View Full Version : Cataloochee

02-06-2008, 11:39 AM
First off, I really appreciate the great service at LRO and the friendly attitude of Smoky Mountain anglers toward visitors. Being in the military pretty much means I am an out-of-towner wherever I fish. Many local fisherman are not so accepting as I have found here. Thanks.

I am planning a fishing/backpacking trip for March and am interested in checking out the Cataloochee area. Last year I hiked down the Deep Creek Trail and fished down to camp 60. I think Deep Creek was a bit colder than other streams, as I stopped at Tremont on the way out of the park and caught more fish in 4 hours there than in three days on Deep Creek.

I was wondering if the Cataloochee streams produce very well in the early spring (early to mid March). If so, any favorites among Rough Fork, Little Cataloochee, Caldwell, or Palmer Creek? I will fish anything, but there is nothing better than a tumbling mountain stream with hungry little fish who will take a dry fly.

Also as there are few labeled backcountry camps in that area does anyone have any advice on where I should camp in order to have access to the most water? I like to cover lots of water and would like to give some attention to at least a few of those streams.

Sorry for the long post but thanks for any help,

David Knapp
02-06-2008, 12:00 PM
I can't help you with those streams specifically but early in the season, the better fishing tends to be in the lower elevations which means fishing the lower end of the larger streams. Of course, this is determined by current weather and the resulting water temperature and if it is really warm, the mid to high elevation streams will be fishing well also...

02-06-2008, 12:46 PM
I usually spend some time fish Cataloochee each fall (during the elk rut). We usually stay in the campground and that is definitely the best way to access the most water. Unless you just insist on a backcountry site, I highly recomend the campground, it is relatively small and usually pretty quiet. Also Caldwell Fork runs into Cataloochee right there at the campground. I don't fish Cataloochee very often in the spring (just can't stay away from Abrams that time of year), but my experience is that is just doesn't fish as well as it looks like it should (and no, I'm not just saying that to keep people away). But, honestly I have had more hard days of fishing with little to show for it in that creek than any other in the park. But note, I keep going back, I do love that place. I think that one of the reasons Cataloochee may fish a little tougher than some of the park streams is that it may have a little higher concentration of brown trout that most streams (just my opinion). The creek fishes fairly well from the campground up to the confluence of Rough Fork and Palmer Creek. Given a choice between those 2 steams I will take Palmer every time and usually spend some time fishing it when I am there, my personal best brookie (a 9-10" beauty in late September) came from Palmer just below where Pretty Hollow comes in. Pretty Hollow fishes well as does Palmer all the way up to Lost Bottom - colorful names. I would definitely spend some time going up Palmer (watch out for bears and Rattlesnakes!), the fish are much more willing to smack a dry than they are in Cataloochee.
Coming back down from the campground, Cataloochee fishes well down to the bridge just above the group camping sites. From that bridge down to the group sites is again some of the best looking water I have ever seen, but it just doesn't seem to fish very well. This past fall I fished from the next bridge down, Asbury Crossing, back up the group sites and again that is some pretty water as is the water at Asbury Crossing. I have not been very far below Asbury Crossing and I have never fished Little Cataloochee which enters just below there.
All of this water is very easy to access from the Campground. And I have found that the fishing right beside the road can be pretty productive. I particularly like the stretch of water that runs behind the fields up to the little Methodist Church.

02-06-2008, 02:12 PM
I will pretty much agree with mtnmike on his advice. The cataloochee valley is a beautiful area and one that you will definitely love if you go there. The main stem of cataloochee can be a tricky place to fish and i would have to agree that it is probably because of the larger concentration of brown trout. It is definitely a humbling stream to fish. Don't let that discourage you, though, because i have personally seen some very large fish in there. Even though you said you would be going in the spring, i would think the best time to fish it would be early in the morning, late in the day, or when it's cloudy and/or rainy just simply due to the fact that you could conceal yourself better. One of the better days i had on catalooche was a cold, rainy day.

I have fished palmer several times and have most always had better luck there than cataloochee. The average fish that i have caught also seems to be pretty nice sized, around 10", but that may just be luck. I have caught mostly rainbows out of here but you start running into a few brookies when you move farther upstream. I have also ran across several larger sized rainbows in the lower portion in the 14-16" range. The headwaters of palmer (lost bottoms, pretty hollow, etc.) offer some excellent brook trout fishing. I have only fished pretty hollow, but am planning a lost bottoms trip very soon. If i was backpacking and staying, i would stay at campsite #39. That campsite allows you easy access to palmer, pretty hollow, and with a short walk lost bottoms.

One other area you might want to consider is hiking up big creek. It's not that far from cataloochee and is a rough and tumble mountain stream it's entire course. I haven't fished it, i've just hiked it, but it looks fantastic. You could stretch your legs really good and hike up to campsite #36 and probably have the stream pretty much to yourself and you would be into some good brook trout water. I don't think that this area receives much pressure, but i could be wrong. I have heard some good things about several of those feeder streams above campsite #36.

Hope this helps and let us know what you decide and how your trip goes.


02-06-2008, 04:27 PM
I have experienced some slow fishing there also. The best fishing I have had was in late July & early Aug. Those fields are full of hoppers and it is nice to change up styles some times. It is very beautiful there!
I second the warning on bears. Last time I stayed at the campground the rangers had to bait one into a trap right in the middle of the place. I did stay one night at BC #40. It was nice enough. I don't remember it being spectacular in any way. It is worth a shot for fishing. Try to wait until the temps get up if you can.


02-06-2008, 09:28 PM
Watch for the bears at 39.

That said, I concur with staying at the front-country campground. It provides access to all the water and is usually quite and peaceful compared to most other front-country sites like Elkmont, Smokemont, etc.

I also agree with Palmer, except I've not caught the size of fish that mtnman talks about. I'd say my average was the typical 7 - 9 inchers common in the Smokies. A few went 10, but these were the exception. I've fished there a half-dozen times and had the same results.

Good Luck,

Byron Begley
02-08-2008, 06:11 PM
I don't remember fishing in the Cataloochee area that early. It all depends on the water temperature and it could be perfect or it could be too cold. I have been humbled on Cataloochee Creek too. I like Palmer, Rough Fork and Caldwell. I have caught some nice rainbows fishing from the Caldwell House upstream. And I remember catching a nice brown below the confluence. Paula and I walked to Lost Bottoms in waders one time. I'm still not over that. That was before it was open to fishing. I just wanted to see it. My best fishing on Big Cataloochee has been using Green Weenies in the summer and midges during the fall below Asbury Crossing. I have fished Little Cataloochee too. But I guess my favorite is Palmer.


02-09-2008, 08:27 PM
there is a small stream that is just below the trailhead that goes to little cat baptist church and the cook cabin off of old 284.....i've never fished it because it was closed the times i was there...trail meets up with palmer creek trail.....it was infested with visible brookies...small but lots of them......but i was chasing cemeteries....little cat and hannah up on long bunk...plus the one up palmer creek....might be worth looking at if you are in catalooch

02-12-2008, 11:46 AM
Based on what I hear I think I might consider some options and then make a weather call last minute. I am considering a trip up twentymile creek and then maybe I'll hike on over to eagle creek for a day or two. Those stream seem lower and might be better in mid March. Again any advice will be greatly appreciated.


02-12-2008, 05:58 PM
Hello MyDryFly,

You may want to consider Abrams Creek if your going to be on the west side of the Smokies. It's at a lower elevation as well, and has a lot more potential than Twenty Mile, not sure about Eagle since I have nver fished it, but it's on my To Do List. You may able to catch a Quill Gordon hatch on Abrams in mid-March, and have the opportunity to get into some nice wild bows.

Hope this helps,


02-12-2008, 09:13 PM
there is a small stream that is just below the trailhead that goes to little cat baptist church and the cook cabin off of old 284.....

I think I checked out this stream you're talking about back over Thanksgiving...I believe it is Correll Branch, and until recently it was indeed closed. I tried a few casts, but it was getting close to dark, the temperature was falling, and I was a bit nervous about that gravel road icing over, so I wasn't able to give it much of a trial. I plan on hitting that Little Cataloochee area when we head up after Easter - it looks wonderfully isolated.

03-13-2008, 02:35 PM
Well, I ended going to Cataloochee and stayed up at camp 39. I figured fishing would be slow because of the cold and I was right. I did catch several brookies in the upper parts of Palmer Creek and Pretty Hollow, but no rainbows. I suppose that they are willing to eat at lower temps than rainbows. It was interesting to see the elk with tags (much like cattle) standing near the road on the way in. I also liked the chapel, schoolhouse, and Palmer House. All in all I wish the fishing had been better, but the Cataloochee valley is a beautiful and peaceful place to go so I have no regrets. It looks like it is warming up and I probably missed the start of good fishing by a week or so. Thanks to all for the advice.

03-13-2008, 11:47 PM
I live about 30 minutes out of Cataloochee and you hit it right on the head. 39 is my favorite backcountry site to stay at, but I love the brook. I usually catch a few nice fish up Pretty Hollow and Palmer, and have seen several trophy fish in Lost Bottoms. The weather has been terrible, but I have managed 3 trips in there this week, only one had any success and that was in Correll branch of Little Cataloochee. Even the brook were sluggish, not hit and run just drifting up and getting it. Any time you head back this way let me know, I love fishing and talking, and I am pretty knowledgeable about this side of the park. Walnut Bottoms, 36, on Big Creek is a great place to stay with plenty of Brook and small small rainbows.