Let me start off by saying that preparation is the most important thing when it comes to going somewhere you've never been before. And if you go unprepared and are lucky enough to make it back in one piece, you will hopefully be smart enough to be prepared the next time.
In my initial post on this thread, on my first trip up to Road Prong, I was completely unprepared, didn't know where I was going, didn't have a map, didn't even have water or food. A little way up the stream, I started to get nervous that I was perhaps on the wrong stream, wasn't sure where the trail out was and had climbed up so many boulders, I wasn't sure I could even climb back down without falling. I had hiked in close to a waterfall and couldn't see the way out (up?). My nervousness worked itself into a paranoia and I tried climbing out of the stream in a spot that took almost 30 minutes instead of surveying all of my options.
Well after that experience, I read back over some folks responses in this thread and old posts (a very nice feature by the way, simply type the stream name in the search box -after clicking "search" from the menu above - and bingo, a lot of pretty specific information on most topics about fishing in the smokies). At this point I came to realize that I had completely overreacted, to the point that I even forget my age (44 not 43)! I decided to try it again. Unfortunately, I still didn't have anyone fishing with me, but I was at least very prepared (and a year older?).
I hiked down from the Road Prong Trailhead on Clingman's Dome Rd at about 8:30a with water, food, a water purifier, map and compass - I was determined to be prepared (overprepared?) - I even brought a raincoat (I know, wishful thinking...). It took me about an hour to get down to the Chimney Tops trail and then I proceeded to work my way up and down the trail for about 30 minutes trying to determine good take out points from the stream, so that once I was down there I could get out easily. I made a few mental pictures and even made a small three stone cairn on one of the easier take outs that's not obvious from the stream, in case I made it to the waterfall and couldn't get find a way out, I could then backtrack a bit and get out.
Once I started fishing I felt prepared. And it made all the difference in the world. I worked my way up the stream fairly easily and when I reached the waterfall, instead of trying to scale up the wall, I hiked back downstream about 30' and found a spot that took less than 5 minutes to get from the stream to the trail, compared to the 30 it took two weeks ago.
The water temp was good (62), but the water is getting low. I wouldn't recommend fishing it until we get some rain...
The hike back up to the car was tough. I think the Chimney Tops Trail may be the way to go, but that may be more a factor of having and easier hike out, at the end of fishing (down hill to the Chimney Tops TH). I think the bridge on Road Prong is equal distance from each trail head.
All-in-all, a much better trip and boy do I feel stupid for being so unprepared that last time I went. Oh, and I caught a few fish as well