View Full Version : The good/the bad/the painful

08-17-2007, 10:11 PM
Fished West Prong Little Pigeon today for the first time. Hugh Hartsell told me to access it from the quiet walkways off the road instead of the Old Sugarlands Trail b/c it was much steeper on the trail side. Yikes, if the trail side is steeper it will take rope ladders to get down to the river! The first walkway wasn't too bad, but no fish. Also, it rained a little last night and the mossy rocks were as slick as any I've ever seen. I promptly fell.

The second walkway was a LONG walk in wet wading boots. A few rainbow. I tried yellow flies and a light Hendrickson. Tried nymphing, nothing. I think I need work on nymph fishing.

I did remember to check the water temp. Hans, at 10 a.m. it was 64 degrees.

Broke for lunch. Jack, the king of all fallers, tripped going to the truck and banged up a knee.

At road marker #4, we hiked (limped?) down, found a goat path from the walkway down to the water. I tried a fly with a soft yellow body and whitish bristles around the head. (I have got to learn their names!) The water was incredibly clear. I finally switched reels to one with a longer tapered leader and put a 6x tippet on. I crawled to a big deep pool with a waterfall at the end. Cast, cast, strike. Lovely rainbow, ran for the rocks got under them and I thought he was gone. Finally got him out and started working him around to the shallows. Hugh also said I should learn to land fish without a net. Since the net was in the truck up the rock clift I thought it was a great time to learn. Got him on land, about 13" but he should grow by the time I get home.

Held him up to show Jack, fish made a lunge for freedom, I did the "river dance", fell hard on my...how to say this...extreme lower spine right onto a rock. Man, that really hurt. Rainbow was sucessfully released. I fished the pool again and took another, smaller, rainbow out of it. Then we decided it was time to go home. Trouble was, there wasn't even a goat path anywhere to get out of the river. So we limped back downstream over the rocks until we found a place to crawl out.

I will definitely fish there again but in cooler weather. I would not fish there alone, just too much chance of a serious fall. Are there better places to access further on towards Newfound Gap?

Thank goodness for anti-inflammatory meds and extra strength Tylenol.

I did not catch a single brown this trip which has never happened before. I am still looking for my first GSM brook trout. Maybe next time....

08-18-2007, 12:07 AM

There are several places on up 441 towards Newfound Gap that are easy to access the West Prong. If you go to the Chimney's picnic area, the river runs right beside the grounds and you can go from there as far as you're comfortable up the river or down. A couple miles up the road from the picnic area is the Chimney Tops trailhead. You can catch the upper end of the West Prong and also go up Road Fork at the second bridge on the trail to the Chimneys. Further up, you can get onto the West Prong again at the Alumn Bluff trailhead though the water is most likely pretty thin up there right now. Hopefully by the time you get back, we'll have water again. I have caught brookies from the picnic area all the way up the river past the Chimney Tops trailhead. The higher you go, the more likely you'll run into them.

I'll trade a brookie for one of your browns - haven't caught one of those since I started fly fishing.

Keep us posted on your Montana fishing experience.

08-18-2007, 12:43 AM
I like the West Prong - caught my biggest wild fish to date there. However, it is definitely the slickest stream I've fished (I haven't hit Abrams yet). It definitely gives you a workout.

08-18-2007, 08:21 AM
Hello Barbara,

That's a great rainbow coming from the W. Prong. If you your willing to do some more hard fishing on the W. Prong you may want to try "The Gorge" between the Chimney Tops picnic area and the Chimney Tops trailhead. You can start at the picnic area, but be prepared for a long day of boulder hopping and crawling, but there is some great water in that area. I wouldn't recommend going along although I have done it quite a few times. There is another good access point farther upstream of the picnic area, it's a large parking area on your right before you get to the first tunnel heading south on Newfound Gap road. There is an interpretive display at this parking area. There is a fairly steep goat trail leading to the Gorge section of the W. Prong at this point, but if your careful you can get to the water and it decreases the distance to the Chimneys trailhead. The only drawback is you have to walk thru the tunnel to head back to the parking area after you have reached the Chimneys trailhead. The good thing is that yu are unlikely to run into any other fisherman in the Gorge, at least I haven't in approximately 20 trips to this area.

Hope this helps,


08-18-2007, 09:09 AM
The gorge is absolutely my favorite place to fish right now. And I have yet to run into another fisherman. The last time I fished it from the pulloff that Neal is referring to up to the Chimney's trailhead, it took between 6 and 7 hours. Maybe I just fish slow. But it is definitely a beautiful and a strenuous stretch of river.

The first time that I found myself on the upper side of the tunnel, I had a few moments of panic till I realized there was a walking ledge through to the other side.

Gerry Romer
08-18-2007, 10:18 AM
I've fished that little stretch from the Road Prong down to the tunnel and let me tell you, getting out at the tunnel is no easy task. But the fishing was fantastic... one of those spots you remember later and say, "oh yeah, I've been meaning to get back there." Even though it is really annoying listening to everyone doing the madatory horn honk in the tunnel.

Barbara, you were really close to those brookies!! Go on up 441 past the Alum Cave trail head to the big right hand switchback. Turn around and come back down a couple hundred yards. The stream - such as it is - is now on your left and you can find a mess of brookies up there. If you go back down toward the Alum Cave parking area, the stream will cross back under the road and down to your right. Shortly after passing over the stream you can pull off in a turn out and hike in a short distance ( you may have to bushwhack your way in a bit since there's no trail to speak of) and fish upstream for both brookies and rainbows. I like this part of Walker Camp better because it is slightly remote and a very pretty stream back in there.

This is definitely the easy way to do it since it's pretty much just drive-park-fish... drive-park-fish... drive-park-fish... and some people just don't like that. But those brookies sure are pretty and they fight like the dickens.

As long as the water's not too thin and the temps are okay, you should be able to get your first brookie out of Walker Camp Prong.

Good luck,


08-18-2007, 05:39 PM
Thanks, Neal, Charlie B. and Gerry. I get the best info from this message board. I am so impressed that people will share their information and are so friendly to newbies.

Gerry, I am looking at my handydandy map from LRO and I see Alum Cave Trail. Past it I see a hugh switchback in the road then the Tenn/NC state line. No where do I see a Walker Camp. Has the stream name changed from Pigeon to Walker or have I missed something? I use the National Geographic GSM Trails Illustrated Map. Is there a better one for fishing/streams? Thanks again.


Gerry Romer
08-18-2007, 07:38 PM
Barbara -- Just about all of it up top is the Walker Camp Prong (of the west prong of the Little Pigeon River). You want to fish from that switchback on down to the Alum cave trail head or the other way around. If you're up for some real primitive small stream brookies, go past the switchback, over the top, and down the other side a bit. Go down past Newfound Gap and past the road to Clingman's Dome. The road will make a hard switch back to your left and then another to your right - very easy to spot on your trail map. As you come out of that last right hand switchback, look for turnouts on your left.

Beech Flats Prong runs alongside the road at this point for quite a ways but you can't see it from the road up there. You'll need to park in a turn out or in one of the larger fields near the tree line. Gear up, head easterly and hike in a bit. If the water's not too low you should be able to hear it once you're out of earshot of the traffic.

Beech Flats Prong and its tributaries make up the head waters of the Oconaluftee. I've pulled some pretty little brookies out of there. Last year they absolutely hammered a size 16 brassie!!

Again, this is kind of lazy drive and park fishing. The longest bushwhack/hike you'll have to make is probably only a few hundred yards. But, still... the feeling is very remote and primitive and the fish are just as hungry as ones you'd hike a mile for.

Good luck!


08-19-2007, 01:26 PM
Gerry is right, I just like to clarify for people who are new to the area. West Prong of Little Pigeon begins at the confluence of Walker Camp Prong and Road Prong which is located at the Chimney Tops Trailhead. Here's where it gets confusing. Road Prong follows chimney top trail and heads up the mountain. Walker Camp Prong follows the road. You would think Road Prong should follow the road right? Well, there is an explanation. Road Prong follows the old wagon trail which lead in to Cherokee country back in the day, hence the name Road Prong.