View Full Version : Deep Creek Backcountry (beware rattling rhododendron)

05-26-2009, 09:38 PM
My brother-in-law and I headed into deep creek for four days of fishing Wednesday 5/21 - Sunday 5/24. We walked into campsite 60 about 6pm on Wednesday and fished the afternoon hatch behind the campsite. The water was moving pretty fast, which made wading tough, but there were lots of yellow sallies coming off and the fish were rising to take them. Didn't get anything too big but it was a lot of fun.

On thursday we fished from campsite 60 up to where the trail comes back down off the ridge. The water was still pretty high and the wading was tough. I fished a size 12 yellow caddis most of the day and had pretty good luck, but my brother-in-law outfished me using a size 12 wolf style yellow humpy and a size 14 blue soft hackle dropper he picked up at a local fly shop. I did catch two 15" browns from one deep hole on a lead-eyed bunny streamer, but did not take my camera that day.

On Friday, we woke up and hiked from 60 up to 56.
The campsite at 56 was right on the water and very nice.

After setting up camp and getting some breakfast, we fished upstream from 56 to where the left fork of deep creek comes in. Fishing was Ok, but the fish that were taking dries were on the small side and the water was still pretty high and moving fast. The weather was perfect and I did get some good pictures.

After lunch, we headed downstream to just above campsite 57 and were going to fish back up to 56 on the afternoon hatch. Once we walked into the stream, I was tying on a fly and my brother-in-law started walking upstream to give me some room to fish. Since the water had been high all trip, we had been walking slowly upstream and holding onto overhanging rhododendrons and trees for balance. BAD IDEA! This guy really gave my brother-in-law quite a start.


Chad did not see this guy as he was moving upstream since he was watching his feet and balance in the high water, but about the time he got within 5 feet of it or so, he said he heard this rattling sound that sounded like someone shaking a container of lead weights. When he looked up, he realized what it was and started heading back down toward me fast.

We watched the snake for about 20 minutes. Eventually he slid out of the bush, into the water and swam across the river to a log in the water. He climbed out and sat there for 10 minutes or so and then took off into the woods.

This was definitely a first for us. We saw a couple of garter snakes and a couple of northern water snakes on this trip, but I have never heard of a rattler climbing a rhododendron over a river. In fact, I always heard that rattlers did not like the sound of the running water and would only come to the river during times of extreme drought. Needless to say, we spent the rest of the weekend very wary of overhanging rhododendron bushes.

On saturday, we hiked up above 54 and started fishing. Fishing was ok for a little while, but it turns out we were trailing two guys who were about 30 minutes to an hour ahead of us. We did manage to get into a few brookies, but turned around once we realized there were people ahead of us. We headed back downstream and fished the afternoon hatch around the camp site and had a great time. The water was noticeably down and the wading was much easier. Any yellow dry fly worked well and we fished until it was just about pitch dark.



On Sunday, we hiked back down to just below 59 and started fishing. We had some rain on Saturday night and there was a slight stain to the water. We both started with dry/dropper combinations but eventually switched over to only dry flies as the action heated up. Most of the fish I caught were browns. About 3:30 we headed back up to camp to make dinner


All in all, it was really a great trip and a great way to spend memorial day weekend. The campsites were great and a lot less crowded than we thought it was going to be and the fishing was pretty good down low around bumgardner bend. We will definitely be back, but will watch for the rattling rhododendron.

05-26-2009, 10:26 PM

05-26-2009, 10:27 PM
Great Pics. Sounds like an excellent trip!!! ...... I hate getting startled by snakes

05-26-2009, 10:50 PM
Great report whuggins! The water definetly looks higher than the few times I fished that area last summer/fall. Nice looking fish, bad looking snake:eek:


05-27-2009, 05:38 AM
nice stuff...glad ya'll had a good time

Tennessee Jed
05-27-2009, 08:56 AM
Man, that is just not right. That snake gives me the creeps! I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled now! Except for the snake, it sounds like you had an excellent trip.

Carolina Boy
05-27-2009, 10:39 AM
can't tell you how many times I have grabbed the rhoddies to keep from falling or losing balance, never thought much about it, will now though, great pics.

old tom
05-27-2009, 06:23 PM
Uhhh, you gonna eat all that?:smile:

05-28-2009, 03:41 PM
Oh Man, When I have been in the backcountry and moving through the Rhododendrons I have always kept a close eye on the ground because I have seen copper heads a few times. Always made me nervous. The funny thing is that I never looked up. Know I have to watch round the bottom of the Rhododendrons and in the branches.

I will be a nervous reck the next time moving through the Rhododendrons. LOL

05-28-2009, 05:30 PM
While in Hazel Creek this past weekend I ran into a somewhat similar situation, although it was not as worrisome as a rattler...

It really wasn't so bad until he decided he needed a nap...in my tent....

After his nap he decided he needed some lunch, so he climbed into another tree and disappeared into a knot hole. When he did, out popped 6 mice from other knot holes as he slithered his way around the inside of the hollowed out tree. Of course all 6 mice decided to take up residence under my tent until the snake was gone...

Fun stuff!

05-29-2009, 11:20 AM

Always interested in Hazel, was wondering what campsite were you at and how was the fishing?

05-29-2009, 12:54 PM
Mac, We stayed at CS#85 (about 3.5 miles up the trail from the shuttle). We did some hiking from there up to Hall Cabin so we visited #84 and #83. Both campsites were nicer than #85, but are obviously more of a hike with a pack or pull-cart. #85 is nice, just not as nice as the other two.

The water was really up. One guy I talked to has been going up each Memorial Day weekend for 10 years and has never seen the water as high as it was last week. The fishing was slow (I caught about 8 fish in about 4 hrs of fishing), but it would obviously be better when the water comes down.

I had been looking to do this trip for about 12 years and finally got around to it. I'm glad I did, but honestly the fishing and/or scenery were not that much better than any other part of the park. I still like Deep Creek better.

05-29-2009, 10:30 PM
Pete, I believe I may have passed you on the trail. I was one of the two broken down guys with packs on. The water was up the entire 11 days I was in there and while I caught a lot of fish, It really didn't strike me as any better than anywhere else I have been. With all of the people that I i saw while I was there from Bone Valley down, I don't know when I'll try that one again.

05-29-2009, 11:30 PM
Michael - did you pass us on Saturday or Monday? I would have stopped and chatted if I knew it was you. We actually saw quite a few folks who looked broken down all weekend. The rain all week looked like it took the starch out of most folks. I talked to quite a few guys that really looked hacked off at the fishing.

We also ran into a few folks that had no business out on the trail (or didn't know what to expect). There was one group of three older brothers that had no experience backpacking that were coming down from Clingman's and going to hike along the Lakeshore trail and then up Forney Creek. They brought 60 pound packs and after a day and a half into their 8 day trip, they looked broken...I was amazed at how many folks were in that area of the park, somewhat or completely unprepared.

I was also a bit let down with Hall Cabin. Too many morons had carved their initials into it and the fact that it had been moved to its current spot and a new porch and stairs were added, were a bit of a let down for the "most remote structure" in the park...glad I went to see it, but probably wouldn't again...(I don't mean to start an argument with anyone on that one...:eek: I know lots of folks think very highly of it...)

I also agree with you about the stream. It just wasn't that much better than anywhere else. I'm glad I went, but not sure I would go back...

05-30-2009, 12:06 AM
Maybe it was not we went out early Saturday the 23rd. Past the hall cabin up the banks on Bone Valley there were Pepsi cans and toilet paper everywhere. A shame to say the least. How about those two trees right in front of the porch, wasn't that wild? I did have a nice 14 inch brown bounce off the moss for a quick release at my feet around the third creek crossing right before dark one night. But I would much rather have spent a few days around 53....Maybe that needs to be done soon....

old tom
05-30-2009, 07:01 AM
Are they still charging $50 a head to shuttle over to Hazel?

05-30-2009, 07:45 AM
As far as I know they are. Once we got down to Proctor, I bet we saw them make 10 trips over there.We came down from the dome and were picked up by my father in his boat. They were sure staying busy regardless of what they were charging.

05-30-2009, 08:24 AM
Are they still charging $50 a head to shuttle over to Hazel?

Yes - $50/per person

05-30-2009, 06:39 PM
All this talk on the web nameing creeks is what is drawing all the crowds and ruining the creeks.......there are some good reports .....why name the creek?......just draws more people!...........just had to say it.

05-30-2009, 09:41 PM
I may be able to agree with you on that it can draw more anglers onto a stream that get a lot of pub on this or other boards, but I can't buy into your claim that it is ruining the creeks of the Smokies. Is the pressure greater that 10 years ago when I first started fishing the Smokies on a regular basis, probably so, but I don't think that fishing posts are the only reason. Magazine articles, books and other sources have led to more pressure as well. Myself, I don't posts as many reports as I used to for several reasons that I am not going to elaborate on. As far as the quality of fishing in the Smokies, I can't see a decline with increased pressure. If anything the trout populations are higher than ever with the increased water flows.

Some boards have policies on posting creek names, especially on wild streams and it is the perogative of the site owner to make rules as they see fit. LRO doesn't have any rules on posting detailed info so each poster has the right to write what they like as long as they don't get into pizzing matches with other posters.

I can understand some of your frustration as I find it a little harder to find solitude on some waters, but most times if I am willing to walk a little further and fish during the week I can have a section of stream all to myself.


05-30-2009, 11:08 PM
Neal - I'm with you on that one. Over 90% of people fishing stay along the roads or within 1 mile of the trailheads. There are over 800 miles of streams in the park, most see very little pressure.

The Hazel Creek trail was the first area of the Park that was more than a mile from a trailhead that felt anything more than desolate. It didn't feel crowded, but there were more folks past the 1st mile than most other areas I have been to. But the main stream is also 12 miles long (or more) and we only saw a few folks fishing all weekend.

And folks have been talking about Hazel for a long time now (as well as Deep Creek)...It takes a lot of work to get to those places (and most people don't have the ambition)

06-03-2009, 11:03 PM
A few years back, in Tremont, I remember my Dad pointed me to follow this small trail down to the river maybe twenty yards above the spot he'd entered. The water looked great, until I noticed that one of the dead leaves on the ground turned out to be a four foot Copperhead. Idk what it is, but I never seem to be as calm fishing after I see a snake. Wonderful looking trout though. That brown second from right has great coloring.

06-04-2009, 09:01 AM
Man, that freaks me out. I am always on the look out for snakes. I have been scared too many times to forget them.:eek:

I have heard it is good to take old pantyhose stuffed with moth balls and place them around your tent and campsite to keep snakes away. I usually try and do this for some mental comfort.

Thanks for sharing the nice pics!