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Old 02-06-2008, 11:39 AM
MyDryFly MyDryFly is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Indiana
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Default Cataloochee

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,
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Old 02-06-2008, 12:00 PM
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David Knapp David Knapp is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Crossville, TN
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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...
"Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19

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Old 02-06-2008, 12:46 PM
MtnMike MtnMike is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Bluff City, TN
Posts: 240

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.
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Old 02-06-2008, 02:12 PM
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mtnman2888 mtnman2888 is offline
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Location: Hendersonville, NC
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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.

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Old 02-06-2008, 04:27 PM
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ACinEastTN ACinEastTN is offline
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Location: Gray, TN
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Default Cataloochee

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.

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Old 02-06-2008, 09:28 PM
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Denver1911 Denver1911 is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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Default Backcountry

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,
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Old 02-12-2008, 11:46 AM
MyDryFly MyDryFly is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Indiana
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Default Thanks for all the info

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.

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Old 02-12-2008, 05:58 PM
pineman19 pineman19 is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Greeneville, TN
Posts: 751

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,

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