Fly Fishing Bradley Fork

Fly Fishing Bradley Fork in GSMNP. This was my most recent Fall fly fishing camping destination. I had good reasons for going there, too. For starters, the weather forecast was looking warm and sunny for at least one week. Moreover, the Smokies had just received a good amount of rain at the start of Fall, making the normally low streams of the Smokies–for this time of year–flow higher than average.

And finally, many of the websites and guidebooks that I’d read claimed that Bradley Fork was one of the better, if not the best, trout streams in the entire Smokies.

So was it all that?

Well, I’ll get to that. But first, I should mention that I only fly fished Bradley Fork for four days. So I’m no expert on it. But I will say that it’s one of the more stable streams in the Smokies for wading.

So I was able to wade it, using just Chacos and neoprene socks.

Chaco Mens Z/1 Classic, Outdoor Sandal

NRS Hydroskin 0.5 Socks

And coupling this minimalist footwear with a Hammers wade staff, which was tethered to my trusty KoolBak wade holster with a Hammerhead Gear Keeper:

Hammers Collapsible Wading Staff Fishing Stick, Black

Holster for Wading Staff 10″ Pouch – Flyfishing/Folding Walking Stick

Hammerhead Industries Gear Keeper Net Retractors – Features Various Mounting Options With QC-II Split Ring Accessory

So that’s the wading set up that I’d recommend for this stream for late Spring through early Fall. Particularly, if you’re trying to cover a lot of ground on the trail, which runs along Bradley Fork.

Whereas, if you wear your chest waders, well, you’re gonna get really sweaty and hot when making your way along the trail after a short mile, or so. And no, I never got cold at all wading in the chilly waters of Bradley Fork with just my Chacos and neoprene socks. That’s with the daytime air temperatures hovering around 67-75 degrees.

And now, getting back to the story of fly fishing Bradley Fork.

So, how’d I manage to do that? And, was the fly fishing as great as I’d heard?

First, there’s two ways to camp and fly fish Bradley Fork.

One, you could make reservations and stay at Smokemont Campground in GSMNP. Then, hike up the stream from there. Or, just fly fish it through, and downstream, of the sprawling campground.

Or second, you can make backcountry reservations at either of the two backcountry campsites along Bradley Fork. Of course, I chose this option, electing to stay at both campsites for the maximum of 3 nights each. Which would give me more days to fly fish more of Bradley Fork. But also, more time to explore this part of the Smokies. Because, it’s not all just about the fly fishing, you know. It’s about the wilderness experience, too. Which I hoped Bradley Fork would deliver. In addition, to some great fly fishing.

So here’s my verdict. Regarding fly fishing Bradley Fork, GSMNP.

Okay, so here’s the thing about fly fishing the Smokies. Tragically, most of the wild rainbows and brook trout are small. So be prepared to catch small wild fish, if you’re lucky. And I say, lucky, because Smokemont is the largest campground in the Smokies. So the area around Smokemont gets fished pretty hard.

Moreover, GSMNP regulations allow fishermen to keep up to 5 trout a day of 7 inches, or greater. So, I’d guess that lots of locals and out-of-state fishermen are keeping their limit of fish. Now, personally, I’d like to see more Catch-and-Release areas in the Smokies. Particularly, surrounding the large campgrounds, like Smokemont or Elkmont. Or even some trophy trout regulations. Because I do suspect that allowing a (5) fish creel limit a day, throughout the North Carolina and Tennessee sides of GSMNP, is certainly leading to a dearth of trout around heavily fished areas, like those surrounding Smokemont on Bradley Fork.

That said, I caught a few fish the first two days of fishing. Then, as I worked my way upstream, I caught even more each day. But, as I already mentioned, they were mostly small wild fish.

Small wild rainbow trout landed fly fishing Bradley Fork, GSMNP.
Small wild rainbow trout landed fly fishing Bradley Fork GSMNP.
Small wild brook trout landed fly fishing Bradley Fork, GSMNP.
Small wild brook trout landed fly fishing Bradley Fork, GSMNP.

However, rumor has it that Bradley Fork is home to a few large predatory brown trout.

But no, I’d never be lucky enough to tangle with one of those deep water leviathans… Nope. And certainly not on my first day of fishing. But, as hard as it is for me to believe. Even now. Yes! I did, indeed, hook and land a fine brown trout on my very first day of fly fishing Bradley Fork! In only the second hole that I fished! Talk about some luck! And here she is! Posing fat and happy, right in the palm of my hand…

A fine brown trout landed while fly fishing Bradley Fork, GSMNP.
Brown trout landed while fly fishing Bradley Fork, GSMNP.

Awesome! So no, I can’t complain about the fly fishing on Bradley Fork. Especially after watching that brown trout flash out from underneath that slanted rock, aggressively striking my fly in one golden flash of glory.

Still, after that perfect moment, reminiscent of A River Runs Through It, for the next few days of fly fishing. No, I’d never even come close to having that kind of uncanny luck again. Still, I caught a lot of fish each day. About a dozen, or so. So, the fishing was still fun.

Still, it’s not just about catching fish. It’s more about the whole wilderness experience.

Which Bradley Fork delivered at both campsites where I stayed. The first of which was Lower Chasteen Creek. And man, I tell you, Chasteen is a pretty little creek, complete with a small waterfall, or cascade, about 1 mile upstream from campsite 50.

And, as for the campsite on upper Bradley Fork, Cabin Flats. Well, I’ll start by saying that lots of people on various online forums that I’d read mentioned that campsite 49 is, indeed, one of the finest campsites in the entire Smokies.

Not sure that I’d agree with that. On account of the fact, that there were more than a few mosquitos there on that first night that I camped there. And, due to the fact, that it can get quite muddy there after a good rain. However, I’ll admit that it’s a fine campsite, given the right conditions. And, it also had one of the most epic spots to hang a hammock that I’ve ever found. So Cabin Flats can be a real winner in my book.

Also, the fly fishing up there on upper Bradley Fork was amazing. No, the trout weren’t big.

But I really enjoyed wading Bradley Fork, as it steeply ascended the mountainside. Leaving me with a sense of awe at the cascading stream and mountain scenery. And, I had to pause more than a few times, as I waded up a series of cascades, to catch my breath, literally and figuratively. As it seemed reminiscent of some of the West.

Bradley Fork is a scenic fly fishing stream in its entirety.
Bradley Fork is a scenic fly fishing stream. And may be one of the best trout streams in the Smokies. Maybe. But maybe not.

Then, there’s the sound of the rushing water that you get to enjoy as you drift off to sleep at night at Cabin Flats. For some reason, no one else arrived during two of the days that I camped there. So I had it all to myself. Except for the lone deer, which paid me a visit each day. Yeah, that’s the kind of place it is. Magic, at times.

Whitetail deer visiting my campsite on Bradley Fork, GSMNP.
Whitetail deer visiting my campsite on Bradley Fork, GSMNP.

So magic and stirring that it inspired me to write a poem about the whole Bradley Fork experience. And to dream a strange dream about my experiences on Chasteen Creek. And the trout that swim in that creek. Anyway, I’ll include both in this article, below.

So you’ll know what it was like fly fishing Bradley Fork and camping in those two fine backcountry campsites for the first time in my life.

So here’s my poem about my time on Bradley Fork:

a deer came
so close to me
feeding on greenery
while i was camping

a black bear
crossed the trail
right in front of me
staring at me
when i was leaving

hiking out
the sky was as blue as i’ve ever seen
through the golden canopy
swaying gently in the breeze

and those cascades
high up in the mountains
are simply

and you can see it all
through a cathedral of
majestic trees

the clear waters
flowing endlessly
shining, shimmering,
in the afternoon sun

forging magical memories
of Bradley Fork
in the Smoky Mountains

where you live the dream
fly fishing
an eternity

And finally, here’s the dream I had while I was camping on Chasteen Creek, which, for some reason, I could only recount as poetry in the morning. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what it means, if anything. I can only conjecture that it might be a parable, relating to something.

the spiders spin their webs
over the creek
so dense and tangled
that the trout beneath can no longer feed
and don’t know what happened to
the insects, the flies, they used to eat

but some pray and see clearly
these bloodsucking leeches above
capturing all the food they need

so they tell the fish
but the fish do not heed
and label those who speak
stupid conspiracy theorists
when it’s the ad hominem
that’s really quite dumb

but the fish cannot see straight
through the swirling, hypnotic waters
and the spells the spiders weave
that nearly put them all to sleep
in their daily wanderings

until one day
an awareness comes
all the fish in the creek

and a truth and love permeates
when a holy one descends from above
preaching words of wisdom
and a message so pure and deep

that all of the dark spider secrets
are all finally revealed
for all the world to see

so that the trout leap from the stream
in their fury, indignation, and outrage
snapping and ripping at all the webs of
lies and deceit

the same webs, capturing
their very means to survive, thrive, and multiply
in a world without hate

and oh, how those wicked evil spiders
then fall from their high perches of
depravity, greed, izland-chiild-lust & rap[e]
splashing into the creek
where the fish
bite, tear, and rip them all to pieces
drowning them in the very waters
they once tried to rule over and dominate
since the very dawn of the creek

and so, it will be a feast
of righteousness, liberation, and mercy
but one of weeping and gnashing of teeth
for all those who sought to destroy the free spirits
sic semper tyrannis…

Anyway, that’s about all that I have to say about my most recent trip, which I took to go fly fishing on Bradley Fork in GSMNP. Yeah, it’s a pretty unique place. That gifted me with some unforgettable Smoky Mountain memories and inspiration. And, for that, I’m grateful to the Lord above, who I’m sure rained that golden sunshine upon me as I explored this glorious stream. So rain on me. And I will fear no evil. As, thy rod and staff will protect me, always. In the land of golden canopy and clear rushing waters. God’s country.


Thank you for reading my post about Fly Fishing Bradley Fork in GSMNP. By the way, if you’ve enjoyed this article, then you’d surely love reading my adventure fiction book, ‘Big Thunder-Hearted River’, which is the ultimate wilderness story and mystery. And you can learn more about it and get yourself a copy, here!

Also, please subscribe, too, so that I can send you notices about my future posts. Subscribing is FREE and I don’t spam or share your email. Also, please share this post with your friends, family members, and co-workers on the usual social networks. This will help support this blog and grow my audience.


Please note, as well, that this post contains affiliate links, meaning, I recommended products and services I’ve used or know well and I may receive a commission if you purchase them too (at no additional cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

After a long career in the publishing industry, Gary Alan left his corporate job to pursue his next adventures in life as a blogger, writer, investor, fly fisherman, hiker, and traveler. He is the author of the adventure fiction book, 'Big Thunder-Hearted River'.

3 thoughts on “Fly Fishing Bradley Fork”

  1. I’m glad I got onto your mailing list. Another great trip that inspired some poetry. Can’t beat that.

    If you want to try another spot that seems to be on fire lately I fished #### DDDDD below ####e &&&&$ Campground (stayed there Saturday in Cherokee NF) and a #14 caddis did not drift very far before getting hit. I have fished it twice in the last two weeks and have not seen another angler. The section between XXXXX DDDDD Falls and FR 100 was amazing. Bring a 7’ or less fly rod.


    • Awesome, JWP. Thank you for the great recommendation. I hope to get down there. In fact, I’ve been wanting to fly fish that very stretch of water for some time now. Especially, if we get some rain. In the meantime, I think it’s tailwater time.

      Tight lines,


Leave a Comment