Fishing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hazel Creek and Eagle Creek are two of the most beautiful backcountry streams in the region and these neighbors both flow into Fontana Lake.  Trails follow right next to both streams and lead high into the Smokies.  Expect to find rainbow, wild brown and brook trout with an occasional bass near the lake.  Due to the larger stream size, the fish are slightly larger in Hazel Creek, ranging up to 16”, but see much more pressure and can be picky, especially near the lake.  As you get higher on both of these creeks the fish see fewer anglers and are eager to take a well-presented fly.

Take I-40W to exit 27 (US 74W/US 19/US 23).  Follow 74W for 48.9 miles.  Turn right onto US 28N and continue for 21.3 miles.  Turn right onto Fontana Dam Road, the Marina is on the left for ferry access or continue across the dam to reach the Lakeshore Trail trailhead.  These are both backcountry streams that require hiking or taking a ferry from the marina to access their waters.

A 4, 5 or 6 weight rod with matching floating line will work well.  Lighter tippet is a good idea for the fish near the lake that see more pressure.  Stick with a simple assortment of flies.  Parachute Adams and Elk Hair Caddis for dries.  Pheasant tails, hare’s ears, Tellico nymphs and a few bead heads for the deeper runs are all you need subsurface.  A hopper pattern and a few terrestrials in your box are great for summer months.

A North Carolina fishing license is required to fish in the park, but will permit you to fish on either the NC or TN side of the Smokies.  There is no closed season in the park and anglers are permitted to keep up to 5 trout larger than 7”.  Hazel Creek is one of the most popular streams in the Smokies and can be crowded on weekends. 

A long weekend (or whole week) of camping at numerous designated sites (permit required) on either creek can allow you to fish both of these beautiful streams and avoid the weekend crowds on Hazel Creek.

I think I fish, in part, because it's an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution.

John Gierach