the lower trailhead) and Polk Patch (Campsite 53, four miles from the Hwy 441 trailhead).
Directions: From downtown Bryson City, head north on Depot St. .2 mile to Collins St. This turns into West Deep Creek Rd. — follow it into the park until it deadends after 2 miles into the parking lot and trail head.
West Prong of the Little Pigeon River (N 35.6375, W -83.4783):
Despite paralleling Newfound Gap Road and being known as one of the best fishing streams in the mountains, it’s relatively easy to find a place to yourself along the Little River’s West Prong. Loaded with rainbow and brook trout, anglers find easy access downstream of the Chimneys Picnic Area. Beyond there, the river becomes far more difficult to get to, and is frequently scattered with sizeable boulders that make navigating the river difficult. With both easily reachable and remote spots, the Little Pigeon offers something for every fisherman. The river can be tough to fish at times of low water, but comes alive with fish after heavy rains.
Directions: From Gatlinburg, drive south on US 441/TN-71, continuing through the main entrance to the park (Newfound Gap Rd.). The road parallels the river for much of the first 10 miles within the park.
Twentymile Creek (N 35.4359, W -83.8249):
Just west of Fontana Lake, this isolated stream is a wilderness gem that includes backcountry campsites not far from Highway 28. A medium-width stream, much of its waters were swallowed by the damming of Fontana Lake, and it’s now much shorter than its name entails. Hike along the trail by the creek, and you’ll find ample pools hiding rainbows and the occasional brown trout. Cascades and steep descents can require some adventuring to navigate your way upstream. The creek’s steep descent requires wading skills, with water particularly high in the spring.
Directions: From Bryson City, leave town on US-74 W. Go 8 miles to NC-28 N. Continue 21 miles to a right on Fontana Dam Rd. Look for Twentymile Ranger Station – the trail begins behind the building.