How To Read The River Gauge And Temperature
In general, the Little River and the streams and creeks that feed into it are safe to wade below 400 CFS, or cubic feet per second. Above this, and the water can be pretty pushy and unsafe to wade. Below 100 CFS, which can occur after several days of little rain, the fishing typically gets pretty warm and fairly difficult. Just go to higher elevation streams and you’ll find better fishing, and the fish you catch will have a higher survival rate.
To read the gauge, listed by the USGS here, read the temperature table and look for a reading above 45℉ and below 65℉. You can fish below 40℉ and up to 70℉, but fish will be lethargic. Furthermore, temperatures at 70℉ or above will result in a higher death rate of trout, so it’s not advised for those looking to practice catch and release.
For the flow gauge, simply look at the graph for Discharge, Cubic Feet Per Second.
Where To Wade
There are three main prongs in the Smokies: The West Prong, Middle Prong, and East Prong. The West prong is quite treacherous and difficult to fish, so it’s better to fish with a friend. There are lots of brook and rainbow trout, but also some browns.
The Middle Prong, also referred to as Tremont since you can find the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which is found along this prong. Most people fish the “paved” section in the colder months, and then moving up to the “gravel” section when the water warms in the summer. At the end of the road, you will find a parking lot and trailhead for a couple of tributaries, which can all fish well.
The East Prong is by far the most popular branch. The lower part is great in the 8-9 cooler months of the year, and can sometimes fish well all year long if the summer is wet and mild enough.
Flies And Tactics
Starting in early spring, Blue Wing Olives (BWO) will appear on cooler days with overcast skies. These mayflies are fairly small, so an 18 or 20 is preferred, but sometimes a 16 will work too. Blue Quills (which actually have a brown body) also hatch during March, though typically in the latter half and then into April.
From late May until the beginning of October, you can catch fish on yellow dry flies. A popular pattern is the Neversink Caddis, which features a foam body and floats like a cork all day. Paired with a pheasant tail or hare’s ear nymph under, you can cover your bases and catch fish all summer long with the right placement.
In October and November, Orange Caddis become more productive, and we also get some BWO hatches when the weather cooperates.
All year round, nymphs in size 14 to 18 will take fish, especially when the water rises or the temperature drops. Classic patterns and old stand-bys still work just as good, but so do the modern jig and Euro-style nymphs. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s buggy!