View Full Version : In the Footsteps of Mark Cathey

Jim Casada
07-24-2010, 05:55 PM
Earlier this week I ran into Old Tom in the local (Bryson City) Ingle's grocery store. I met his wife and we had a nice chat, although I'm sure the two grandkids they had with them wished it was shorter. While we wre talking I kept mentioning places I thought he ought to fish, and it took six or seven before I came up with a destination he had sampled.

One of the places I mentioned was Indian Creek, a major feeder of Deep Creek where legendary mountain angler Uncle Mark Cathey lived prior to the coming of the Park. He said he fished it every so often and that last year he had a stellar day there. That reminded me that it had been two years since I fished the stream Uncle Mark waded and where I caught my first limit of trout.

Accordingly, early today I headed up Indian Creek and fished from the Rock Pile Gap Trail to the old Bock Laney place. The latter won't show on any map but it is distinguishable by huge boxwoods and vestiges of an old chimney. Several things struck me. First of all, for this time of year I had exceptional fishing, probably averaging about six rainbows an hour. Better still, they were far bigger on average than has been the case in the past, with perhaps half of all those I caught being keeping size and many going nine to 10 inches (nothing bigger). I suspect fewer numbers (there are otters present and the drought a couple of years ago certainly had an impact) explain the bigger fish. Second, it is little short of incredible the way nature is reclaiming Indian Creek. Portions of it are literally unfishable because of rhododendron encroachment, and I'm a guy who doesn't hesitate for a moment to dapple with two feet of line or to use bow-and-arrow casts. Another change, and it is one we are going to encounter with increasing frequency on small Park streams, is log jams. Almost all of them are down, dead hemlocks, and that will only get worse for the next few years. A lot of small streams don't flood enough to blow them out. There were a few places where I literally had to take to the woods to get around jams--there was just no save or viable way thorugh them.

I took a side trip, as I'll invariably do when the opportunity is there, to visit the lower cemetery on Indian Creek. If you don't do this, I'd urge you to consider it. Such diversions give one ample time to pause and ponder, while looking at mute testaments to a way of life we have lost, those who went before us. This particular cemetery has 75-100 graves, and exactly five of them have markers with inscriptions. Folks in the early part of the last century didn't have money for store bought markers; they made do with creek rocks.

I'm about as technologically challenged as it is possible to be, so no photos (I don't have a clue how to post them, although I do carry a camera with me at all times, and I'm much more inclined to take photos of flowers, mushrooms, and stuff of that sort than of fish I catch). But it was a glorious day, proof fish can be caught at lower elevations even in this heat (and I did well right through the day, but of course this is a stream with wonderful oxygenation). Perhaps what I liked best was fighting cobwebs with casts the whole way, never seeing another angler, and only seeing five people total once I got above Indian Creek Falls. On the other hand, coming out, the lower half mile of Deep Creek was literally bumper-to-bumper tubers. I've never seen such a zoo, and sheer numbers are doing significant damage to the streamside. There are trails everywhere, and most of them are tailor-made to erode with much rain. I suspect if the numbers continue like this the Park will have to do something. I've never seen anything like it. You literally had to pick your way through people carrying tubes up the creek to start floating.

Obviously I've got a misanthropic vein, but once on Indian Creek solitude was my companion and in honor of Uncle Mark I fished a Grey Hackle Yellow some. In truth pattern didn't matter. If I could get the fly in the hole without spooking fish, I got strikes.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

07-24-2010, 06:48 PM
Really nice story. It's what I frequent this board to read. A guy, or gal, going out for a little fishing with some appreciation for the scenery added for good measure. I sure wish you would take the leap to post some of those pictures. Not so much the fish pictures, although a great looking brookie would be good, but of the scenery. Folks in the flatlands miss seeing those things. Regards, Silvercreek

07-24-2010, 08:48 PM
Mr. Casada it sounds like a great trip. i hope one day too see that side of the park and of course i will remember the story you have told. also that is the problem people love stuff to death. luckily most of the people coming to the park don't know how much fun the fishing is.

i wish you could learn the camera stuff. i am sure the info on places with pics would be awesome.

if you would have used a shorter pole you would not have had any trouble fishing them tight spots.LOL just kidding

Jim Casada
07-24-2010, 09:41 PM
Dalerio--Thanks, and somehow that overly long 9-foot rod managed to dredge up about 50 trout out of mostly tight to super-tight quarters. As for the photos, I need to get a detailed session from my brother, who's a whiz with all sorts of computer and camera stuff. For those of you familiar with my book, he did all the graphs of temperature, rainfall, and stream gradients in the back, and a good ly number of the color photos are his as well (although most are mine--I can use a camera just fine, but the transition to digital came with reluctance after decades of using slide film and accumulating c. 25,000 slide images). He sends me delightful accounts of his hikes with dozens of great photos every time he gets out in the Smokies, and that's a lot. In the last 18 months he has hiked every mile of every maintained trail in the Park, not to mention a good deal of off-trail hiking, and of course there have been repeats of many areas. If only I was that fit and feisty!
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

07-24-2010, 10:22 PM
Jim, I'm happy you got to go and even happier you decided to share your trip with us. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I also am prone to wander and find myself sidetracked often in search of history. I was thrilled to find remnants of old dams twice this week during my fishing trips.
As to the tubers I'm convinced that the crowds in the park this week were thicker than I've ever seen. We also were first responders to a motorcycle wreck up at the chimneys picnic turn out.

old tom
07-24-2010, 11:42 PM
Correction Jim. It took you six or seven trys to name a stream I had NOT sampled. And the one you stumped me on was not for lack of trying. I found it on a map but it's so small I couldn't find it off its main stream.

I know exactly where the cemetary you mentioned is off Indian Creek, but I've never taken the time to walk up there. Bet your bottom dollar I won't let that happen again next time I'm up that way.

It took me several tries, but with your excellent directions I finally found Mark Cathy's gravesite in the Bryson City town cemetary one cool blustery day this past winter. I felt it an honor just to stand before it, read the incscription then walk down the hill and offer a tip of the hat at Kepart's rock. As I walk thru the Park, I too like to ponder at what life must have been like back when.

Jim Casada
07-25-2010, 07:09 AM
Old Tom--Thanks for the correction. You are exactly right. It took me awhile to name a creek he hadn't fished (for the information of others, it was Jack Bradley Branch, a small feeder of Beech Flats Prong). That came after I had mentioned some pretty out of the way creeks. I somehow left out the key word "not" in the post. My apologies (and for others, my little quiz soon established that Old Tom has made mighty good use of his summer residence up on Alarka Creek here in Swain County as a base of angling operations).
If you wander up Indian Creek far enough to visit the cemetery I mentioned (it is the Laney Cemetery, presumably after the Bock Laney family who lived up the creek a ways), you might want to amble on upstream to the Queen Cemetery.
Interestingly, in pre-Park days there were far more people living on Indian Creek that on what is now the Park portion of Deep Creek. In fact, there are no cemeteries on Deep Creek in the Park, although there is one (three graves) on the very head of Hammer Branch and a large one on the head of Toms Branch.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

07-25-2010, 10:55 AM
Thanks for the report Jim I walked down Indian Creek last year after dropping off the deeplow gap trail. I actually got a bit lost and confused up there cause I got on the Indian Creek "motor" trail thinking it was Indian Creek trail. Figured out quick it wasn't the right once since there was no creek and I was climing up a mountain ha. You mentioned the Rock Pile Gap trail I haven't heard of this one is it a manway? I am indeed familiar with your brother Don's great photography skills I converse with him from time to time and enjoy his photos on the gosmokies site.

Jim Casada
07-25-2010, 02:17 PM
Crockett--The Rock Pile Gap Trail leaves Indian Creek perhaps 1.2 miles upstream from the stream's juncture with Deep Creek and heads towards the ill-fated Indian Creek Motorway. In case you don't know the story, a few decades back there were plans, fortunately abandoned, to make a scenic road here. The trail climbs from the Indian Creek drainage in a southeastern direction and hits the top of the ridge dividing it from Galbraith Creek and Toms Branch at a rock pile (hence the name). From there you can drop down to the Wiggins-Watkins Cemetery and walk on out to the Galbraith Creek Road and down the road to the lower Deep Creek trailhead. It's one of those many pleasant little byways in the park. I've no idea of the distance but it's under three miles and probably more like two and a half.

One negative memory associated with this area is a world-class infestation of chiggers "gathered" at the above-mentioned cemetery 15 or 20 years ago. I counted 78 bites and my wife had even more. If there ever has been a minion of Beelzebub it is the ignoble chigger.

Jim Casada

07-26-2010, 08:17 AM
Very interesting post and story. Thanks for sharing. Glad you caught some nice rainbows. Nine to ten inch bows are good fish in the Park, good for me these days anyway.