View Full Version : Where to go for smallies w/camping nearby?

Stana Claus
06-05-2013, 09:23 PM
I’m looking for some suggestions for somewhere to take my son for 3 – 5 days, park our camper in a convenient campground to use as a base camp, and make daily sorties for smallmouth bass. Preferably on moving water rather than a lake. We do have a canoe we can use for a float trip, but kind of prefer wading.

A little background: Each summer since my son and I started flyfishing (three years ago but, boy howdy, it sure seems longer than that!) we have taken a multi-day fishing/camping trip to explore new territory somewhere and fish for trout. That first year we setup camp at Roan Mountain State Park and fished the Doe River, as well as the South Holston and Wautaga tailwaters.

In 2011 we camped at Jacobs Creek on South Holston Lake above the dam. The plan was to explore some of the nearby mountain streams like Beaverdam and Laurel over the weekend and then fish the South Holston early in the week after the crowds dispersed. That was while they were doing some repairs to the generators or some such and spilling a steady 200 – 300 cfs all day. Sadly, they finished the repairs that weekend and opened up the gates to draw down the lake level, thoroughly messing up our fishing plans for Monday morning. On the plus side, we had a great time fishing the nearby freestones so the trip was not a total bust.

Last year we planned to make a tour of Virginia starting out with Whitetop Laurel, then heading up to the Shenandoah NP to look for some of those BIG brookies I've seen pictures of in various fishing reports. Unfortunately it was storming when we passed through Abingdon and Whitetop Laurel was blown out. And when we got to the SNP they were still in the middle of a heat wave/drought and all of the creeks we visited were almost dried up with water temps in the upper 70's. Rather than add extra stress on the natives, we started looking for alternatives. Fortunately, we stopped in at Harry Murray’s fly shop in Edinburg and got to meet Mr. Murray himself. He talked us into trying our hand on some smallies on the North Fork of the Shenandoah, fixed us up with some of his favorite flies, and gave us some maps of good access points for wading. We had a blast! And started a new addiction – smallmouth bass!

When we got home, we spent the rest of the summer fishing for smallies every chance we got. Last fall, I bought a 16’ canoe to rig out for fishing those places you just can’t get to wading. Sadly, work, weather, and other obligations have all conspired to put a cramp on our fishing lately. So, when I asked my son where he wanted to go for our summer trip this year, he emphatically replied, “Somewhere we can catch some smallies!”

So I turn to you, my fellow forum members, where should we go to spend a few days and seek out some of our warmwater friends?

06-05-2013, 11:17 PM
Stan, just a few thoughts that popped into my head:

Pigeon River staying at Cosby Campground
Lower Nolichuckey staying at Banks Farm Campground
Lower French Broad staying at TWRA Douglas Tailwater access site

Sorry I can't speak to the fishing aspect. Hopefully I will be able to soon.

– JF

06-06-2013, 10:06 AM

This is a pretty good place to stay with immediate access to the little river.
when Christian Fly Fishers forum was still going, we had a group camp get together there and we all tent camped down close to the river. some of us brought our kayaks/canoes, float tubes. it is a nice campground with good bathhouse and a pool if desired. Not much shade though. Close to the park and LRO.
if you want to do an all day float, you could set up a shuttle with River John http://www.riverjohns.com/ and float to his place.
He also offers tent camping on his island.

We have several on the river campgrounds in Sevierville along hwy 66 but now that it is in full tourist season with schools out, they are jam packed.
Townsend/Walland would be a good base to explore many options.

Stana Claus
06-06-2013, 11:55 AM
Thanks guys, I'll definitely check out those options. But if I wanted to wander a little farther from home, where else could I go? Anybody ever fished the Harpeth River over in Middle TN, or maybe the Nolichucky up by the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park near Limestone?

06-06-2013, 12:20 PM
I have stayed at Davy Crockett birthplace park. The campground is on the river and it is wadable in areas and there is a waterfall there, so currents can get strong if the water level is up. campsites are shady but very close together. There is a nice wadable area of the chucky up in Erwin on hwy 107 next to Rivers edge restaurant. there used to be a campground there also that rafters used but not sure if it is still there.

Stana Claus
06-06-2013, 02:37 PM
You know, the more I poke around the more I'm leaning toward the Nolichucky. Looks like at least 3 good options starting with Fred's suggestion of the Banks Farm Campground near Midway, a little further upstream is the Davy Crockett BP Park near Limestone then, as Troutman pointed out, there seems to be a pretty popular section all the way up at Erwin (maybe too popular?). A search of the forum archives turned up a few threads from around 2008 or so, but nothing much more recent than that. Troutman, or anybody else who might want to chime in here, what were your experiences like on the different sections? Any of them you liked better than others? Of course, I guess I could always setup camp in the middle at Davy Crockett and fish around there one day, go upstream to Erwin another day, then downstream to Midway on yet another day. Try them all and see what's what sort of thing. Anyway, any additional input I can get is most certainly welcome.

06-06-2013, 04:23 PM
I know nothing about Smallies, but always see a ton of fisherman everytime I paddle the Noli from Poplar to Erwin:biggrin: Also have seen the game wardens who ride the train down, then ticket people on way back to car. I know you guys will follow regs, but this is one of the few places I have seen them actively work so I thought I would mention.

Have Fun and post a report when you get back:biggrin:

06-06-2013, 09:39 PM
You can park at Banks Farm Campground. Last time I was there it was $5.

06-07-2013, 02:50 PM
Check on the "Warrior's Path" state park on the Holston in NE TN. Looks very nice but I've never fished it but the Holston has an awesome Smallie reputation and the river runs right around the park.