View Full Version : Our week in the Smokies 7/11/09-7/16/09

fly fisherman DK
07-30-2009, 01:59 PM
Sorry for such a late report. On the first part of our trip we hiked into a very remote and rugged section of the park that we went to last year and decided to do it again. After going their twice now, I think it is also best kept a secret, but a lot of you will know it by the pics and information.

We started the hard hike up the mountain at about 10 and weren't looking forward to it. My Dad and I had gone here last year, but my cousin and uncle didn't know what to expect. I know the only thing that keeps me going on that trail is that when we get to the campsite and stream, the fishing is going to be unbelievable. Anyways, we arrived at the campsite around 1 and quickly got our fishing gear ready and hopped in the stream. We caught around 40 that day for the few hours we got to fish with a lot of brook trout in the 6-8 inch range. The best fly that day in my opinion was a dry fly in the water. You honestly couldn't keep them off your fly. I am going to guess it was because the light rain we had right before we started fishing. Then, we didn't want to, but we had to start the instream hike back down to camp at about 6:30 because we still had to put camp together and cook. Boy were we tired from all the hiking and rock climbing we had done that day, but it was definitely all worth it.

The next day we decided to go to a downstream tributary that we hadn't been to yet because of the possibility of rain the next day. We started the hike around 10 and arrived at the stream around 10:30. I immediately caught a trout and then we knew it was going to be a good day. I was using a yellow stimulator, which seemed to be the ticket, and after a while everyone else switched to one too. By lunchtime, we had brought around 20 to hand, and we kept pushing upstream and catching brookies. The size was surprisingly very good on these trout too with a lot of 8 inchers and a few pushing 9. We even got a video of my uncle catching an 8 inch brook trout. That was really cool! Anyways, by the end of the day we had caught about 60 brookies with a lot of really nice ones too. Then, we had to make the hard hike back down the stream to the trail, and then back down the trail to camp. Finally, we ate our mountain house meals around the campfire and talked the night away.

During the night it rained its butt off for about 5 hours straight, and my cousin's tent somehow leaked and had about an inch of water in the bottom of it. So instead of staying one more night, we decided to go fishing for the day, then pack up and hike out before dark. We started fishing around noon, but the fishing was a lot slower then the two previous days. We started out catching around 10 by about 4:00, but then the fishing caught fire with a yellow stimulator. My cousin even caught 8 out of 1 hole and 5 unexpected rainbows out of another. After that though, we had to start hiking back down to camp, but right before we did we saw one of the funniest things ever. We were fishing a very deep long pool, when we saw something jump in the water from about 5 feet up. Then, it started to swim downstream to us and we were trying to guess what it was when it went under my cousin's fly line and hopped up on a rock. It was a rabbit.lol:eek:It just sat on that rock for a few minutes in front of us and couldn't have been more than 10 feet from any of us. We then took some pics of it and got as close to it as we possibly could until it ran off. The thing is is that we were probably the first humans it had ever seen. Finally we went back down to camp, packed up, hiked out and got a hotel in Cherokee, NC. All I can think of now is Silly rabbit trix are for kids.:biggrin:

The next day my uncle had to go back home so it was only the three of us now. We decided on trying out Bunches Creek since we had never been there before. We took the beautiful scenic route on the Blue Ridge Parkway and arrived at the stream around 1. Then, I think we all made one of the biggest mistakes in all of our lives. We had decided on going to Flat Creek, and then hiking down it to the confluence of the two creeks. Then we were planning on fishing our way back up Bunches to the trail crossing. What we found out though was that there was an impassable waterfall near the confluence, and we had bushwhacked down there. So we had to climb straight up the mountain to get back to the trail. Talk about scary:eek:. It felt like you were going at a 90* angle and for every one step we took we fell back down two. My new word of advice is that if there is not a trail to a place there is probably a reason why. We are example A.:confused: We did find one of the old railroad beds down their with cool artifacts so it wasn't all bad. Now to the fishing.

We got back to Bunches with about 3 hours to fish and what we hadn't realized in the first place was how much Bunches opened up downstream of the trail crossing. Anyways, we caught around 40 with 2 my cousin caught that were pushing 9 inches, but most of them were in the 3-6 inch range. The best flies that day were yellow stimis and para adams.

On Wednesday we went to Cataloochee Valley to mostly sightsee and to do a little fishing. Wow, talk about a pretty place. I loved all the fields, houses, and especially all the elk and turkey. I definitely can't wait to go back their again this fall. Okay now to the fishing. We started off down the Rough Fork trail and started fishing just below the Woody House and caught a few. The fishing was actually pretty good, but I couldn't seem to get my timing down on any of the hooksets that day. We didn't get to fish that long because it started to rain, and because we had to get back to Maggie Valley before all the restaurants closed up. I think we ended the day with about 10 or 15 trout with a lot of them being brookies. The best flies yet again were yellow stimis and para adams. I almost forgot, I want to warn everybody that goes their of a hornets nest on the left side of the trail right before one of the stream crossings. Now I can't remember which stream crossing it was, but my cousin was setting his rod down in the rhodo. they were in and didn't realize it and almost got stung.

The last day we were their we had planned on doing a one night trip to campsite 39, but because the combination of the weather forecast, and that my dad had to go out of town next week made us decide just to do one last day hike back their. I really don't think any of us wanted to put a pack back on anyways.:rolleyes: We started hiking up the Palmer Creek trail and immediately saw a cow elk not even 50 yds from my Dad's car at the horse camp. We took some pics of her and kept walking until we got to Pretty Hollow Creek. We immediately started fishing up it and we each caught 4 in about 2 hours of fishing. We all thought it should have fished better than that, and right as we were about to head back down to Palmer Creek, we saw 2 guys that we had seen the day before and found out we had been fishing behind them the entire time. Oh well. We then hiked back down to Palmer then split ways with them and kept going up the Palmer Creek trail. Next, we found a spot that we could get down to the creek and started fishing. The fishing was pretty good, but only got better as it got later in the day. Most of the fish were in the normal 4-6 inch range, but we did catch a few 7-8 inch trout. The best fly once again was the yellow stimi and also an egglaying yellow sally worked really well later in the day. We stopped fishing where the footbridge came over Lost Bottoms Creek. Finally, we made the long hike back out, saw some elk, ate, and drove to Townsend, TN.

We all had a blast on this trip, and I can't thank my Dad enough for letting me follow my dreams by taking me their. I can't wait to do it again this fall. I'll try to post some pics later on today, and hopefully I will get some videos back from my cousin soon so I can post them here. I hope everyone has enjoyed the great fishing the past few weeks.

Jim Casada
07-30-2009, 03:40 PM
Interesting and informative report, and I can virtually guarantee I know where you went, It is without question the most rugged area in the Park, and if you had gone downstream from where you camped you would have been in the Park's roughest gorge--not a place for anyone to go alone. I don't worry about secrets and it's all in my forthcoming book anyway, so I'll go ahead and say your group hiked into the Enloe Creek campsite along Raven Fork starting from the Straight Fork Road. I don't think you have to worry about the area being overfished--it's too tough to get to, and the lack of trails along the main stream adds more protection. I would venture to guess that not 20 people a year venture up any of the the three forks which form the big pool at Three Forks, and the same is true for the upper part of the Gorge (locals do fish the lower section, accessing it from the Cherokee Reservation, and to my great chagrin, foolhard kayakers have taken to going there during high water. One of them, or maybe more than one, will get killed in that Class 5 and Class 6 water.
As for Bunches Creek, there is an easier access (from the Reservation, but I guess you really need to know a tribal member or someone locally to take that approach). It's been years since I was on the Park portion of Bunches Creek, but it used to be absolutely full of fish.
Greatly enjoyed the report, and if you send verbal lashes my way for telling secrets, I guess I'll just have to live with them. jim Casada

fly fisherman DK
07-30-2009, 03:56 PM
ding ding ding we have a winner! :biggrin:That's where we went. I just figured other people might want it to be kept as a secret. So that's why I did.

Bunches Creek was actually very good where we fished it. We probably had 80 or 90 bites, but a lot of them were small fish. I think we are going to go back there when we take my mom with us this fall so that she can catch her first brook trout without a long hike.

I am looking forward to seeing your new book, and thanks for your reply.

We all had a blast.

fly fisherman DK
07-30-2009, 04:28 PM

I hope this works

fly fisherman DK
07-30-2009, 04:38 PM

fly fisherman DK
07-30-2009, 05:10 PM
The rhododendron blooms were absolutely breathtaking all week
a pretty pool on the Raven Fork
A cool looking waterfall on Enloe Creek
My Dad holding my brookie on Enloe Creek
setting up camp. we had 47 all to ourselves except for the last night
the double
My dad with a good spec
silly rabbit trix are for kids.

fly fisherman DK
07-30-2009, 05:16 PM
My cousin John with a really good one from Bunches Creek
A really big elk in Cataloochee
Palmer Creek
John with a good one from Palmer Creek
All of us together
Sorry for getting crazy with the pictures. I hope ya'll enjoy them!

07-30-2009, 06:58 PM
Pretty awesome trip!

Dancing Bear
07-30-2009, 08:05 PM
Y'all fished my two absolute favorite Brookie streams in the park. And you camped in one of my favorite sites. I haven't been able to fish either one of them yet this year but I'm going to in September. Awesome report! You made my week with it and the pics.

07-30-2009, 08:34 PM
Excellent report. I have never fished there and your pictures brought it to life.

fly fisherman DK
07-30-2009, 08:40 PM
Thanks for ya'lls replies. It truly is a special place to me and I will always have great memories there for the rest of my life

07-31-2009, 09:48 AM
Great report. I have fished both these streams since I was a boy and they hold a special place in my heart. One thing I am curious about is all the open information on this site lately. I know that everybody and their brother has a book on the park's fishing, but it still hurts to see open reports on Bunches and Ravenfork on the internet that millions of people have access to.

old tom
07-31-2009, 10:19 AM
I feel better now. Glad I'm not the only knucklehead who thought he could bushwack down to the confluence of Flat and Bunches and fish it back up. Get off the trail and you can get in some rough county very quickly.

Jim Casada
07-31-2009, 11:48 AM
WNCFly--The isse of stream mention and informatin is something I've pondered all my career as a writer (30 years or so). I finally came to the conclusion, and it's one I'm comfortable with, that most of the Smokies' streams I treasured most fit into one of two classifications--they were either sufficiently far from the beaten path to offer their own protection (upper Raven Fork, for example, is all off trail, and there simply aren't that many folks who are going to venture all that far from a maintained trail) or else they got enough fishing to make them demanding. The one thing which gives me great comfort is that in almost 60 years of fishing Park streams I can confidently say the numbers or quality of fish haven't delcined overall. There are some streams which have gone downhill but others which have gotten better. Take Hazel Creek, for example. It takes a terrific licking and keeps on kicking.
Another thing to consider is that every guide worth his salt knows these places, and they use them.
All of that is by way of a general explanation/justification for what I've done in my forthcoming book. It has far, far more depth than the existing books in terms of giving access information on Park streams, and my view is that if someone is willing to work hard enough to get to a special place, it isn't right to keep it secret.
Having said all of that, I suspect what really underlies your thinking is precisely what gives me pause; namely, I sure do cherish solitude. Jim Casada

08-04-2009, 09:33 AM
Man this is a tough question. ...... I still believe the value and entertainment coming from reading the orginal story would not have been diminished but not naming the stream. Those that knew it ( and yes i did know it by the descriptions) would know it and those that didn't would still enjoy the story. Seems to me anytime a person writes a story saying how special and wonderful a place is .... it causes others to want to experience it as well which is in fact a good thing but it is the general experience not the specific experience that they are chasing. Naming names in my opinion isnt the purpose of these discussions but sharing the value and beauty of our experience is. In addition the orginal poster made a point to say that he didnt want to name names to protect the area.

As to naming it in a "how to" or more accurately a "where to" book that is something that is fine as it will be listed along with hundred of other ideas and places to fish without a neon sign that says try this one.... which this wonderful narrative and photos were a great representation of how neat the location is .... creating a neon sign.

Anyway this area is a way too tough of an area for a day hike (at least for fat old men like me) and the campsite is at least a limited use pre-reservation site so you can't just hop into the area unannounced. But as obviously discussed at this point ... it is a wonderful previously little known hidden jewel. And i know nowhere is really little known and hundreds and hundreds knew of it ..probably thousands .. but still......seeing it in print kinda makes me sad.

Will this post ruin it ??? probably not..... can it get ruined yes it can........ as with all things we love we must wrestle with how to best protect them while at the same time wanting to share the beauty and majesty of the location. The original post in my opinion did a great job of that.

my two cents worth ....... which is worth every penny you actually paid for it.


Dancing Bear
08-04-2009, 07:12 PM
Exactly, DD.

08-04-2009, 07:46 PM
most are not gonna brave the three forks......nor upper hazel....they are gonna stay away or even start and not get there....heck most never even get to sam's creek...off trail scares most visitors

08-05-2009, 06:44 AM
I was born and raised next to the park and have been fishing it regular for 55 years. In the 50's thru the 70's you would see mostly locals on the streams, then more and more newspaper and magazene articles were written about the Smokies streams and now this internet thing has made authors out of all of us.......as of now there are 17 replies and 519 views on this thread!!!!
I have most of my fishing behind me and have enjoyed every second of it, but you younger guys are going to have alot more company on the creek with you.

08-05-2009, 12:56 PM
I have been really struggling with this question full disclosure or not when posting about a trip. Reading the threads from the full disclosure issue, both sides seem to have really good points.

I originally started viewing this forum for the purpose of information gathering more than just the stories. In my professional as well as my personal life I have always promoted sharing information to those interested.

With that said I will try to refrain from giving total stream, campsite and trial information. I still hope that the most committed could still use my information and with further efforts learn whats available.

Unless the owners of this Message board dictate specific rules than I can see this discussion continuing.

I would end with thanks to everyone that provided information that helped me with some of the best backcountry trips I have had. Even if the posts included full or partial disclosure I would have continued my research to learn more about these wonderful destinations.

08-05-2009, 02:12 PM
Good report DK,
I'm glad you and your family had a good trip and I appreciate you sharing it with us.

08-06-2009, 10:05 AM
gmfishe I am a local and one of the younger guys you are talking about. I fished up the west prong of the LR last night not another soul and it is right next to the road! I fish tremont a couple of times a week and see 2 or 3 guys down on the 5 mile stretch of the middle prong but have yet to run into anyone up on Thunderhead not to mention Sams Creek lol. I am starting to think there was more people fishing these places back in the 50s and 60s than there are now. Back then people would get outdoors and away from the TV. Now they are all trapped in front of their tv and no one is out there off trail up in these places unless its a Saturday and the weather is nice I guess. Maybe thats why I don't see all these masses of people since I fish weekdays only. Anyway I will be up on Thunderhead Tuesday night bracing myself for the oncoming crowd ;)

08-06-2009, 03:15 PM
I would love to have seen the park back in the 50's, but I wasn't even close to being born. I guess my father got to fish it though.

08-06-2009, 04:11 PM
Crockett......I fish weekdays only as well, because of the crowds.......fished a road accessible stream in the park yesterday and didn't see anyone and went back again today and saw 4 fishermen.......however, I have noticed a marked increase in trash and fisherman trails on this stream.........don't have any numbers or facts, just what I have observed.
You are right .....fishing late you won't see as many fisherman .....they just haven't learned when to fish yet.

Rog 1
08-06-2009, 05:18 PM
I began fishing the Park when I was 13 or in 1960....began fishing with my cousin and grandfather....saw a lot more local fishermen back then....one thing I used to see a lot of that I don't see anymore is fishermen with cane poles....the original "high stickin"...would watch these guys walk the bank and drift wet flies thru the runs and pockets and catch more fish than anyone with one of those fancy rods....I too do most of my fishing during the week when I am up there.....

08-06-2009, 08:22 PM
Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your report. Great to see a family involved in the outdoors together. I must say the pic of Raven Fork is one of the best photographs of a stream I've seen in a long time. Very good composition and lighting. I have borrowed it as my desktop wallpaper!

08-06-2009, 10:22 PM
Great Job DK!! Thanks for the pictures and the report.

A very sensitive subject indeed (at least we're not talking about guns...:eek:).

I am starting to think there was more people fishing these places back in the 50s and 60s than there are now.If you talk to the Park biologists the belief is that before the drought the streams in the park had been underfished. While fishing should have been poor this year, instead it actually thinned out the weak fish and the remaining fish have had less competition for the limited food sources allowing them to grow larger than in previous years. If anything we need to encourage more people to fish or we will get back to the point of overcrowding of the fish populations. Over the years the number of people fishing has gone down. We need more positive stories of the fun and adventure of fishing to attract people to our sport.

Does that mean that when a stream is named as productive that it may get more attention than it should? Perhaps. But there are only a finite number of people fishing the streams right now. So anytime spent on Enloe Creek or Bunches Creek, means an extra rest for the fish in Walker Camp Prong or Sam's Creek. I usually hike 2+ miles in to fish on any given weekend and almost never see another person fishing (even on LR above Elkmont). The productivity of streams comes and goes. Mother Nature is quite resilient. Let's not all run around and act as if the sky is falling.

If you are uncomfortable naming streams, that's fine, no one can blame you. I have been much less forthcoming with trips to fairly easily accessible streams myself of late (LR above Elkmont is terrible, btw :rolleyes:). But when I go into someplace remote, I usually try to share my experiences so that someone else doesn't make the same mistakes I made (like bushwacking down a ravine...:p). And they can also judge for themselves whether its worth the effort.

I don't think you have to worry about the area being overfished--it's too tough to get to, and the lack of trails along the main stream adds more protection. I would venture to guess that not 20 people a year venture up any of the the three forks which form the big pool at Three Forks, and the same is true for the upper part of the Gorge.I believe Jim is right (and he's been around long enough to comment on such things). That area has been discussed a lot on this forum in numerous threads. But I can think of maybe 2-3 actual reports in the last 3 years...

Lots of great opinions by everyone (as usual).
I'll get off my soapbox...

08-07-2009, 09:15 AM
Just wanted to weigh in on my opinion of the disclosure issue. I personally believe, and recent surveys reflect, that fishing participation numbers are slowly decreasing. Therefore we need to help encourage all the people we can to fish as much as they can. If this means giving them good info on where to go, then I think the pro outweighs the con. If we try to keep all the best fishing to ourselves, then who will help us take care of ther resource. I'll be glad to tell anyone where I fish and even show you what limb to cast under if you'll meet me there. I think there is more than enough great water in the Park for all of us and then some. Active, passionate participants in our sport are the most valuable asset our sport can have.

08-07-2009, 09:43 AM
Dawgvet...Are the "recent surveys and fishing participation numbers" for the GSMNP or nationwide?

There is no way that fishing participation in the GSMNP is on the decline....just look at the number of guides that have popped up in the last 15 years.

08-07-2009, 10:32 AM
I was referring to both nationwide numbers and in the Park. You can reference some of Byron's recent fishing reports where he cites numbers of angler hours in the park and they are steadily decreasing. Check with Head Fisheries Biologist Steve Moore as he will have more info. I think the demographics have shifted towards fewer, but more affluent, anglers who will pay for a guide but overall hours spent fishing in the park by the masses has decreased. Check some back issues of Field and Stream and American Angler as I have seen survey results posted in both magazines. Not exactly something they want to over-hype but it is real. I firmly believe we need all the people (read: votes, dollars spent to support game management, calls to politicians, butts in seats at management meetings, etc.) we can get.

08-07-2009, 02:39 PM
Sounds like you all had a great trip! I have fished up there once, am in pretty good shape now (run daily). Even though we had a great day of 11 years ago, I have not been back. There were three tents there where the trail/bridge crosses the creek, I was amazed. Did get a 10" brookie up there that day. I could have run Hyatt Ridge back then, not anymore, it is a bear. Anyway people may make the trip, but like me most won't find the time, or have the interest to go back............. though after reading your post I may have to get up there again! The rush won't last though. Thanks again for the post.

PS: I had a rabbit swim the creek on Snowbird a couple of weeks ago, it was a young one. The big yellow lab with me just watched it swim across and never went after it, I think he was chicken! http://i103.photobucket.com/albums/m149/jswitow/Snowbird01-25-27-2008JFlynnsvisi-3.jpg

Tight lines,

fly fisherman DK
08-09-2009, 11:53 AM
Thanks for the replies everyone. We really did enjoy ourselves while we were there, and I can't wait to do it again!

08-09-2009, 12:18 PM
You don't have to worry about me taking your fishing spot if it is considered
rugged or remote ! I usually fish within sight of the car!

08-11-2009, 02:34 PM
Thanks for the fine info Mr Cassada. Look forward to the book...