View Full Version : Forney Creek backcounty trip 5/20 - 5/22/11

05-23-2011, 10:54 AM
Nathan (NDuncan) and I have been planning a long backcountry trip up Forney for quite a while, however we were forced to change out plans at the last minute, so instead of shuttling a car, we decided to just hike down from Clingmans to Jonas Creek (70) for the first night, back up to 69 (Huggins creek) for the second night, and then out.

The top of Clingmans dome was cold and windy when we arrived Friday morning. While we got loaded up we looked over the landscape to see where we would be going.

We thought it was odd that we were the only ones there that morning, other than a crew that was there to work on the forney ridge trail. Then we saw why. They had closed the clingmans dome trail due to bear activity. A momma with cubs was around.

The hike down was not too difficult, but was steep, long, and really took a toll on our legs. We restrained ourselves from stopping and fishing all the wonderfully fishy looking water we passed, knowing we could fish it on the way out, and made good time to our first campsite at Jonas Creek. I quickly got camp setup, and tied on the fly that was to be the hero of the trip for me. My slightly modified neversink caddis. There were yellow sallies hatching all weekend long, and though this fly was a bit too big, the fish didnt mind.

On my first cast, in the tiny pool right by the campsite that I had walked past 100 times will setting up camp just minutes earlier, I hook into this guy, an 8 inch rainbow. This is gonna be a good trip.

Camp at Jonas Creek

I decided to just work my way up Jonas a little, and tied into another 7 inch rainbow and from then on it was just 7 inch browns all on the dry.

At some point during this day I was fishing a feeder of Forney which will remain unnamed. I was working my way up, catching more cookie cutter browns, all in that 6-7inch range. I came upon a pool that had to runs that intersected in a V, with a large undercut rock to one side. My second cast into the pool landed just to teh side of the V and in front of the rock. The dry went under quietly, I didnt suspect anything...I set the hook...and the rod was nearly jerked out of my hands!!!! I lifted up on the rod, felt an immense fish, saw a flash of white that reminded me of a 5lb largemouth bass, and SNAP... my tippet was gone. So was my mind for the rest of the day, as I couldnt concentrate as I replayed over and over what I could have done for those 2.5 seconds differently to have landed that fish...or at least played him longer. I finally accepted the fact that probably even the best may have not of won that fight on 6X tippet.
We finished off the day with some incredible Slovacek sausages Nathan brought back from Texas, a couple of fried rainbows, and a couple of cans of pale ale I packed in and cooled in the creek. First day-Awesome

I woke up at 6am with that big fish still on my mind. I got up, made a quick cup of coffee, and headed out that way. For some reason I figured I would cast in that little pool right beside the campsite again....first cast...SWISH....9 inch rainbow on the dry. I turned the watch around so you could see the time but it didnt take. 6:40 am I had two keepers before 7am that morning!

The big guy refused to come back to play, though I tried everything, the same dry he hit before, then dry and dropper, then a nymph rig...but no luck. It was ok though, I finally felt over the obsession.. I could move on now.
We packed up and hiked quickly up to campsite 69 on Huggins. We fished a little ways up Huggins when I caught a surprise! A small brookie on the dropper! My slam was complete!

Nathans knees were still bothering him, so he fished near the campsite for the rest of the day. I decided to go down to one of the fords, and work my way back up to the next ford. This was the best part of the trip. I fished for three and a half hours, and caught around 20 fish, lost just as many, and had so many missed strikes I couldnt keep up. Every hole and run gave up a fish, some multiples. And the fish fought here like nowhere else in the park Ive been. Nathan even said the same thing, they would often jump two feet in the air thrashing wildly, really putting on a show!
I learned a lot about fishing that day too. I started really picking up on where the fish were, in the pools, in front of the bigger rocks, the eddies at the head of the pool. I was even able to make a cast to the far side of a rock, wait a second, and set the hook on a fish even though I couldnt see the fly, I just kind of "knew" when a fish should be hitting the fly if he was there. When I got to the point that I was putting every cast in a good spot, and I could tell when a fish was going to hit in each different spot it felt really good.
I did make one big mistake, I was approaching a pool which had a log over the tail of it, so I stayed behind the log not wanting to spook the fish. Then I had one on, and he was a big one! He jumped out of the water, he was a good 10 or 11 inches! But I couldt get over the log fast enough to land him, and he jumped again and shook off. So now I try to think "if you get a fish on, how will you land him?" before I cast instead of just "where am I going to cast?".
I ended the trek up Forney with around 20 fish landed, and completed my limit, here was the biggest of the day at 9 inches.

to be continued......

05-23-2011, 11:09 AM
We had a grand dinner tonight....

We grilled two over the fire for appetizers, the fried the rest, along with some rice, we were stuffed. Nathan built a huge campfire that night, and we just hung out listening to the owls hoot back and forth, with a little Makers Mark for company. Second day - More awesome!

Sunday we broke camp quickly and headed up. We planned to fish Forney at the crossings, and then hightail it out. We ended up spending almost two hours at one of the crossing the fishing was so good. Again first cast, an 8 inch rainbow on the dropper, then second cast a small brookie on the dry!
We worked our way down and found a BIG pool. We couldnt easily get to the tail of it, I tried to put my first cast just on the far side of the run, but overshot it, and my fly was sitting in open water, dead still. I was going to pick it up to recast when I saw a torpedo shooting up from 4 feet below and splash! a brookie came up off the bottom to hit the dry and watched it all! A good 7 1/2 inches of brook trout ferocity!

Nathan got in on the brookie top water action as well.


We ended up with almost 20 fish caught between the two of us, with 6 keepers in that one stop.
We then started the grueling haul back up to clingmans. I dont have much to say about that other than it sucked, but was worth it. The wildflowers made it pleasant though.
So from the start of the day at huggins creek at 2800 feet, to the top of clingmans at about 6200 feet, we gained 3400 feet of elevation in 5 hours. That makes for a rough day.

This was an amazing trip, I fished until my arm hurt, but I can honestly say I learned more about fishing for trout on this trip, than all my other trips combined.

05-23-2011, 11:15 AM
Looks like y'all had a great time and some great eatin'.

05-23-2011, 06:37 PM
Outstanding report. Thanks for sharing your stories and pictures. Makes me want to grab my fly rod and head up to the smokies. :biggrin:

05-23-2011, 10:05 PM
Great post, sounds like an awesome trip. What kind of tarp do you have for your hammock?

05-23-2011, 10:14 PM
That one is a brand called "Chinook". I had read good reviews of it on the hammockforums, and found it online for $25 for the 9x9 which is a steal, so I grabbed two. Those were the last two they had in stock according to the website. I looked for a third later on and can only find them in the 12x12 size. I went with the Kelty Noah 9 for my third tarp for twice the cost a chinook. I think the chinook weighs a little less than the Kelty Noah 9 as well, but not by a lot.

05-25-2011, 03:29 PM
That was a heck of a fun trip. Just one suggestion, I woulda left a car at the end of the road to nowhere and hike out that way. That would give you more fishing time and less hiking (zero) uphill.:biggrin:. Really glad yall had fun.

05-26-2011, 07:56 AM
The pictures are great. Nice that you caught some good sized fish, and got your slam:smile:

I have been looking at doing this trip for over a year now, and hopefully I can make it happen soon.

05-26-2011, 05:39 PM
Ok So I'll go ahead and post my report from this trip and maybe add a few details.

I haven't really done much backpacking, aside from a trip my wife and I took to meet up with JayB and his kids at Slickrock early in May, the last time I took a trip was over 6 years ago in Texas.

The hike down hill from Clingmans seemed pretty easy, we made good time but it was on this leg that I discovered that I have some issues with my knees ( not really the best time to discover this, but hey you can;t really control that kind of thing).
Forney Cascades:
We stopped at the lower site on 68 along the way to check it out and found that there was some trash left by the last visitors. Not that much, but most was food related:

My right knee was throbbing so much when we reached campsite 70 that I really couldn't move around easily. It's a weird kind of pain, not really the joint, but like a bruise in between the joint. Not wanting to further compromise it, I decided to take it easy and didn't fish much. I did manage a couple of takes, but i quickly discovered the trout in Forney creek are the fiestiest I have seen in the smokies. If you get one on, they will go to all possible leaps and bounds (literally) to get off the hook. Multiple times, I had a rainbow on which would make jumps out of the water, thrashing side-to-side, and each time throwing the fly in the process. It was exciting and frustrating at the same time. At the campsite were two other fishermen, Dick and Bob from Cincinnati. They had been planning to camp at 68 or 69 and work their back down but decided against crossing the second ford between 70 and 69, which is easily the most difficult one above campsite 70 because it is not real clear where the trail picks up if you don't know where to look, you have to walk sort of diagonally through a fast part of the stream which prevents you from easily seeing how deep the water is in the runs and the only rocks for rock hopping are very large boulders which are very smooth and it is not easy to safely hop from one to the next with a pack on.
Jason with a Jonas Creek rainbow on right next to where he set his hammock up:

I was still concerned about aggravating my knee, because I knew the climb out the next day would be pretty tough, so I fished both Forney creek and Huggins creek in the areas along the campsite. Still found a willing fish in most every pool, but as feisty as the ones lower down. I also noticed and Jason can attest to this, the areas of Forney around campsite 69 and lower, it seemed that you have one chance at a fish from each run or pool. If you hook one, the panic is enough to put the rest of the fish into hiding for a while.

On our hike out on Sunday, when we stopped at one of the crossings between 68 and 69, we found that this was no longer the case. I fished one particular pool for almost an hour and had better than 15 fish on, most of which managed to thrash their way free, but it was exciting. There was a hatch going on at the time and large rainbows would streak across the pool and leap of the water to snatch a fly. Before the hatch got really going the specks were hitting the dry, darting out from underneath rocks, but once the hatch really got going the rainbows came out of hiding and some stayed pretty close to the surface and seemed much more unfazed by a panicked fish on a line thrashing through the pool.
An 8" Rainbow from said pool:

All in all it was awesome trip, a tough hike out though. I can't wait to return. (maybe from the bottom up and back down next time and skip the whole Clingmans part)

05-26-2011, 08:23 PM
Nice report guys. That trip remains untouched on my list. I bet I could drag a fish or two out of the water in that "Forney Cascades" pic.

05-27-2011, 10:23 AM
Nice report guys. That trip remains untouched on my list. I bet I could drag a fish or two out of the water in that "Forney Cascades" pic.

It looks like a great hole for sure, but it is the upper cascades in the picture ( near the head waters of Forney, above 68) and the lower part of the cascades ( the trail seems to cross between them) is the boundary for trout so the are supposedly no trout in Forney at and above the point in the picture. We stopped there for a break and to eat lunch on the way back up and watching the pool for th ebetter part of 45 min, we never saw any signs of fish, but we did see some large salamanders and big stick caddis larvae moving around.

One thing we also forgot to mention... While hiking on the trail, coming around a bend between 70 and 69 we ran into a Grouse but it darted into the thick rhodo on one side of the trail before Jason could get a picture of it.

05-27-2011, 04:32 PM

i was at CS 74 last weekend, and one guy who stayed at 68 the night before said that a bear had come and snatched his food away shortly after he had cooked it....

05-27-2011, 04:36 PM
We stopped there for a break and to eat lunch on the way back up and watching the pool for th ebetter part of 45 min, we never saw any signs of fish, but we did see some large salamanders and big stick caddis larvae moving around.

I may go up there and poke around to see if I can pull one out of there.

05-30-2011, 05:35 PM

i was at CS 74 last weekend, and one guy who stayed at 68 the night before said that a bear had come and snatched his food away shortly after he had cooked it....

with all the trash left around at that site, I don't doubt it.