Trout Zone Anglers, LLC

Great Smoky Mountains

Visiting anglers are often humbled by the wily trout of the Smokies. A day spent with a Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide will shorten the learning curve. Both experienced anglers and novices alike will benefit from a day of fly fishing with the guides at Trout Zone Anglers. Our passion is sharing our love of fly fishing the Smokies for wild trout with Park visitors. Regardless of your skill level, we are certain that a day spent with one of our fly fishing guides will make you a better angler and help you start catching more trout in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Waters You’ll Fish With Your Great Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide

Our Smoky Mountain fishing guides cover the entire Park, but specialize in fishing on the Tennessee side of the Park. In particular, we serve primarily as Townsend and Gatlinburg Tennessee fishing guides. This is because that is where most of our customers stay when visiting the area. We also fish the Oconaluftee River system on the North Carolina side of the Park regularly. This may be ideal for customers staying in Cherokee or Bryson City North Carolina.

The most famous stream we guide on is probably Little River. We also fish Abrams Creek, the West Prong of the Little Pigeon, the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon, Cosby Creek, and Big Creek. Our favorite brook trout streams are often small tributaries of those larger stream systems. On the North Carolina side of the Park, we also fish all of the streams. However, the majority of our time is spent on the Oconaluftee River and its tributaries as well as Cataloochee Valley for our guided trips. If you are interested in guided trips on other streams, feel free to contact me for more information and to discuss the possibility.

Little River fall colors above Elkmont. A Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide usually knows where the best fishing and scenery will be.

“Fall in the Little River Backcountry” © 2015 David Knapp Photography

Hiking Will Produce Better Fishing

The Park has over 800 miles of fishable water. If an easy day of fishing close to the car is what you want, we will probably fish on Little River or the Middle Prong. If you are willing to walk, some of our favorite places are well into the backcountry. As a general rule, the fishing gets better the farther you walk. We understand that some people cannot walk far for various reasons, but for those who can, a long walk can offer the trip of a lifetime. There is even a good spring creek here in the Smokies. As with most spring creeks, this one is technical and full of very spooky trout.

As longtime Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guides, we know these streams and know how to find trout. We consider these streams our home waters and spend more time here than anywhere else. This is where we learned to fly fish and is our favorite place to guide.

The Trout You’ll Catch With Your Great Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are three species of fish that we regularly target. There are wild rainbow and brown trout in abundance. The rainbows average 5-9 inches or so in length. A large wild rainbow trout in the Park might stretch the tape to 14 or 15 inches. Rainbow trout are greatly appreciated by any Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide because they provide good consistent action. That said, the wild brown trout might be our favorite target. These fish average a little larger than the rainbows at 6-12 inches. Occasional trophy sized fish can approach 30 inches and fish over 20 inches are just common enough to encounter a handful each season.

Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide David Knapp with a big brown trout on Little River

“Trout Zone Anglers owner and head guide David Knapp with a trophy brown trout in the Smokies!” ©2017 Leah Knapp

The Char You’ll Catch With Your Great Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide

If browns are our favorite trout, then southern strain brook trout are our favorite char. Not technically a true trout, brook trout are the only native salmonid in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Thus, they have a special place in the ecosystem and the hearts of many visiting Park anglers.

Any good Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide loves brook trout because of their willingness to take a dry fly. A trip to the Smokies to catch these special fish should be on every angler’s bucket list. Fishing for these gems is best on backcountry trips that require a hike before starting to fish. That said, for anglers unable to walk far, there are some select roadside locations where we can target these fish. Please be advised, however, that fishing roadside will not provide the same consistent action as trips deep into the backcountry or into other more inaccessible areas.

A Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide can help you find brook trout such as this.

“Smoky Mountain brook trout” ©2017 David Knapp Photography

Why Hire a Great Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide?

Anglers who try to figure out fishing in the Park on their own usually go through a lot of frustration and fishless days. A Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide will help shorten the learning curve. We offer professionally guided trips and any necessary gear to help you get out on the water and catching fish. Anglers of all ability levels will benefit from a day on the water with one of our guides.

One of the most important things about our guides is our experience guiding on Smoky Mountain streams. We are full time professional guides, not a college student doing a summer job. David Knapp began Trout Zone Anglers in 2014 and has guided full time ever since. Travis Williams guided at the Smoky Mountain Angler in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for many years before joining Trout Zone Anglers. Both David and Travis have a wealth of experience both fishing and guiding in the Smokies. Fly fishing in the Smoky Mountains is easier with experienced guides.

Trophy brown trout from Little River caught while fishing on a guided trip with Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide David Knapp

Steve found a trophy on his first day of fly fishing with Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide David Knapp. ©2015 David Knapp Photography

How We Help You Improve as an Angler

One of the things that many visiting anglers struggle with are the subtle hits when nymphing. Having a guide there to tell you where to cast and especially when to set will help your catch rate improve drastically. Many anglers also struggle with reading the water. As guides who focus on teaching, we will help you understand why the fish are where they are. Every moment is a learning opportunity. We believe that a day spent with a guide should help you become a better angler. Our primary objective is to help you accomplish this goal while having a good time in a relaxing environment.

Teaching is not just what we do, but it is who we are. David Knapp is a high school math teacher by education and recently completed a masters in outdoor education. Throughout your guided trip, we are always alert for learning opportunities and make it a point to highlight these moments as they come up. We focus both on what you are doing well, and also help you work on areas that you can improve. At the end of the day, we believe that you will be a better angler for having fished with us. Fly fishing the Smokies can be easy, and we hope to help you make it that way!

Information For Your Great Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide

Clear communication up front will help you have the best possible day of guided fly fishing. Providing us with information up front will help us plan the perfect guided fly fishing trip for you. If you want to know what to bring with you on your guided trip, then read this page. One of the most important things you can bring is all of the questions you always wanted answered.

Be honest with your guide about your skill level. Also, we will need to know if you have any dietary restrictions if you are taking a full day trip. Tell us if you need to use our wading gear and other equipment. If you plan on renting our wading gear, we will need to have your approximate sizing information ahead of time. This will help us make sure that we have something that will fit. Shoe size and approximate height and weight will help, or you can consult the wader sizing chart here and let us know what you think your size is.

Your Smoky Mountain Fishing Guide: Preparation

Normally, a day of fly fishing with us starts the night before. This is when we make sure that all of our fly boxes are in order. New flies are tied to replace any we lost on that day’s guided trip, and food is purchased for the next day. A fly fishing guide is always looking for ways to improve at his or her craft. Thus, we might even be tying up a new fly pattern if inspiration has struck during the day. Bedtime often comes late, but you will still find us up at 5:00 am the next morning.

A fly box for Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide David Knapp

“Guide Trip Preparation” © 2019 David Knapp Photography

Starting a day of guiding begins with packing the cooler. No trip is complete without plenty of cold drinks (we normally have water and Gatorade) and a good lunch if a full day trip is on the books. Everyone loves our lunches. Some people specifically ask if they are getting the same good lunch as last time when rebooking. More on that in a minute!

After packing the cooler, we double check all of our gear. This includes rods, reels, flies, leaders, tippet, and all of the other odds and ends that make up a good day of fly fishing. Waders and boots are packed if we are providing those for that day’s clients. Driving to our designated meeting spot, we are thinking about strategy for the day. This might include where to fish and what flies should be working.

Example of a Guided Trip With Us: Meeting You and Driving to the Stream

We like to meet clients at places like Little River Outfitters or perhaps Sugarlands Visitor Center. Due to increasing costs associated with insurance requirements from the National Park Service, we ask that you follow us in your own vehicle. Then we will hit the road for a short but scenic drive to the stream of choice. Along the way, we may see deer, turkey, or black bear. Also, we will discuss your fishing background to help us learn about your ability level. This is important to help us craft the perfect day on the water for you. Along the way, we hope that you will learn a lot about fishing in the Smokies just from our conversation!

Example of a Guided Trip With Us: The Fishing

Our favorite fishing usually involves hiking in to reach less pressured water. A Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide should know which streams are fishing the best. Because we are on the water every day, we know where to go and which streams are worth our time. Much of this comes from many years of experience, but also it comes from being on the water every day. Once we hike in or drive to our fishing spot, we will rig up rods and discuss fly selection for success in the Smokies. In the warm months, this might include a dry fly with a bead head nymph as a dropper. Often, however, you will find us gravitating towards a nymph rig complete with a strike indicator. Trout of the Smokies are most likely to rise during a hatch. Otherwise, they will often stay deep in the streams each day.

We specialize in teaching the high stick nymphing techniques that were developed over many years specifically for fishing here in the Great Smoky Mountains. If you really want to take your nymphing game to another level, ask about high stick nymphing without a strike indicator.

Wild Rainbow Trout on Little River caught while fishing with Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide David Knapp and practicing the high sticking technique

“Wild Rainbow” © 2010 David Knapp Photography

Example of a Guided Trip With Us: The Catching

Depending on our stream of choice, you will be catching rainbow, brown, and/or brook trout. These are all wild fish and are beautifully colored. Each one is a jewel. Because we fish the same waters throughout the year, we practice catch and release. Please understand that if we allowed people to keep fish, our techniques are so good that the streams would soon become depleted of fish and we could not provide the same level of fish catching fun on our trips. That said, we usually have a cellphone or camera along and are happy to take some pictures of you with your catch. These pictures make for great memories of your day on the water with your Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide.

Fishing with Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide David Knapp results in a family memory

“Making Memories” © 2016 David Knapp Photography

Example of a Guided Trip With Us: Lunch

If you have booked a full day trip, we provide lunch. We are happy to cater to specific dietary requirements and these should be communicated at the time of booking. A normal lunch will include things such as a scrumptious sandwich, chips, cookies, apples, and if you are lucky, my famous Greek style pasta salad. After lunch, some anglers actually struggle because of all the good food they just ate! When people start getting a bit tired in mid afternoon, we like to pull out the cookies or Snickers that you were too full to eat at lunch time. This little pick me up is perfect to getting you back on your game to finish the day strong.

Maximize The Learning

Once you have finished your day of fly fishing the Smoky Mountains with us, the most important thing is to go back on your own soon. If you would like to hit the evening hatch, then we will recommend some good spots. Becoming a great angler is largely about muscle memory. Go back and practice while the instruction from your Great Smoky Mountains fly fishing guide is fresh in your brain and in your muscles. You can continue to learn more about fishing in the area by reading our Smoky Mountain fly fishing report. Also, sign up for our email newsletter. We hope that you enjoy your time with us and find yourself catching lots more trout as a result.

Booking Your Great Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide

If you are ready to book a trip, please contact me for availability. We recommend booking a minimum of one month in advance, and even then you might have a hard time getting a day during peak season. In April, May, and June we are typically booked more like one and a half months in advance. For more information on guided fly fishing trips with Trout Zone Anglers, check out our guided fly fishing page or the rates page. Please note that if you wish to get to better fishing by hiking, this must be done on a minimum of a 3/4 day guided trip.