View Full Version : Fishing the Horseshoe

04-22-2008, 08:28 AM
Fishing the horseshoe

A buddy and I are fishing the Smokies this weekend. One thing we are considering doing is fishing the horseshoe and the little horse shoe, and I had a couple of questions. I did a fair bit of searching on the forum, and couldn’t find much on these questions. Any help would be appreciated.

1) What time does the gate open into Cades Cove? We are thinking we want to get there early and hike back a little before we start fishing. Since I hear it is going to take all day, I would rather get a quick start and skip ahead a third of the way.

2) How can I tell where to get out? Is the best thing to pre-scout the exit?

3) Can you see the entrance and exit to the horseshoe from the trail?

4) Is there a trail that follows the river, or do you pretty much just wade the river the whole way?

Again, thanks for any help you can provide.

04-22-2008, 09:28 AM
1) it depends on what day you go as to when it opens. I believe that on saturdays it doesn't open until 10 or 11 to let the bikers enjoy it, but i think every other day it opens at 8

2) You should be able to see the trail when you enter and exit the horseshoe

3) see above

4) the trail follows the river the whole length pretty much except for the horseshoes.

From my understanding, it takes all day of really hustling fishing the big horseshoe. Due to the fact that the days length isn't at their peak just yet, i would think of maybe just hiking part of the horseshoe to make sure you are able to get back in time. If you have a gps, that would be good also that way you will know how much farther you have to go. Just be careful about the time, i believe i've heard that every year there is at least one fisherman who spends an unwanted night back in there. If you go, let us know how you do though.


04-22-2008, 10:16 AM
gz, Here is a report on my first trip to the 'shoe last Fall. You said you had done some searching on the forum, so if you had already seen this, I apologize. http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9350

As for your questions:

Cades Cove Loop Road
Open all year from sunrise until sunset
This road will be closed to motor vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 7 through September 24, 2008 to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove.

It is best to familiarize yourself with the exit point for the Big 'shoe, but its easier said than done. The exit point of the 'shoe is just before you cross over a ridge (Arbutus Ridge) and it will be the second "climb" of the trail at just over a mile into the hike. You'll probably be half way up the ridge before you realize it so it'll be hard to walk back down and find you exit point. It should take at least 6-8 hours to fish it if you hurry and don't spend too much time at any one pool. I think the middle 1/3 had better fishing, but the first 1/3 seemed to have more fish.

Depending on how late you get to the exit point you should see the ridge from the stream and people walking on the trail (especially on weekends). Don't even look for the trail until you have fished for 6 hours. Just keep fishing (and moving). At any point after crossing the ridge you can jump down to the stream and start fishing. you'll probably have to go about 200 yards (or more) to get to a point that "jumping" down to the stream is an option.

Like Craig said, the trail follows the stream for all but the 'shoe sections, so keep fishing and every once in awhile look up and to your left for the ridge. If you think you are near the trail, don't go more than 20 yds from the stream to look for it, and immediately return to the stream if you don't see it. I say that more to keep you from getting lost, than anything else. When you are actually near the trail, you will find it easily. If it takes any effort, then you are not there yet.

Remember...look for the ridge...look for the ridge...look for the ridge...
don't get out beforehand...

Most importantly, be safe (the rocks are covered with silt and are very, very slippery), have fun and take pictures!

04-22-2008, 10:22 AM
heres a map of the horseshoe. Maybe it will help some



04-22-2008, 10:32 AM
heres a map of the horseshoe. Maybe it will help some

Russ, I only get a thumbnail of the map...
Is that software or something online? It looks like it would be much more useful than the online stuff I have used.

04-22-2008, 10:56 AM
I had intended to post a report then, but turned out to have a very busy weekend and never got around to it. Also I didn't have a lot to report. I arrived late and really had to fish fast. I caught a small rainbow on my first cast with a parachute adams and thought "all right this is going to be a great day". Turns out if you really enjoy catching shiners on a dry fly it was a good day. Don't get me wrong those shiners can be pretty and they apparently have a healthy appetite, I caught one that was less than 2" long on a size 14 PA. I know this happens a lot on Abrams, so I finally added a dropper. Somebody tell Hugh those shiners really like the smoky mountain blackbird soft hackle. I did catch some rainbows, but nothing over 8 inches. There were a lot of March Browns coming off, but I never saw one fish rise to one. The creek is full of shiners, maybe I should have tried a streamer.
As far as getting in and out goes, remember that you go above the creek one time and then back down to it before crossing Arbutus Ridge. I was running late and was in such a hurry and kept telling myself "cross first ridge and start fishin" that I actually jumped in the creek after this first little up and down and fished a little ways before realizing "I'm not in the horseshoe". Crossing Arbutus is very obvious after that. I noticed a tree that was down on the opposite side as the trail just before climbing Arbutus, I used that as a land mark to get out. There is a perfect exit poin just above this tree or you can keep fishing up to the next ledge which also provides a good exit point. As far as the shoe itself, I prefer to concentrate on the lower portions. Keep an eye out for Law Branch which enters on the right as you are making your way up the creek. It's not big but should be noticeable. I think this marks roughly 3/4 of the trip. If you have allowed 8 hours and you haven't seen Law Branch in 6 hours you need to pick up the pace. The creek had more water than I remembered and there is one section of the creek above Law Branch that takes a few minutes to wade through, the water was pretty pushy in this section and there are a lot of ledges running down the creek at an angle. The water was a perfect 58 degrees while I was there. I normally fish on Friday's but was worried about fishing behind someone so I took Thursday off to go. Only saw 2 other fisherman who were exiting the creek in front of me up near the trailhead as I was coming out. I don't believe they had been in the horseshoe, but I din't get to talk with them. Hope this helps.

04-22-2008, 11:14 AM
In case that didn't sound the way I intended it. The Trout also like Hugh's SMBBSH. That's why I tied it on as a dropper. When the shiners are eating the dry, it seems that the trout will eat the dropper and the shiners will leave it alone. I think I just found some real aggressive shiners. I love Hugh's fly. I prefer to fish dries in the mountain streams. I get plenty of dry dropper fishing on the SoHo. But, if I need a dropper in the smokys it will almost always be the SMBBSH, it has caught plenty of trout for me. Just wanted to set the record straight on that one.

Jack M.
04-22-2008, 11:44 AM
Here are two images of the horseshoe in relation to the trailhead. The topo is the same scale as the aerial. I don't have photo-editing software available to me now, but if you know how to handle it, you might want to make one of the two photos somewhat transparent and overlay it on the other, then combine them. It will give you a better idea of the terrain in the area.

As one of the posters mentioned, you might consider scoping the upstream section of the horseshoe before climbing the ridge to put in so you know where to get out. You could even consider "creating" a landmark (on the other side of the creek so it doesn't get disturbed), such as a pile of rocks or a stick jammed into the ground in a recognizable way, etc.

You may notice on the topo a black dashed line leading from the trailhead along the creek, then up over the ridge. This is the trail.

04-22-2008, 12:39 PM
Just out curiosity gzollinger, what day this weekend were you planning on fishing the big horseshoe because I was planning on doing the same and I dont want to jump in front of you and ruin the holes?

04-22-2008, 02:03 PM
Russ, I only get a thumbnail of the map...
Is that software or something online? It looks like it would be much more useful than the online stuff I have used.

I don't know how this photo stuff works. Give me your email and I'll email you the full sized thing. But it looks just like the other map and areal photo posted.

04-23-2008, 09:11 AM
Hey Russ, I'm at petecz at charter.com. Is it software? I looked on the Nat Geo site and it looks like it is. I can generate an OK topo from their website, but it didn't look like it was as clear as what you had...

Anyone else have a good topo site that they use on the internet?

Jack M.
04-23-2008, 09:24 AM
The pics I posted came from http://terraserver-usa.com/

04-23-2008, 12:07 PM
Man, you guys are really awesome. That information is EXACTLY what I needed. I will make sure to post the photos and log of how it all went.

04-23-2008, 01:27 PM
AJH - It will be Saturday, and trust me, I have no notion that I will have it to myself. I suspect there will be plenty of other anglers hitting the water in the park this weekend.