Great Smoky Mountains National Park 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing West Prong Little Pigeon River in GSMNP

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

April 11, 2021

West Prong Little Pigeon River in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fly fishing is a popular pastimes for those visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the West Prong Little Pigeon River is a great place to start.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been fishing for years or if you’re just looking to start a new hobby, because this can be a great chance to get away and get back to nature. If you’ve never planned your own trip, you’re in for a treat!

With our DIY guide, you’ll get all the insight that you need to plan your perfect fly fishing excursion to the West Prong Little Pigeon River. Save money on professional guide services and enjoy a more peaceful trip alone by planning a DIY getaway. We will cover where to go, when to go, what you need, and more.

River Overview

Fly fishing the Little Pigeon River in Gatlinburg, TN just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The West Prong of the Little Pigeon River in Tennessee is probably one of the best trout streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This stream runs along Highway 441 as it flows from the Chimney Top trailhead area down to Gatlinburg where it meets up with the Middle Prong Little Pigeon River and the main stem of the Little Pigeon River. It’s bigger than most in the park and offers plenty of access. 

The West Prong Little Pigeon River is a mid-to large-size freestone stream that is full of wild rainbow and brook trout. There is no stocking here, so you might find that the fish spook more easily but they are generally not too picky about their flies.

West Prong Little Pigeon River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access points on the West Prong Little Pigeon River in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

The Walkers Camp Prong that forms this branch of the river is a great tributary for trout fishing as well. You can also check out the Road Fork, which runs along Road Prong Trail for about three miles. It isn’t very accessible at the trailhead, but accessibility improves as you move upstream. You’ll be able to enjoy year-round fishing on this creek and its tributaries, allowing you to visit whenever it’s convenient for you. 

The West Prong Little Pigeon River is known for its pocket water and you will find success with short, upstream casts that create less drag. It can be rewarding if you want to catch some wild trout since a lot of the creeks and streams outside the park are stocked with hatchery-raised trout (not that there’s anything wrong with stocked trout). 

Bear in mind, also, that while access is generally good, there are large boulders and plunge pools that can make traversing the West Prong a bit difficult in certain places.

Best Places to Fish West Prong Little Pigeon River

The West Prong of Little Pigeon River can be fished from the uppermost tributaries all the way to the Newfound Gap boundary. Access is available from the Chimney Trail where the tributaries come together to form the branch at the top of the creek. Highway #441, as discussed above, also provides plenty of road-side access to the river. 

The best access to this branch and its tributaries is found upstream, where there is less brush and undercover to get through. The Road Prong Trail and other trail roads provide various access points for the West Prong Little Pigeon River, as well. It might be a good idea to hike in, get a lay of the land, and then decide where to fish. 

What’s interesting about this creek is that while access is generally good, the conditions in the water could change and be difficult to traverse on foot from time to time. It’s not too deep for wading– there are just hidden pools and lots of giant boulders that could get in your way. Don’t be discouraged– just be careful and deliberate in your movements as you’re working your way to your perfect fishing spot.

Best Time to Fish West Prong Little Pigeon River

You are permitted to fish year-round at the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, as with most of the rivers in the Park. There may be designated times or seasons where access is restricted or limited by the National Park Service, but that will generally be rare, and posted if it is an issue. 

Like many of the creeks and streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this stream is prime for fishing in the spring, when the aquatic insect hatches are fresh and the fish are alert and ready. 

This river does have some higher elevations that are great for fishing in the summer months. The only part that doesn’t stay cool is the lower part that’s closer to town. Plus, the weather is gorgeous at this time of year.

Fall offers more beauty in the changing of the leaves as the seasons turn. In addition to a beautiful trip, you’ll also enjoy some great catches when you choose to flyfish this river in the fall months. As the waters cool and the weather changes, the fish are active again. This continues through the winter, except on the coldest days.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the West Prong Little Pigeon River. The USGS stream gauge at Sevierville, TN provide a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.


  • Streamflow: 2060 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 3.63 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Flies for West Prong Little Pigeon River

The trout in the West Prong are not too picky when it comes to flies.  Presentation is more important that then fly pattern.  Dry flies work well when there is an active hatch coming off.  Generic nymphs and small streamers will also do the trick.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the West Prong Little Pigeon River:

Dry Flies

  • Yellow Sally (#12 – 16)
  • Yellow Humpy (#10 – 18)
  • Parachute Sulphur (#14 – 18)
  • Parachute Adams (#12 – 22)
  • Light Cahill (#10 – 18)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#8 – 16)
  • Yellows Stimulator (#8 – 14)
  • Chernobyl Ant (#8 – 12)
  • Griffith’s Gnat (#16 – 24)


  • Pheasant Tail (#12 – 20)
  • BH Hare’s Ear (#12 – 20)
  • Rainbow Warrior (#14 – 22)
  • Pat’s Rubber Legs (#4 – 12)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6 – 10)
  • Tellico Nymph (#12 – 18)
  • Zebra Midge (#16 – 22)
  • WD40 (#16-20)
  • Y2K Egg (#12 – 16)


  • BH Wooly Bugger (#2 – 6)
  • Sculpzilla (#4)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the West Prong Little Pigeon River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

West Prong Little Pigeon River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a West Prong Little Pigeon River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

A valid fishing license from either the state of Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Consult the Park website for the most current regulations for trout fishing in the park.

The state of Tennessee requires that all people who are 13 years of age and older have a valid fishing license.   In North Carolina, persons over the 16 are required to have a fishing license.

You can purchase a North Carolina state fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Tennessee fishing fishing licenses are available through the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.

Trip Planning Tips

As one of the many streams that flow through and can be accessed from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll never have to worry about getting to and from this fly fishing destination. Lodging, including camping, is plentiful and the towns along the way will have plenty of dining and stores available, as well. 

Highway 441 takes you to this creek which is accessible off of Route 321 (in TN) and Route 19 (in NC).  Asheville is the nearest major city with an Airport. I-40 provides access for those coming from Asheville. Make sure that you rent a car if you’re flying in because it’s a bit of a drive out to the parkland.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guides to the Best Fly Fishing in North Carolina, Best Fly Fishing in Tennessee, and the Best Fly Fishing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Feature image by Jim Dollar