PDA

View Full Version : Left Fork of Deep Creek beat us up, stole our lunch money, and broke my rod


duckypaddler
10-31-2011, 10:46 AM
Well it was time to knock a stream off Freddie’s bucket list and with the awesome reputation of this gem of a stream, amongst perfect conditions surely it would be a fantastic day, or so we thought. Freddie and I had made an attempt in late October 2009, but never made it to the stream that day after following some bad advice in a popular fishing guide. However, this time, we were armed with much better beta which also included a good out, well relatively speaking, and we were determined to give it a go.

I woke up with my stomach not feeling the best, and almost called Freddie to cancel, but with a high of 75, I knew I might not get another chance like this in years so I decided to push on through. As I drove to Freddie’s house I had to take 275, because there was an accident on 640, and was running late. Freddie was ready to go and he offered to drive. We headed through Pigeon Forge and easily made it to the bypass and were soon in the park. After following G-pa for several miles up the mountainside, we were finally able to pass and we pushed right up the mountain. We were soon high atop the Deep Creek Trailhead, ready for an awesome daytrip. The peak colors up top have passed a few weeks ago, but the views around 3000’ we very nice. As we dropped down the switchbacks, I recalled our last trip hiking out with a full backpack, running a fever with strep throat, a little dizzy at times, and hoped today’s hike out would be much easier. We made it down to Poke Patch in a little over an hour and a half, and rigged up for our day.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=654

Freddie was pretty much set to go just changing out his tennis shoes for his wading boots. I, on the other hand, packed all my regular fishing stuff in my daypack, and needed a few minutes to gear up. Freddie through a few casts in Deep Creek proper, and while getting a strike, didn’t manage to land anything. We quickly headed up Fork Ridge trail to Deep Creek Gap.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=655

This time we did not follow the “rough , virtually indiscernible fisherman’s trail going to the right”, which led us to several hours of crawling through rhodo, but instead dropped off heading straight down bearing the opposite direction into a less steep draw.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=656

At first the forest was open, but quickly turned to a battle with the rhodo beast at the bottom. After climbing our way through, we were soon rewarded with the lovely openness of the Left Fork. It was a little smaller than I imagined it to be, and was the perfect size stream in my opinion.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=657

It was really starting to warm up, and I could see sun on the water ahead. Hopefully there would be a beautiful spawning Brown waiting on me. I figured it might be slow fishing, especially at first, but the fishing was extremely slow. Water temp was 52, sun was shining, bugs were hatching, but the fish didn’t like what we have to offer. We even contemplated hiking out at one point, but after a look at the GPS, it was at a place where the trail pulled far away from the creek, and with super thick rhodo we quickly concluded hiking out there was not a good option, and relied on the good beta from the tree huggers. We did each land a handful of fish, but considering the price of admission to this place hardly seemed worth it.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=658

We didn’t even get to catch a Brown that day, or even spook one for that matter, which was a bit disappointing. Once it became apparent that the fishing wasn’t getting much better we just walked upstream hitting the bigger pools. We came up what may have been the remnants of a splash dam, but this was also over a mile away from the description I have read, so maybe there is a better one upstream. I wasn’t sure if it was one for sure, but you could see a notch carved out in the tree, that convinced me.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=659

We soon found a piece of green rope that looked like it couldn’t have been there long (maybe a bear hang for some campers?) that we took down. Then at the spot I (before I got the good beta) thought we wanted to hike out on I saw a piece of flagging. It was simply marking to go right at the island, but I first thought it was someone else’s out and after looking at the super thick rhodo there, it didn’t have me eager to hike out there so we continued upstream. We finally hit the prominent bend below Keg Drive, and started searching for our way out. While the rhodo was decently thick at the bend, it was a little better a few hundred yards up, and soon opened up to doghobble in the flats.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=660

While that was nice and open, it soon led us to the steep mountainside that we would have to crawl up. While up until this trip I have had no problem hiking in and out in my wading boots. Today with a fresh coat of fallen leaves, it was slicker than (your word choice here)! You know it’s bad when you’re looking forward to hitting a thicket of mountain laurel simply because you will have better hand holds and that you are on an adventure.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=661


Continued in next post

duckypaddler
10-31-2011, 10:50 AM
We slowly worked our way up the almost 500 vertical feet, and it seemed like you would slip with almost every step. Towards the top I busted out the GPS to find out how much further it was. When I told Freddie we were only 80 feet away, he was hoping I wasn’t talking vertical feet, but was glad to be mostly up the slope. My rod was also fine at this point. The laurel was thick towards the top and you would just push your body through dead branches making a path as you went. I was relieved to see the trail as was Freddie

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=662

Must pay in blood!

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=663

Unfortunately my fishing rod didn’t fare as well as one of the pieces had snapped off. We then walked a mile or so on Fork Ridge back to Poke patch where we rested and chatted with two hikers that were camping there for the night. After 10 minutes we geared up and headed the 4 miles back up the mountain to the car. We made it from Poke patch to the trailhead in an hour and 40 minutes, which I thought was spectacular time, and we didn’t even need to pull out the flashlights that I thought might be needed. While it was a great day in the Smokies, and a wonderful place to visit, the fishing was extremely slow, and we didn’t see let alone catch any spawning Browns. Maybe we were too early for the spawn, maybe the otters ate all the Browns, maybe we just had an off day, or maybe it was one of the other thousands of factors that form these complex ecosystems. While I’m not sure of the reason, Freddie said it was two trips in one for him (His first and last). Well that is until we have better beta that the fishing here still is really good. So with this stream being so remote, I encourage others who have experience here to speak up and let us know if the lure is legend or reality. Could this be another place Browns are starting to dissappear?

In the past few days there has been much discussion about guidebooks, and accurate information. While I have stayed out of the discussion I will chime in here. Apparently, I was one of the final reasons Mr. Casada no longer posts here. While at many times his posts would make me roll my eyes, or simply cause me to stop reading, other times I would find myself completely agreeing with him. I am sorry for being part of the reason he no longer posts here. While I never got to read his farewell post before it was pulled by Paula, I was told from another forum member that I upset him with a comment I made about how I didn’t think he had been to the upper Left Fork in some time, or was relying on Bobby Kilby’s notes. In hindsight, I see how he took this as being an attack on his home water, and maybe I was just a little bitter about wasting a half day and several hours crawling through rhodo after following his direction. I apologize for my comment since it obviously upset him. I would also like to say that every hiking and fishing guide and even the USGS topos in the Smokies are sometimes wrong. While I am a proponent of accurate information, I would still recommend Jim guidebook to anyone, and really love the historical perspective, and it’s loaded with great pictures. We stopped by Corky’s for some food on the way home. As we waited for dinner I picked 4 good thorns out of my head, and discussed maybe doing some tail water fishing next week.

Even more pics (All taken by Freddie – Thanks!) at:
http://www.duckypaddler.com/left-fork-of-deep-creek.html (http://www.duckypaddler.com/left-fork-of-deep-creek.html)

NDuncan
10-31-2011, 11:03 AM
Looks a like sweet place! I've been wanting to do that trip for a while, maybe next year.

Mac
10-31-2011, 11:26 AM
An absolute entertaining report with pictures.

Thanks for sharing

Crockett
10-31-2011, 01:25 PM
Nice dp did you see Tsali rock?

Jim Casada
10-31-2011, 01:35 PM
Duckypaddler--First of all, I will acknowledge I was upset by your post about Left Fork, because I've fished there countless times in my life and feel I know the area as well as any in the remote backcountry of the Park. Second, this is my first post in many months, and it comes because Byron convinced me to return and your apology helped in that regard. Apology duly accepted, and I appreciate your kind words about my book.

Now, let's turn to the matter of accessing (and leaving) Left Fork. I was some concerned about what you said about being misled that I just went back and carefully re-read my material on Left Fork, along with re-reading yours, and I am a little mystified about why you felt I misled you. Maybe you meant about the quality of the fishing as opposed to the geography. As for the former, using the Deep Creek Gap access is unquestionably the best way to get to the middle section of the stream. You can hear the creek from the Gap, and if you pay attention going down (and this is best done right where the trail from Poke Patch comes out to the Fork Ridge Trail) it is possible to get there without having trouble with rhododendron hells or much of anything other than maybe a log jam or two from fallen hemlocks.

It sounds to me that where you ran into trouble was not so much getting to the creek but rather getting from it back to the Fork Ridge Trail. I didn't mislead you in that regard, but I will readily admit that I should have said something about the best way out. It definitely isn't trying to scale the ridge from where you stop fishing back to the trail. Instead, it is much easier to retrace one's footsteps down the stream and return to the trail at the same place you dropped off at Deep Creek Gap. This is where Left Fork is closest to the trail, and it's much easier to hike up here than to bushwhack upstream. I know, because I've made the same "mistake" you did, not once but twice over the years, in thinking I could just do a bit of climbing at that would be that. If I ever revise the book I'll definitely say "retrace your footsteps." Also, it could probably be suggested with some justice that getting bitten by the same dog twice wasn't one of my more intelligent moments. About all I can say is that I remembered old-time hunters such as Mark Cathey and Sam Hunnicutt talking about egress around Keg Drive Branch and I let that inveigle me into terrain better suited to a billy goat that a human (and that goat better be prepared to eat lots of laurel on the way uphill).

If you felt you were misled because of my description of the fishing, that's another matter entirely. For reasons I don't pretend to understand, and other fishermen who spend a lot of time in the stream completely agree with me, Deep Creek has declined appreciably in recent years--it is especially noticeable in the last five or six. I've noticed it most in the lower regions but the situation prevails everywhere. I participated in a Park stream survey on the lower end of Deep Creek for two days back in August, and Matt Kulp sent me the results just last week. They pretty much mirror findings from a 1985 survey, but I know that for me fishing is infinitely less productive. Other locals such as Jim Estes and Jim Mills echo my thoughts on this. Maybe I've lost much of whatever ability I ever had, but given the fact I don't seem to have trouble elsewhere, that really isn't likely the case. All I know is that it is troubling and that I'm not the only one who has noticed the decline. I do find it strange you had no brown trout action, because browns are definitely a major part of the Deep Creek picture, from the mouth of the creek upstream.

I realize this won't extract any thorns or repair any rod tips, but hopefully if will provide something by way of an explanation.
Jim Casada

Crockett
10-31-2011, 01:48 PM
Welcome back Jim I am very glad to see you back on here. Maybe you are human and not always right but I usually learn something from your posts. It's interesting that the numbers were the same as the 1985 survey there. Are the numbers the same when broken down by species also? What about Indian Creek I know you fish it fairly often has it also declined in your opinion?

Mac
10-31-2011, 01:59 PM
Mr. Cascada

i have to reply and express that i am extremely pleased to have your input on this forum again.

mattblick
10-31-2011, 04:02 PM
Great report,

I had been missing your posts Mr. Casada, I am glad you are back.

Adam, I fished Indian Creek three weeks ago both above and below the new site 46. I worked really hard fishing it on Saturday and caught only one tiny (albeit beautiful) 'bow. I raced down the trail Sunday morning ahead of the group I was with and caught several fish in Lower Deep Creek in less than an hour.. In my limited experience, the fishing on Lower Deep Creek, (whether worse now or not) is far better than Indian Creek, your mileage may vary.. However if fishing isn't a sole priority, or you still want to give Indian Creek a try; campsite 46 is LOADED with nice firewood logs which can be hard to come by when camping in the Winter.. I'm not certain if the wood is left from when they created the site 2 years ago or what; but there are nice stacked woodpiles all over the area. The bad thing about 46 is that it is very hard to find level ground, but that won't be an issue for hangers..

The Principal
10-31-2011, 10:56 PM
Glad to read your posts again Jim. I also am an old History teacher. I enjoy the Historical aspects almost as much as the fishing.

Rob Johnson
10-31-2011, 11:39 PM
Mr. Ducky Paddler I must say that along with the pictures that was the best thing I have seen written on this board in a while. Thank you. Good to see Mr. Casada back too. Nice thread.

wisenber
11-01-2011, 12:11 AM
After reading that report, it looks like I'll be cancelling my reservation for 57 and looking at hitting Forney Creek this weekend. Thanks for the heads up!

duckypaddler
11-01-2011, 10:44 AM
Duckypaddler--First of all, I will acknowledge I was upset by your post about Left Fork, because I've fished there countless times in my life and feel I know the area as well as any in the remote backcountry of the Park. Second, this is my first post in many months, and it comes because Byron convinced me to return and your apology helped in that regard. Apology duly accepted, and I appreciate your kind words about my book.

Again Jim, I apologize. It was an off the hip response that in hindsight was something I never should have said. I’m sure you know this watershed as well as anyone could, and have experience that will take me decades to obtain

Now, let's turn to the matter of accessing (and leaving) Left Fork. I was some concerned about what you said about being misled that I just went back and carefully re-read my material on Left Fork, along with re-reading yours, and I am a little mystified about why you felt I misled you. Maybe you meant about the quality of the fishing as opposed to the geography. As for the former, using the Deep Creek Gap access is unquestionably the best way to get to the middle section of the stream. You can hear the creek from the Gap, and if you pay attention going down (and this is best done right where the trail from Poke Patch comes out to the Fork Ridge Trail) it is possible to get there without having trouble with rhododendron hells or much of anything other than maybe a log jam or two from fallen hemlocks.

The only thing I ever felt misled by was the print in your book on page 152 starting at the second paragraph as it relates to where to drop in at.

“A second way of reaching Left Fork, and one which puts you squarely in the middle of its finest fishing, is to take the Fork Ridge Trail………………………Follow it for just under 5 miles to the Deep Creek Gap, a point where the two forks come quite close together. There is a rough, virtually indiscernible fisherman’s trail going to the right at that point (the maintained trail drops off to the left and leads, after a quarter mile, to Poke Patch on the Right Fork).”

The problem this caused me in 2009, and what is clearly demonstrated in my picture with the thumbs down

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=655

is as Freddie stands on the Fork Ridge trail at the gap (if you look you can see where the trail even cuts left) there is a faint trail that goes to the right that is the remnant of when the Fork Ridge trail didn’t used to divert to Poke Patch, but instead follow Left Fork to the confluence of the Left & Right Forks.

Snippet from 49 map
http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=664

You do not want to take that trail. I’m sure that may not have been the faint fisherman’s trail you were eluding, but as it’s pretty discernable trail obvious at the gap (the only one as a matter of fact) going in the direction you were saying and I would not want anyone else to make the same mistake we did. Not that I have any right to say what you should put in a re-print as I'm sure you will have one, but a statement like just drop straight off the gap in the path of least resistance, or follow the sound of the water would be much better IMO.



It sounds to me that where you ran into trouble was not so much getting to the creek but rather getting from it back to the Fork Ridge Trail.( No I was quite happy with this route. While we did hit Laurel at the top, most if not any problem was simply slipping on the freshly fallen leaves. I think it was at least as easy as it would have been to hike out at Deep Creek Gap, and we didn’t have to hike back downstream. Anywhere else between these 2 spots, I don’t think I would want to tangle with as the rhodo looked pretty thick. I didn't mislead you in that regard, but I will readily admit that I should have said something about the best way out. It definitely isn't trying to scale the ridge from where you stop fishing back to the trail. Instead, it is much easier to retrace one's footsteps down the stream and return to the trail at the same place you dropped off at Deep Creek Gap. This is where Left Fork is closest to the trail, and it's much easier to hike up here than to bushwhack upstream. I know, because I've made the same "mistake" you did, not once but twice over the years, in thinking I could just do a bit of climbing at that would be that. If I ever revise the book I'll definitely say "retrace your footsteps." Also, it could probably be suggested with some justice that getting bitten by the same dog twice wasn't one of my more intelligent moments. About all I can say is that I remembered old-time hunters such as Mark Cathey and Sam Hunnicutt talking about egress around Keg Drive Branch and I let that inveigle me into terrain better suited to a billy goat that a human (and that goat better be prepared to eat lots of laurel on the way uphill).

If you felt you were misled because of my description of the fishing (NO – not at all), that's another matter entirely. For reasons I don't pretend to understand, and other fishermen who spend a lot of time in the stream completely agree with me, Deep Creek has declined appreciably in recent years--it is especially noticeable in the last five or six. I've noticed it most in the lower regions but the situation prevails everywhere. I participated in a Park stream survey on the lower end of Deep Creek for two days back in August, and Matt Kulp sent me the results just last week. They pretty much mirror findings from a 1985 survey, but I know that for me fishing is infinitely less productive. Other locals such as Jim Estes and Jim Mills echo my thoughts on this. Maybe I've lost much of whatever ability I ever had, but given the fact I don't seem to have trouble elsewhere, that really isn't likely the case. All I know is that it is troubling and that I'm not the only one who has noticed the decline. I do find it strange you had no brown trout action, because browns are definitely a major part of the Deep Creek picture, from the mouth of the creek upstream.

I have volunteered for the park and worked with Matt Kulp a handful of times and have found him to be a man of character, and a scientist. I have also found him to be very honest and open with even answering controversial questions. I hope you have come to realize that we are all on the same side here and he deserves our support.

I realize this won't extract any thorns or repair any rod tips, but hopefully if will provide something by way of an explanation. I’m must be a bit weird, but like the thorns, I guess I’ll call them battle scars. And thankfully the rod is a TFO so just $25 plus shipping, and I would only hold myself accountable for that.

And our route from the day.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=665

Next time I'll head straight down at the gap instead of vering upstream. The rhodo we hit was in the last 2 elevation lines next to the creek.

Hope you understand where I am coming from, and not trying to insult you, and again welcome back to the fourm:biggrin:

Crockett
11-01-2011, 12:05 PM
ah no Tsali rock then looking at your route I am guessing it is up closer to keg drive branch.

duckypaddler
11-01-2011, 12:44 PM
ah no Tsali rock then looking at your route I am guessing it is up closer to keg drive branch.

Sorry, the twins make it hard to reply. Yes you are correct. If I'm not in New Orleans at my brothers for Thanksgiving, I will be on the SMHC hike to Tsali rock for sure. I was playing around with thier mileages on mapsource, and by looking at thier distances it looks like they have another way in there. I meant to e-mail ED or Mark about the route, but have been pretty busy. Let me know if you are free this weekend, I think I can get out, maybe even for an overnighter:smile:

JoeFred
11-02-2011, 05:09 PM
Very nicely done, duckypaddler. Thanks for sharing.

Jim, thanks to you and other volunteers who assisted with the fish surveys in August that went into the recently published "2011 Deep Creek Fish Community Report (http://www.smokystreams.com/fish/assets/Deep_Creek_Fish_Community_Survey_Report_2011.pdf)” you spoke of.

JF

Jim Casada
11-02-2011, 06:38 PM
Adam--I have exchanged e-mails with Baird Watson and others regarding Tsali Rock over the years. I have my doubts about the rock some call Tsali Rock just because it doesn't seem nearly large enough to function as a place to stay for any length of time or in inclement weather. I've often thought that a more likely location for Tsali Rock might be in the rattlesnake den area well up on the ridge in the Keg Drive Branch drainage. Old-time Deep Creek ranger Bill Rolen, who knew the Park as few did in the 20th century (and unlike modern rangers he spent most of his time in the backcountry, not the frontcountry), leaned toward that being the site. In truth no one will ever know.

I do find it curious that Sam Hunnicutt, who was in and out of that area time and again as a hunter, never mentions Tsali Rock at all in his rare little book, Twenty Years Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies. To my knowledge there's nothing hard and fast in the way of historical material on Tsali Rock, and indeed all sorts of myth surrounds the realities of Tsali and his place in history. Some historian, John Finger I think, has poked a lot of holes in the standard tale. A boyhood friend of mine, Rick Bryson, also has some interesting thoughts (in fictional form) in a book on Tsali.

It's interesting to wonder as we wander, but as someone who is (or was) a trained historian, I always treat this kind of thing with a considerable degree of healthy skepticism. Again, we'll never really know, and there's not even anything approaching certainty that Tsali actually took refuge on the Left Fork. After all, Sahlee Creek on the Right Fork could be named for him:rolleyes:. Who knows?
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

JoelO
11-02-2011, 07:12 PM
JoeFred,

In the last 2 tables of the report, it shows the trout density and biomass of different streams in the park. It mentions Straight Fork (above the gate)...where is the gate it is referencing? Is it where you come off the reservation and go back into GSMNP waters? If so, its showing that there are hardly any brown trout there. I have caught brown trout (albeit small ones) on Straight Fork but the ones I've caught were taken from just above the hatchery to the Hyatt Ridge Trail.

http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-uLcVd9S0Dlk/Tqnmi2XqaCI/AAAAAAAAAT8/xY0ow2Wov7Y/s400/PA220760.JPG

Straight Fork Lunker Brown. :biggrin:


Joel

JoeFred
11-02-2011, 09:11 PM
And our route from the day.


http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=665

Next time I'll head straight down at the gap instead of vering upstream.

DP, I like your marked map. Mac & I had discussed my creating two larger maps of Upper Deep Creek (for a different reason) to replace the single one which is about 1:29,000 scale, smaller than that of the USGS quad (1:24,000). I've not looked into where to best do the slicing, but a couple of maps at 1:18,000, for example, would enable more access details being added. However there are a couple of issues. One: the USGS quad basemap would be simply an enlargement with no contours being added to the existing ones at 40 ft intervals. Two: I'm not sure adding manways to a commercial map is necessarily a good idea (so far the only unmaintained path I have included is that to Sams Creek, one I have personally taken). I'm curious as to your and others' thoughts on the concept.

JoeFred,
In the last 2 tables of the report, it shows the trout density and biomass of different streams in the park. It mentions Straight Fork (above the gate)...where is the gate it is referencing?...
Joel
Joel, yes, I believe that is the gate to which the report is referring, but you might want to contact Matt Kulp for more specific info on the data. His e-mail address is on the report cover. In the sampling done sometime between 1990 & 2001, browns turned up all the way from the gate, beyond Hyatt Ridge and past Round Bottom, with brook trout joining in the soup up to around the Table Rock Branch confluence.

pmike
11-02-2011, 11:07 PM
If and when ya do the updated maps of Deep Creek, I'd love to get a set. My son inlaw and I just hiked in the trail to Nick's Nest last week, (our first back country camp) and we are already dreaming of our next adventure.

By the way, it is so good to see you and Jim posting again and i am looking forward to reading after the both of you.

Mike

Jim Casada
11-03-2011, 11:28 AM
JoelO and JoeFred--There are brown trout in Straight Fork from the Park boundary to a point well above the Million-Dollar Bridge (the point where the road leaves the stream and becomes one-way). Or at least that was the case until the flash flood back in the summer. I fished Straight Fork a bunch in 2010 and caught a Smokies Slam every time I was there but one. There are specks pretty much all the way down to the Park boundary and they are increasingly found from about Round Bottom upstream. I caught a couple of good browns (12-14 inches) and a good many keepers.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

JoeFred
11-03-2011, 12:29 PM
Thanks, Jim. Come spring, I heading "straight" there.


...
By the way, it is so good to see you and Jim posting again...
Mike

Thanks, Mike, for your support of the forum... from there in the Sunshine State.

JF

JayB
11-03-2011, 02:23 PM
Cool report Ducky, you're still hitting all the fun places. I'd been thinking about that area for next year. So much water, so little time.

JoeFred
11-15-2011, 01:57 PM
DP, I like your marked map. Mac & I had discussed my creating two larger maps of Upper Deep Creek (for a different reason) to replace the single one which is about 1:29,000 scale, smaller than that of the USGS quad (1:24,000). I've not looked into where to best do the slicing, but a couple of maps at 1:18,000, for example, would enable more access details being added...

2/15 Update: Deleted image previously posted.

Mac
11-15-2011, 02:10 PM
JoeFred,

That is perfect, I need to see if Santa will get me one of those maps for the stocking.

I have been somewhat good. :p

Crockett
11-15-2011, 04:06 PM
Adam--I have exchanged e-mails with Baird Watson and others regarding Tsali Rock over the years. I have my doubts about the rock some call Tsali Rock just because it doesn't seem nearly large enough to function as a place to stay for any length of time or in inclement weather. I've often thought that a more likely location for Tsali Rock might be in the rattlesnake den area well up on the ridge in the Keg Drive Branch drainage. Old-time Deep Creek ranger Bill Rolen, who knew the Park as few did in the 20th century (and unlike modern rangers he spent most of his time in the backcountry, not the frontcountry), leaned toward that being the site. In truth no one will ever know.

I do find it curious that Sam Hunnicutt, who was in and out of that area time and again as a hunter, never mentions Tsali Rock at all in his rare little book, Twenty Years Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies. To my knowledge there's nothing hard and fast in the way of historical material on Tsali Rock, and indeed all sorts of myth surrounds the realities of Tsali and his place in history. Some historian, John Finger I think, has poked a lot of holes in the standard tale. A boyhood friend of mine, Rick Bryson, also has some interesting thoughts (in fictional form) in a book on Tsali.

It's interesting to wonder as we wander, but as someone who is (or was) a trained historian, I always treat this kind of thing with a considerable degree of healthy skepticism. Again, we'll never really know, and there's not even anything approaching certainty that Tsali actually took refuge on the Left Fork. After all, Sahlee Creek on the Right Fork could be named for him:rolleyes:. Who knows?
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Interesting Jim I didn't check this thread again till today so just now seeing this. I didn't know there was so much speculation over the real site. I have seen that the SMHC is leading a hike there next week. I won't be able to go but I am guessing they are going to the smaller rock den site. Jim you may be interested in this article about Tsali rock and it describes Bill Rolen's visit to what was purported to be the rock in the 1940s:
http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues/1_01/1_31_01/back_then.shtml

T.E.Shuler
01-17-2012, 01:54 AM
Living in, and being rasied in Bryson City, the same as Jim. I was always told that Tsali Rock was on a ridge overlooking Keg Drive.
I've not visited the " Tsali Rock site", but my father, in his younger years did. Just like Jim, my father doubted the long term sustainabiltiy this rock croping/cave could provide.
I have over the years noticed a large opening on the main stem of Deep Creek high above the creek, that upon looking at first glance could provide a likley place. I've never investigated it before as my fear of snakes both is comical and legandary! Maybe one day I'll check it out. But if its obvious enough for me to notice it, then others surely have and have explored it thoroughly.

I've always thought there were many better caves in the Nantahala area, that I know could have provided long term shelter. Unfortunatley no one will ever know for sure

T.E.Shuler
01-17-2012, 04:33 AM
I was glad to see the study conducted on Deep Creek again back in August. Had I not been working, I would have gladly taken the opportunity to help.
By most years records, I spend 130 days per year on Deep Creek. It is my home water, and I only live about three miles away. While I never really thought we had a decline in trout populations, I did seem to think we had an explosion of other species, such as dace, shiners, and sculpins. Since the droughts, the numbers of these fish have gotten higher. The trout population had, in my mind, not gotten any better or worse. I have noticed that numbers of bigger fish have declined. A conclusion I drew was this was caused by adult fish that were at the end of their life cycles not making it through the added stress caused by the low water we saw a few years back. What I have noticed was that while most fish in 2009, and 2010 were smaller, this past year 2011, the trout were noticeably bigger with fish averaging 7-12 inches. I only saw a couple fish this year that were 14 inches or larger.
What has increased is the number of skilled anglers fishing Deep Creek. I've noticed that in recent years you don't get away with simpler patterns or techniques. Now it seems, that you must employ a variety of techniques and the best dead drifts humanly possible to stay productive. The use of fluorocarbon is now a must instead of a passing thought. I feel the fish in several easier to access Smokies streams have become more educated because of many anglers now practicing catch and release, and I'm glad they have. While its true most folks just passing through will, and do, go fishless. Those who approach the stream methodically and use the term stealth with more than just an after thought, will catch trout.
Deep Creek is as good as it's always been, well at least the last thirty years.

Jim Casada
01-17-2012, 01:17 PM
Eugene--While I agree with much of what you say, I don't feel Deep Creek is as good as it has been in the last thirty years. Or maybe I'm just losing my touch (if so, though, it's happend all at once in recent years). A decade ago in the lower reaches of Deep Creek I could reasonably expect to catch 20-30 trout, or more, about any time I went. Today that is not the case for me, and I know another local angler who fishes the stream about as much as you do, Jim Estes, feels much as I do.
Pressure is unquestionably a factor, and I think otters are another one. Then too, and this is pressure in a way, it's pretty darn difficult during prime times of the year to find a stretch of water anywhere below the turnaround where there isn't someone fishing or where someone hasn't fished that day. I think recovery from "scare factors" is longer in heavily fished streams, and if so that's definitely an issue on lower Deep Creek.
If you go back 40 or 50 years, the difference is absolutely striking. Many times when I was a teenager I would hike above the Bumgardner Bend and fish all day. I didn't ever count fish, but most days I probably landed between 50 and 100 trout. Many would be in the 9-12 inch range. I almost never caught browns then, though they were there. I simply didn't know how to fish for them or, more precisely, where to fish for them. Maybe one out of every 200 fish I landed was a brown.
Finally, good to have you on the Forum. For those of you who don't recognize his name, Eugene is a longtime guide, competition caster, local guy, and genuinely good fellow. He also brings a lot of experience on the N. C. side of the Park, to this Forum.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

duckypaddler
01-17-2012, 05:21 PM
It's nice to see a post, especially from a person as familiar as you are with Deep Creek. I hope to see more of your posts, as well as from you lurking Smokies Masters who don't post much. This board had been pretty slow lately. I think we just had a bad day, or maybe were influenced by the low water we had the month before. It was just last week, I got an e-mail through my website saying he knew about the Green Rope I found hanging over Left Fork. Turns out it was a guy fishing with his son the month before, and they used it to hang their packs while they were fishing. He never said why they left it, but I'm guessing it got tangled, and they couldn't get it down. Anyway, he said the fishing was excellent, so I'll have to get back in there and find out for sure:eek:

I also went on the SMHC hike to Tsali rock. We took Fork Ridge from the Dome road a little over 3 miles just past where the trail used to cross over Keg Drive (doesn't anymore, and the map is wrong and not updated) then dropped down to Keg Drive

View of Keg Drive

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=697

following stream to about 100 yards from Left Fork, where we vered right and worked upstream on Left Fork which eventually opened up to reveal Tsali Rock.

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=699

Hardly looks big enough for 12 people, but is where the best records indicate Tsali was found. I'm sure he didn't spend the 30+ days there. I would love to know closer locations to explore from others that might have some knowledge on the subject.

Here is another shot


http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=700

It does have fresh water within 6 feet, but I could only last a night or 2 there:rolleyes:

There are also some nice trees including this big Poplar

http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=106&pictureid=698

On the way out we just hiked up behind Tsali Rock on the parrallel rigde to Fork Ridge where we hiked to its high point before eventually dropping back down through some decently thick rhodo back down to Keg Drive and back to the Fork Rigde trail. Cool place:smile:

Jim Casada
01-17-2012, 06:56 PM
Like Eugene, I have real doubts about this being Tsali Rock. Obviously none of us will ever know for certain, but to me it just seems too small, by far, to have been utilized for a fairly extensive period of time. On the other hand, the cliffs Eugene mentions, and I'm certain they are the same ones I recall as being an area known for rattlesnakes, are the location I've always thought was Tsali Rock. It's all problematic, beyond anything approaching sound documentation, and quite interesting. Oddly enough, Sam Hunnicutt, who chased bears all through this area, never mentions it. Nor, I'm pretty sure, does John Parris. One would think that both of them would have been intrigued by the story.
After all, old Sam was through this area time and again (read his book Twenty Years Hunting and Fishing in the Smokies--just reprinted which means it can be had for $20 or so rather than the $1500 or thereabouts an original fetched), and John Parris wrote a little book on The Cherokee Story.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Crockett
01-18-2012, 12:31 PM
Very interesting Duckypaddler and Jim! One thing I would wonder is if the rock you took pictures of James with the SMHC is the same place referenced in this article: http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues/1_01/1_31_01/back_then.shtml

"In the late 1940s, Deep Creek resident Ben Lollis, now deceased, took Bill Rolen, also deceased but at that time a park ranger stationed in the Bryson City area, to the rock overhang. There’s no cave. He told Rolen, “All the old-time hunters, loggers, and farmers call it the Charley Rock, because they were told by their ancestors that that’s where Tsali last hid out.” (The photograph Rolen had made of Lollis posed at the rock overhang is published here.)"

The photograph doesn't show in the link but if anyone has that pic or knows how to get it then we could definitely see at least if the overhang that the SMHC visited is the same one that Ben Lollis and Bill Rolen took the pictures of. Of course that still wouldn't prove it is Tsali Rock but would be interesting to see if it is the same place referenced back to the 1940s.

David Knapp
01-18-2012, 01:55 PM
I was glad to see the study conducted on Deep Creek again back in August. Had I not been working, I would have gladly taken the opportunity to help.
By most years records, I spend 130 days per year on Deep Creek. It is my home water, and I only live about three miles away. While I never really thought we had a decline in trout populations, I did seem to think we had an explosion of other species, such as dace, shiners, and sculpins. Since the droughts, the numbers of these fish have gotten higher. The trout population had, in my mind, not gotten any better or worse. I have noticed that numbers of bigger fish have declined.

The baitfish population explosion is very encouraging because that should help feed a new class of big fish on Deep Creek. Just part of the natural cycle. It will produce big fish again given time...

Jim Casada
01-18-2012, 05:50 PM
Adam--It's the same picture, and the story you are referencing was written by George Ellison. However (and I need to talk to George about this), Bill Rolen pointed out a different spot to me as the putative Charley Rock. This was the area Eugene Shuler describes high up on the ridge in the Keg Drive Branch drainage. That just makes it more of a mystery, although I think I have an educated guess as to what transpired.
I think Lollis likely showed the rock shown on this thread to Rolen and said it was Tsali Rock. Subsequently, I suspect Rolen did some exploring and walking in the area on his own (unlike today's Park rangers, he spent a lot of time off trail and in the deep backcountry) and decided that the ledge area was more likely.
I can be pretty specific about when he shared his information with me. It would have been 1956 or 1957 when his son, also named Bill, and I spent more than a week camping on Left Fork in the Little Dam area. He dropped us off at the head of the Fork Ridge Trail after having talked about Tsali Rock, mentioning that the area was notorious for rattlesnakes, and noting that there was a rattlesnake den in the area. While it wasn't in the ledges area but down on the creek, I had a close-up and personal experience with a rattler there. I climbed up over a rock at a dropoff in Left Fork and was staring a sunning rattler square in the eyes from a distance of about a foot. I pretty well cannonballed back to the pool below.
This is probably more than you (or anyone else) wanted to know on the subject, and about all I would add is that the rock of the picture duckypaddler shows, as he says, seems mighty small and inconvenient for a long stay.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Crockett
01-18-2012, 06:02 PM
Thanks Jim I find this stuff fascinating. Thank you Eugene for posting too. I think I have seen your posts on the other fly fishing forum I visit.

Duckypaddler who led the off trail to Tsali rock and what was their story as to how they got the info that it was the spot?