Beating the Summer Heat

By Greg Ward

Five straight
days of 90 degree temperatures this past May has made for an early summer.
Summers in Sevier County mean parades, fireworks, bullfrogs, crickets, and the
occasional overheated car stuck in traffic on Hwy 66. Tourists trying to beat
the heat have made Dollywood’s Splash Country the nation’s most visited water
park.

My
favorite way to escape the summer heat involves a fly or spinning rod
(sometimes both) and some artificial lures, baits, and flies. Earth tone
shorts, shirt, hat, wading boots, extra socks, polarized sunglasses, and a
cooler loaded with my favorite beverage complete my summer fishing
ensemble. Okay, you can put snacks and
few waters in the cooler, too. The range in temperature from my home in Pigeon
Forge to the heights of the Smokies never ceases to amaze me. I can leave
downtown Pigeon Forge and my truck’s thermometer will read 95 degrees, but once
I hit the Smokies (about a thirty minute drive) it’s cooled down to a balmy 78
degrees. In fact, the highest air temperature ever recorded at the lodge atop
Mount LeConte is 78.

You can
get to my favorite summertime haunt, Greenbrier, a few ways—just don’t tell
anyone. If you’re staying in Gatlinburg,
go north at traffic light #3 onto Highway 321 and in about seven miles you’ll
see the entrance to Greenbrier on your
right. If you cross the bridge over the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River,
you’ve gone too far. If you’re coming from Pigeon Forge, take Upper Middle
Creek to Dunn’s Market; take a left and go about ¼ a mile and turn right onto
Highway 416. Stop at the Rib Shack for some awesome BBQ, then continue on 416
to Highway 321 and turn right. One mile later turn left into the Greenbrier
entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It’s
likely you’ll be greeted by several beauties swimming and sunbathing at the
lower levels of the Middle Prong. Several parking lots are on the right hand
side of the road probably packed full of trucks and cars loaded with inner
tubes and beach towels galore. A few miles on you’ll pass the ranger’s house on
the right. From here on is some of the finest fishing on the Middle Prong of
the Little Pigeon River proper. Small pull-offs will be on your left. Well
maintained trails lead from these pull offs to absolutely gorgeous riffles,
runs, shoots, and pools teeming with rainbows, brookies, and occasional brown
trout. As a youth, Greenbrier was my favorite brown trout river in the park. I
know the state was still stocking back then. Guess what? They still stock from
the bridge at 321 downstream for miles. TWRA put 3,000 browns in this spring. A
few of these fish pay no attention to the rules and make it past the
stocked-trout-truck-chasers and end up at the confluence of Porters Creek and
Ramsey Cascades. It’s fairly easy to access the section of the river between
the ranger’s station and the picnic area, a stretch of about three miles. A
little above the picnic area you will find the Gorge. This is tough waters up
to the confluence.

The road up Greenbrier splits with
Porters Flats on the right and Ramsey Cascades on the left. These two streams
fish like their namesake. Porters meanders and spreads out more than Ramsey. With
less than half the flow of Ramsey, Porters is full of small
rainbows. Brookies are sprinkled in here and there. Ramsey, on the other hand,
is plunge pool after plunge pool. Boulders as large as your Expedition or even
your house are strewn all about Ramsey Creek. Brook trout become the dominant
fish not far above the Ramsey Cascade trailhead. I fish 8’ to 9’ fly rods in
the 4 weight class. The dull color of a Light Cahill to the brightest
chartreuse Caddis in your box will work during summer. I prefer to fish a size
10 Parachute Adams on the Middle Prong. Larger trout will smash the large
offering. Size 12 Cahills, Yellow Sallies, and chartreuse Caddis complete my
choice of flies. Size 12 and 10 chartreuse Inch Worms, Tellico nymphs,
Yellow-Hammer and Pheasant Tails are great for nymphers. Size 6 Muddlers,
brown, black, and olive Wooly Buggers are great for streamers. When I fish
Porters, I use the same colors that I fish on the Middle Prong/Greenbrier
proper. I just size down to 14, 16, and 18 on dries and nymphs. The size 10
Adams that I fish on the big water of Greenbrier tends to scare the fish in the
smaller tributaries like Porters.

Spin-fishermen can catch their fair
share on single-hook rooster tails. I fish 1/24 on 4 pound test and 1/16 on 6
pound test line. Black, brown, bumblebee, and fire tiger are all good color
choices. Many of the larger nymphs can be fished on spin equipment and crème
has always made excellent worm imitations in multiple colors.

Ramsey is at the top of my favorite
streams in the Smokies. I fish Tennessee and Carolina Wulffs tied correctly by
Chad Williams at Smoky Mountain Angler in Gatlinburg. He uses moose mane for
the tail and beef up the hackle and body. This enables me to fish the dries in
the rough and tumble waters of Ramsey. Little River Outfitters in Townsend can
produce flies to order.

I love to escape the stresses of
life by getting knee-deep in a stream. Cool water rushing over my bare legs is
better than any therapy or massage. All my worries disappear as I become a size
10 Adams drifting along the surface, then . . . WHAM—lightening strikes and a
nice bow breaks the surface with my Adams clutched in its mouth!

A couple of things to keep in mind if you’re
fishing Greenbrier are

You’re cell phone probably won’t get a signal in
most places.

Be aware of quickly rising water. Afternoon
thunderstorms are common and Greenbrier waters rise very fast.

Pay attention to your surroundings. I have seen
more rattlesnakes and copperheads in this part of the Smokies than I have in
other areas I fish.

Watch your children—the rocks can be
treacherous.

As always, don’t stray from the streams or
trails.

Keep what you need and leave the
rest for seed.

Greg Ward is a noted
author and fishing and hunting guide in East Tennessee. Contact him at
www.rockytopoutfitter.com or at 865.661.3474.

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