View Full Version : Giving Thanks

11-30-2008, 01:38 PM
For most people, Thanksgiving day involves getting stuffed full of turkey and the trimmings, then watching a turkey of a football game (did the Lions even bother to show up?). For me, it has meant something else the last few years - it has been the chance to come up to the mountains, alone, and decompress for a few days; I think sacrificing a bit of gluttony for a chance to fill my lungs with that mountain air is a fair trade.

I got off to a bit of a late start Wednesday - I had to run to the store for a few things for the cooler, forgetting that the day before Thanksgiving is probably the worst time to visit your local grocer. As a result, I slept in a little, and didn't start fishing Cosby until mid-morning, figuring that there was no rush to hit a cold stream. I was right, the water temperature was around 41 F, and there were still traces of snow from a few days previous. I had two legitimate strikes in about 5 hours of dragging nymphs through the deeper pools - one got off a few seconds after the hookset, but I did manage to bring this one to hand:


This bow really ate the nymph, and I caught it out of a pool that was fairly high up on Cosby, in brookie territory. I have caught other good sized rainbows out of that pool before, and I was determined to harvest one if it made the legal limit. I realize that there is no way, short of poisoning a stream, to remove fish from a stretch of stream, but seeing a relatively large rainbow in a small pool, I know that any brookies in that pool are dominated by the "exotic". I quickly dispatched and cleaned it - it was loaded with roe. I'll have to check this pool in the Spring, and see if a dominant spec takes residence there.

After fishing, I drove around the other side of the park, to Straight Fork. I knew that the road alongside that stream was closed a few weeks ago for the winter, but I wanted to see how far into the park I could go before encountering a gate. As it turned out, I could drive a few hundred yards beyond the tribal fish hatchery into the park before running into the locked gate - so, I could fish it the next day. I got on Newfound Gap road to drive over the mountains and back to my hotel. There was quite a bit of ice and snow left up there at the top of the ridgeline, along with the sand spread on the roadway to cover up the ice. Just past the parking lot at Newfound Gap, I hit a slick patch, and started to skid at a 90 angle into the other lane, and a car coming the other direction. Fortunately, I was able to stop before hitting the other vehicle, and I crept my way down the ridge...I didn't start breathing easily until I got low enough to lose the ice.

On "Black Friday", I drove over to Maggie Valley, and a wonderful breakfast at Joey's...I noticed a lot more activity in town than in previous years at this time - in fact, it's normally almost deserted. I had to wait for a table for a few minutes, but I didn't mind - it meant that the town was making some money, even though our economic climate isn't the greatest. In fact, I noticed a lot of traffic all around the park - Gatlinburg was a nightmare to drive through the night before. Unfortunately, the fishing didn't rise to the occasion - I drew an absolute blank, on Straight Fork, Kanati Branch, and the 'Luftee. I didn't mind that much, though - it was wonderful to lose myself on Kanati, in just a few steps from the road:


One thing I noticed was the temperature at Straight Fork - 39 F. I've said in the past that Straight Fork always seemed to be on the cool side, even last year at the height of the drought. One look at a map and you can see why - its headwaters are very high up, and it was obviously still getting a slug of melting snow.

On my last day in the mountains, I was determined to pick up a few more fish. The day started with sunshine, and was a bit warmer. I headed back to Cosby, and the temperature was a few degrees warmer; I was tired of chunking nymphs, and gambled that the slightly warmer water would be enough to draw the brookies to the surface. I have caught specs on dries in similar conditions, and I think that, because the specs, of all the species, seek the cooler waters, they are the most tolerant in such conditions, and respond to a slight warming quicker than rainbows or browns. In any case, I was right yesterday - I managed to bring about 10 to hand, and while none of them were of any size, I was happy. I also had a near-take from a trout that was at least 8", the fish refusing my offer and taking a natural in one easy motion. Towards the end of daylight, I decided to dredge one more nymph through a fairly deep pool high up on the stream, and soon had a take from a nice brookie - I got a good look at him before he shook the hook loose. It would have been a nice way to end things, but I had to leave - it was almost dark, the temperature was dropping, and the rain that was to the south of the mountains had finally arrived. I got out of my gear, and started the long drive home, thawing out while listening to Fulmer's last game as Tennessee head coach. Another November retreat was in the books, and it sure seems like a long time until April.


PS - I'm sorry I was unable to stop by the shop....the only problem with fishing this late in the year is the limited daylight - I was always fighting the clock.

Byron Begley
11-30-2008, 06:45 PM
Great story. Wish I could have seen you. It won't be long until Spring. Take care buddy.


11-30-2008, 07:14 PM
Great post and a great trip for you, it sounds. Nice to know that you had success in fishing regardless of the weather. Sometimes nothing heals the soul like some solitude and when you throw fish into the equation, the time is ideal.

I gotta tell you, it would be tough knowing that I wasn't going to get back to the Smokies until April. We'll do our best to keep the streams primed for you. Till then, sweet dreams of tight lines.

11-30-2008, 08:48 PM
Well, I wish I didn't have to wait that long, either...of course, there's a lot of wonderful fishing down here - I just need to make time to work on my boat; that's always the catch, making the time. In the meantime, if the rest of the winter follows recent form, I won't be missing much - that water is cold. If I had more time on these quick trips to the mountains, I could target those big browns in the lower streams, but that takes quite an investment in time, so if I want to catch anything, I have to target the "easier" fish, and that's tough this time of year.