View Full Version : Snorkeling the Bradley Fork

07-11-2010, 11:29 PM
Camped at Smokemont Saturday night and my son and I went fishing this morning. He is almost 5 and not really interested in fishing so he tagged while I fished a beetle pattern on some shallow riffles. I only got a couple of strikes in some fast moving water as we soon moved up to a big pool. He had brought a snorkel and mask along and I told him he could get in and snorkel but had to wait a couple of minutes for me to attempt to fish the pool first. After I had floated the beetle through the pool several times and concluded that there was no fish in there I told Jack to have at it. He was very excited and put on the mask and snorkel and dived in splashing and laughing. He popped up and said there were lots of rainbow trout in there. I was skeptical and asked him if I could look and put on the mask up to my face the best I could and went under. It was absolutely freezing cold in there and much to my delight and dismay there were trout all over the place. They didn't seem spooked by us splashing and walking right around them either. I could almost reach out and touch them but they swam just out of reach hovering on the bottom. Counted about 8 in the small section of the pool we could see all about 5 - 9 inches in length swimming around about 5 to 10 inches off of the bottom in about 3 - 4 feet of water. I concluded from this sight that I should have been nymphing deep to have a chance at these guys but that was my excuse I guess. They were just as beautiful watching them underwater. Also I saw a big horny head who was swimming right along with them. It was pretty fascinating and I put down the rod and we went upstream to another hole where when we looked under yet again lots of bows swimming all around on the bottom of the pool. I was kind of surprised that they weren't spooked by us and swimming off. Also I was surprised that they weren't sitting under a rock or protected area but were just swimming in open unprotected areas on the bottom of the pool. Since I knew now exactly where they were hanging out I got up on a big rock and tried to spot them from out of the water but just got caught a glimpse of one and only for a fleeting moment. Very hard to see them out of the water. Went back in and yeah they were still there. Anyway we both had a great time snorkeling and playing in the water before it was time to pack up and head back over the mountain. No fish caught on this trip but many seen and it felt kinda like they were laughing at me.

07-11-2010, 11:51 PM
I don't have an underwater camera so I didn't get any pics but will try and post some above water photos I took tomorrow of our snorkeling adventure.

As far as fishing the lesson I took away from this for the future is that I need to nymph these bigger holes more and use a lot of weight to get the fly down to the bottom. Something I am usually guilty of not doing. Often I will throw a BHPT in there with no weight a couple of times and quit. Also I tend to think that if I am standing near the edge of a deep pool and there is no action that I have spooked all the fish. I now think that the bottom dwelling ones aren't as easily spooked or maybe can't see on the surface as much since they are deep so I should fish these type pools longer than I have in the past without figuring I have spooked the fish and moving on so quickly as I often do. Just a thought though. I really can't explain why they didn't seem to be leaving the vicinity even though I was standing in the pool they appeared to be feeding and darting at food just a couple of feet from me.

07-12-2010, 08:41 AM

Interesting post. I don't think there are many or any pools in the Smokies streams that are devoid of trout, as you say it's just a matter of using the proper technique and the right type of fly to get them to bite. I always thought it would be cool to look at the trout from their world, I am sure I have fished many a hole or run to know avail when there was a really nice trout down there happy that I was just out of the way:biggrin:


Jim Casada
07-12-2010, 09:35 AM
Adam--I assume you were in lower Bradley Fork somewhere below the junction of Chasteen Creek. My theory here, and in other streams which see a similar overdose of the human presence, is that trout more or less become acclimated to the "alien invaders" in their homes. I've caught fish not three feet from passing kayaks or rafts on the Nantahala and regularly catch them in lower Deep Creek (state water) immediately after the passage of tubers. It's an aesthetic nightmare but I'm the one who is bothered, not the fish.
Your snorkeling experience is also a fine lesson in trout numbers in Park streams. Just because we aren't catching 'em doesn't mean they aren't there. I can remember one pool on Deep Creek in particular, up in the Perry Gap Bend area, where you could, when I was a boy, always see dozens of trout if the light was right. However, catching them, even though they weren't spooked, was another matter. Similarly, last year I stood on the bridge at the upper end of the Jenkins Fields and watched perhaps 12-15 brown trout, the biggest one 16 inches or so, swim lazily about. Twice when I threw an insect into the water it was inhaled. But do you think I could tempt them with a fraud of fur and feathers? No way.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

07-12-2010, 10:10 AM
Thanks Neal and Jim. Jim you are right about the location of the pool. In fact we were only about 50 yards from the start of the Bradley Fork trail head very close to the campground. The trout there indeed must be used to people cause the night before I had seen a whole family bathing and playing in that very pool.

07-12-2010, 01:33 PM
Adam - great post, its always great to listen to people's epiphanies. Sometimes we get our thinking so set in one direction we never open up to the other possibilities.

A few years ago I ran across this post on a website that really got me thinking as well. Check it out, it will confirm a few of the things you observed.

The reality seems to be that sneaking up on trout is not the issue, acting non-threatening is. Here is a great article by a guy who was in scuba gear observing trout in Colorado-and has a lot of great insights:

As Jim said, the fish in certain areas don't see humans as a threat, whereas brookies in remote streams (with less protection) see almost everything as a threat. Its all about risk-reward for the fish when it comes to chasing flies. If the perceived risk (coming out from its holding spot in broad daylight and potentially being spotted and getting eaten by a heron, etc) is not worth the effort, they won't chase a fly. Plus, if they are hunkered down, they just might not be interested unless you hit them on the head with a fly. They may be trying to conserve their energy and sticking to the cooler water, waiting to eat later on.

I remember one really frustrating day on Abrams where I spotted about 20 fish in a pod at the bottom of a nice pool. I couldn't get them to take any dries, so I tried several different nymphs and streamers. I would drag the nymph right through the middle of the pod and the fish simply parted, let the nymph pass by and then podded back up again...sometimes they just don't want to eat...

07-12-2010, 02:10 PM
Those were a couple of great articles. Thanks for sharing those.