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Jim Casada
02-07-2012, 01:34 PM
I thought it might be interesting to reflect a bit on my personal experiences regarding changes in Park fishing I have seen in the course of my lifetime, and I hope others, whether virtual tyros or seasoned veterans, will share similar thoughts. Here, in no particular order of importance or significance, are some of the things I have noticed.

1. The disappearance of smallmouth bass from most Park streams. In the 1960s the lower end of many Park streams had goodly numbers of smallmouth bass. Today, with the notable exception of Abrams Creek, that is no longer the case. There may be the occasional bronzeback below The Sinks, and that's about it other than Abrams Creek. Matt Kulp, Steve Moore, and I have talked about this at some length and we all agree that the most likely explanation is that there is far more canopy today than was once the case, which in turn translates to colder water. Incidentally, this past summer's sampling of Deep Creek, with one of the two days of work being done right in the campground just above the Park line, precisely one smallmouth was captured. There were lots of them here when I was a boy and young man.The same was true of redeyes.

2. The spread of specks. They are found over a far more extensive range than was the case a half century ago, and I suspect that part of the explanation is the same as Point 1--more canopy and colder water.

3. The continuing spread and population increase of browns in many streams. This has been dramatic in all of the big streams emptying into Fontana.

4. The changing nature of fishing. I see far more two-fly rigs, far greater use of nymphs, and less reliance on dry flies. A fair number of oldtimers of my acquaintance thought that nymphs were but one step removed (and a short one at that) from bait fishing.

5. The singular lack of a backcountry ranger presence. Too many Crown Vic cowboys today--when was the last time you were checked in the backcountry?

6. Disappearance of many readily obvious signs of human habitation. Where there were once fields overgrown with broom sedge and fruit trees which still bore every year, today you find poplars a half century old. For example, the Jenkins Fields on Deep Creek have long since ceased to fit the definition of "field."

7. Vast changes in equipment. I often saw folks fishing with a cane pole (and legally--they used nymphs) when I was a boy, and bamboo and/or fiberglass were the standards. Today we are in the grip of the graphite monster (and yes, most of my rods are graphite).

8. Seldom does one see a spin fisherman; once they were commonplace.

9. The use of waders and specially made wading boots. I never waded any way other than wet until I was at least in my late 30s, and the only footwear I knew for the first four decades I fished was Army combat boots fitted out with felt soles.

10. Catch-and-release. Almost no one turned fish loose 40 years ago. It was a hook-to-cook, release-to-grease situation.

That's a start--who'll add more (and there are many other changes)?

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

MBB
02-07-2012, 01:50 PM
Great observations. While I have only fished the Park the last thirty or so years, there seems to be far, far more fisherman. Also, the rainbow trout seem to be smaller. I rarely hear of a rainbow over 12 inches. And when I do, I suspect it is a Fontana Lake run trout.

BlueRaiderFan
02-07-2012, 01:57 PM
I always see bait casters but I fish the big water near the roads a lot.

Crockett
02-07-2012, 02:32 PM
Great observations Jim. I would say a large increase in frontcountry fisherman and a marked decrease in backcountry anglers. If you read posts on forums like this you may get the idea the backcountry is crowded with anglers and there are waiting lines to fish three forks etc. but most of the time its the same 6 or 8 guys posting these reports. The fact is the backcountry it is pretty much void of fishermen in 95% of the park. Even on nice weekends in summer most campsites are empty and hundreds of miles of stream sit untouched. Backcountry camping is currently back down to the same level as 1960s which is pretty incredible. Nowadays it seems everyone sticks close to their cars. On a hot summer day you will find great packs of folks swimming and enjoying the waters on lower Deep Creek, the Townsend Wye and up Tremont Road, but they tend to congregate together (for safety I theorize) so if you go to a smaller stream or branch it is very easy to find complete solitude. Item #10 on Jim's list may be one of many reasons for smaller bows ie overpopulation.

Here is another couple of obvious ones:
The opening of brook trout streams to fishing although open for a while now many of the signs prohibiting speck fishing still linger around the backcountry.

The ease of learning about fishing the park on internet forums such as these. Ability to learn anything and everything including stream names from time to time :).

JoeFred
02-07-2012, 02:40 PM
I always see bait casters but I fish the big water near the roads a lot.

A good friend of mine, who sadly died in his prime, once had a novel idea for how we could keep the starlings off the pipe bridges and their droppings off the folks... without harming the environment. It was in a team meeting that my friend offered, in a geniune Southwest Virginian accent, "You fellers need to get a bunch of loudspeakers, lots of wire and a tape recorder. Record on the thing, "KEEP THE **** OFF! KEEP THE **** OFF!"

Would such a thing be permitted on the top of a vehicle moving slowly along Little River Road?

Good thread, Jim!

JF

Mac
02-07-2012, 03:19 PM
Jim,

Excellent forum topic. I often think about how things have changed in the park and surrounding area. I started visiting the park in the early 80's when i was a college student at UK.

Now day's when i visit the park with my wife and family the one thing i am always telling them is you needed to plan all your trips way in advance and have all the fly fishing gear you needed with you because there was not any or at least very few fly fishing shops and fly fishing gear available.

There was only one store i was aware of and it still exists today. I cant remember the name but it is on the way to Sevierville, and it was as much a hardware store as anything else but it did have some hunting and fishing equipment.

Today you have Bass Pro, Ovris dealer store and many many others.

The only other major difference is in those days i would fish all weekend in hopes of catching a fish. Today more than a few decades later i think i have half way figured out how to catch a trout and can actually catch a couple. :redface:

Knik
02-07-2012, 03:28 PM
Hey Jim, how was the roadside trash back then? I've truly fell in love with the park in the last two years, but all the beer cans and dirty diapers just makes me mad as heck! Picked up a dip net full of beer cans alone in just 150-200 yards up on WCP sat., a lot of drinking between Gburg and Cherokee.... Need to throw the bums under the jail.

But, you can't fix stupid, so I guess it will always be around. :'(

BlueRaiderFan
02-07-2012, 05:33 PM
Joe Fred ... I don't mind em...they don't catch much. :biggrin:

Rob Johnson
02-08-2012, 01:01 AM
Jim, as for point number 1 in your post, having fished the lower portions of every major drainage in the park over the last many years, I have never caught a Smallie or Redeye although the guidebooks said I should. Even on the Cataloochee, where it looks so much like the smallmouth bass streams here in central kY. Only trout and maybe minnows. Maybe the hairwing dry flies I use or are the smallmouth just not there? Not complaining because I go for the trout but I have always wondered about that. I caught a big {looked like} redhorse sucker once on a hairwing coachman so if the smallies wre there why wouldn't they hit that too? Just curious.

BlueRaiderFan
02-08-2012, 11:09 AM
My sister and brother in law were bait casting in the park last year and she called me and said they had gotten into a few bass...maybe it was in town?

JoeFred
02-08-2012, 11:40 AM
...
1. The disappearance of smallmouth bass from most Park streams. In the 1960s the lower end of many Park streams had goodly numbers of smallmouth bass. Today, with the notable exception of Abrams Creek, that is no longer the case. There may be the occasional bronzeback below The Sinks, and that's about it other than Abrams Creek. Matt Kulp, Steve Moore, and I have talked about this at some length and we all agree that the most likely explanation is that there is far more canopy today than was once the case, which in turn translates to colder water. Incidentally, this past summer's sampling of Deep Creek, with one of the two days of work being done right in the campground just above the Park line, precisely one smallmouth was captured. There were lots of them here when I was a boy and young man.The same was true of redeyes.
...
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Jim, unless you fellows discussed it already, I thought I would ask Matt if he perhaps has some raw peripheral smallmouth data for the '90s from the electrofishing sampling trout species distribution research done then. Unfortunately, some once upon a time smallmouth waters didn't get included prior to funding being cut soon thereafter.

Jim Casada
02-08-2012, 08:11 PM
Thanks for some interesting insight and I hope there will be more. I'm going to try to address each comment and/or thought before heading out early tomorrow for the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention in Nashville.
MBB and Adam--Yes, there are more fishermen in my view, but only in the frontcountry. I'm pretty sure the backcountry angling is actually down, based on my observations, those of others, and the Park's own statistics on the number of backcountry campers (way down from two decades ago yet suddenly we are told the backcountry is overcrowded and they need to charge fees to camp AND register to camp.
MBB--I agree on the size of rainbows. "Bows in the 14-18-inch range were caught with some frequency when I was a boy and young man. No more.
Adam--There is definitely far more information available today, but some suggestions to the contrary I don't think it has impacted remote areas. They don't get much pressure--period. I'm not sure where I stand on fewer fish being eaten meaning more trout. I actually was able to catch more fish in many streams 40 years ago than I am now, never mind that everyone ate them then. On the other hand, there were fewer fishermen in the frontcountry but if anything more in the backcountry. Folks may differ with me there, but I'll use one example. In the 1960s and 1970s you could always count on folks being at Polk Patch and the Bryson Place on weekends. The last two times I walked through or camped at these Deep Creek sites there was no one there--in mid-summer.
Rob, BlueRaiderFan, and JoeFred--I'm almost certain, never mind what guide books say (and I give too much credit the smallmouth and redeyes in my book, although I mainly focus on lower Abrams, where they do remain in good numbers), that bronzebacks are all but gone in the Park. You'll get the occasional one in the very lower end of some of the North Shore streams in the heat of summer, but they are basically scarce as hen's teeth. BRF I'm almost certain that your kinfolks would have caught bass on down the Little River--once it leaves the Park bronzebacks become more plentiful. Byron, who is a keen smallmouth man, tells me they are few and far between on the Little River in the Park. Matt and Steve say the same thing. I will have to ask them if there is any data back a few decades on smallies.
Knik--Trashy people throw trash and it seems they are always with us. It wasn't as bad decades ago, and I think there are two explanations. I genuinely believe folks had more pride and were less inclined to foul their own nest and there were fewer visitors.
Thanks to everyone and keep the thoughts coming.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

BlueRaiderFan
02-09-2012, 02:01 AM
Now I remember; they were by the indian head near the (what's the name of that hole?). Said they were wearing out some sort of bass.

Bran
02-09-2012, 08:55 AM
I've caught 2 Smallies in G-burg in the last several years although I've seen many more around mid-town. I've never caught one any further up though than mid-town. Water must warm enough in the sunny spots down that low to accommodate them.

David Knapp
02-09-2012, 11:08 AM
Large rainbows are still very much a possibility if you are fishing the right streams. They run up from hatchery supported water (throughout the Park I might add) and can add quite a surprise to a fishing trip with otherwise small fish. The big difference is that these fish have to run up from water below whereas they were actually stocked in the Park many years ago.

Little River still has fairly good numbers of smallies from the Sinks down as well as over on the lower end of Middle Prong. More than once I have been excited at spotting nice fish on lower LR only to discover after getting a decent look at them that they are actually smallies and not the big trout I'm looking for.

As far as catching more fish many years ago, remember that fish experiencing more fishing pressure and or catch and release will become far more wary. As more and more people are fishing on the easy to access streams and releasing the vast majority of their fish, we must increasingly adapt to more accurately match the hatch if we hope to continue with reasonable levels of success.

Many years ago fisherman could get by with a handful of dry flies as well as a few wet flies developed specifically for fishing the southern Appalachians. Those days are now gone. With more and more fishermen focusing on match the hatch, the trout will be less and less gullible. Out west, fisherman will use what we would consider tailwater tactics even on the freestone streams. As more and more fisherman move towards matching the hatch, I believe that we will see more people fishing tiny nymphs and midges in the Park as we constantly try to find that new method that will outfish others.

DarrinG
02-09-2012, 11:10 AM
4. The changing nature of fishing. I see far more two-fly rigs, far greater use of nymphs, and less reliance on dry flies. A fair number of oldtimers of my acquaintance thought that nymphs were but one step removed (and a short one at that) from bait fishing.




Many. many years ago I was getting some pointers on fly fishing from an older gentleman in my community who was an avid fly fisherman. He was teaching me how to roll cast and a few other things. During the lessons I asked him about fishing a nymph under an indicator or something and he quickly whirled around to face me and with a look of disgust on his face said in a harsh voice, "Blasphemy! Son, that's pure fly fishing blasphemy! If you resort to that kinda tactic, you're no longer a fly fisherman. Dry flies only, son, on top. All else is blasphemy!"
:biggrin:
I learned a lot from that old fella, not just about casting and such, but about identifying flies and how to fish certain type waters, but I cant say I held to his dry fly only approach, although I do prefer to fish dries if at all possible.:)

Grannyknot
02-09-2012, 11:27 AM
.........A fair number of oldtimers of my acquaintance thought that nymphs were but one step removed (and a short one at that) from bait fishing.

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

Very interesting Jim. Were these "oldtimers" what we now refer to as purists? The reason I ask is that when you talk to Walter Babb about the men who taught him to fish with a fly (and beyond that, the men who taught his dad to fly fish), he rarely talks about anyone using dry flies. Actually I believe he mentioned at troutfest last year that he never saw his dad using a dry fly.

Possibly just a culture difference between residents of Western North Carolina and Eastern TN? Or maybe just that the men Walter grew up around were more of subsistence fishermen rather than sportsmen.

AL trout bum
02-09-2012, 11:38 AM
This dry fly snobbiness intrigues me. I myself would prefer, of course, to catch any and every fish on a dry fly, or topwater bugs for smallies. However, fly fishing began with streamers and wet flies, not the other way around. Dry fly fishing is relatively new in the fly fishing world. So a true purist in my mind, would be a long ways away from a dry fly purist. A lot of people take the moral ground on drifting eggs, etc. but will turn around and use a San Juan worm. I've used the worm, not the egg, but not because I am above it. I like to catch fish, and sometimes (depending on where you are, what time of year, etc), a dry fly simply won't work. Fly fishing would be better off IMHO without all of the "you're not a true fly fisherman because you don't wear tweed coats and leather sling packs while fishing bamboo rods with silk line and dry flies." Like I said, I prefer to take a fish on dries as opposed to any other method, but I refuse to become so uptight that I can't throw a nymph or streamer to catch fish when that's all that works. I rarely use an indicator when doing this, but see nothing wrong with those that do.

I think it all comes down to why you fish. Do you like being out in God's creation and feeling that tug on your line? Or do you like thinking that you are the last remaining "purist" and if it isn't done your way, it's not fly fishing. To me it seems that those that simply enjoy the sport don't get caught up in all the other, or else their reason for doing it isn't what they say it is, or they simply like feeling "superior" to others. Otherwise, not one word would ever be spoken in regards to what the correct way to fly fish is. I have been guilty of this myself. I like to make fun of and characterize ALL bait fisherman or gear chuckers as knuckle dragging people with zero respect for our resources, that eat every fish they catch and just can't understand or learn the art of flyfishing because it's above their head. However, that's how I fished just a year ago. I think there is a similar outlook amongst fly fisherman between the dry fly purists and those that nymph, fish SJ worms, etc. I have to remind myself that while some give each style of fishing a bad name, we can't characterize one way as a right way, nor can we make blanket statements about those that don't do it our way. Look in the mirror guys and examine yourself. I am just as guilty as most, and it's a constant battle for me to remain humble and not feel like I'm better than someone because they don't fly fish.

The only things that should matter are 1) Is the resource being respected by the fisherman?, 2) Is the fisherman fishing in a legal manner, after that it comes down to common respect and courtesy. Sometimes we need a wake up call, or at least I do. I am not typing this to one person, but more of a rant in general to something that has bothered me for a while. I hope no one takes offense to it and maybe we can have a constructive dialogue on it.

tnflyfisher
02-09-2012, 12:14 PM
However, fly fishing began with streamers and wet flies, not the other way around. Dry fly fishing is relatively new in the fly fishing world.

This is true... as I mentioned in another thread a while back, it wasn't until the late 1800's that we started using dries over here in America. Theodore Gordon modified some English dries to mimic bugs he found up on the Neversink River. It was then that fishing dries started to catch on due to how effective this method became for catching trout. Now, the name "Gordon" doesn't that name ring a bell to anyone, sounds somewhat familiar... ?? ;) So you can see how it might have taken a considerable about of time for those patterns and techniques to spread down to say the Smokies and around the country. Hence the focus on wets and streamers for as long as folks can remember and the introduction of using dries only here in more recent times.

Tight Lines,

PeteCz
02-09-2012, 12:37 PM
As others have noted, the current incarnation of dry fly fishing has been around since the 1800s, but the argument of which is the "right" way really started to get elitist in the early 1900s.

This is an enjoyable web article on a bitter battle that took place 100 years ago in the UK.

http://midcurrent.com/history/halford-and-skues-this-chalkstream-aint-big-enough-for-the-both-of-us/

And the battle persists...

Rog 1
02-09-2012, 12:39 PM
I turn 65 next month and have been fishing in the Park since I was 13...when I first started trout fishing the Park waters were stocked on a regular basis and the service even maintained their own hatcheries...there was also a closed season on trout fishing from September 15 to April 15...even into the late 60's and early 70's I can remember cutting classes in Law School to drive all night to be on the water for that April 15th date...those fish hadn't seen a fly in 6 months and made for some great fishing...both sides of the Park had "Sportsmen" streams where the minumum size was 16" to keep...the WPLP was just unbelievable back then in numbers and size....the number of locals that fished seemed greater and it was easy to spot them in their overalls and true "cane" rods....we grew up fishing under a threat of loosing our equipment and the right to fish if we broke the rules and there were backcountry rangers popping out of the rhodo to check on you...there also seemed to be more camping in undesignated spots in the backcountry...people fished to eat what they caught and I believe this kept the general size up before the fad of catch and release took hold...it wasn't until midlife that I even heard about a strike indicator even less saw one...good topic and brings back some great memories....thanks Jim

tnflyfisher
02-09-2012, 01:20 PM
I believe that we will see more people fishing tiny nymphs and midges in the Park as we constantly try to find that new method that will outfish others.

I agree. It may not be the "preferred" method and some may raise an eyebrow but you are covering almost 90% of what a trout feeds on and where it is looking for food by fishing subsurface flies. And yes, it is still flyfishing... :rolleyes: If you want to catch more trout, learn about and match the underwater stages and you will be consistently successful. Then you can also throw dries for fun during some crazy hatch or just for a change of pace... that way you are prepared to catch twice as many fish and that aint a bad thing... :cool:

This is an enjoyable web article on a bitter battle that took place 100 years ago in the UK.

http://midcurrent.com/history/halford-and-skues-this-chalkstream-aint-big-enough-for-the-both-of-us/

And the battle persists...

Great article! thanks for posting,

Tight Lines,

JoeFred
02-09-2012, 02:20 PM
...
4. The changing nature of fishing. I see far more two-fly rigs, far greater use of nymphs, and less reliance on dry flies. A fair number of oldtimers of my acquaintance thought that nymphs were but one step removed (and a short one at that) from bait fishing...
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

I much prefer using dries over nymphs, but my severely inadequate presentation and equal amount of discpline to learn to improve, usually results in my resorting to flinging the latter. Heck, I'd used only a split shot if that was the only way I could fish our waters... "fish" being the operative word.

BlueRaiderFan
02-09-2012, 10:36 PM
Muh...as long as it's a fly that's hand tied, I don't care if it's dry or wet. I think that dry fly fishing is more of a challenge when going after larger fish, much more for me, but other than that there is no difference in my book.

GrouseMan77
02-10-2012, 08:11 AM
Muh...as long as it's a fly that's hand tied, I don't care if it's dry or wet. I think that dry fly fishing is more of a challenge when going after larger fish, much more for me, but other than that there is no difference in my book.

I get what you are trying to say but you really need to read more than the one book if you want to catch fish in the park.

BlueRaiderFan
02-10-2012, 12:40 PM
Not certain what you are trying to say Jason. That was my personal opinion and not based on anything I've read. I have read more than one book on fishing in the park.

adirondack46r
02-10-2012, 01:30 PM
When I started fishing in the park back in 2004 when I moved to Tennessee, there always seemed to be a BMW parked in my favorite spots on weekends, the guys fishing in the river below all looked like they had just walked out of an Orvis store (they jingled and rattled and had lots of cool stuff), tubers seemed to be everywhere, tourists would blow their horns and yell at me and sometimes take my picture, there would be sandals, Gatorade bottles, and t-shirts sunk in my favorite spots, and back then, I really didn't catch many fish.

Come to think of it, not much has changed for me.

GrouseMan77
02-10-2012, 05:47 PM
I should have answered Jim's original question...

Backcountry trash and the lack of ranger presence comes to mind first. I've found and packed out lots of trash and have had to leave some behind (example: soaking wet 20x20 tarp full gallon coleman fuel containers). I attribute this to the occasional back country camper being in over his or head and thinking that the park fairy will clean up their mess. Seems to be an over all lack of common sense by a high percentage of visitors.

Also Seems like there are lots more motorcycles and loud pipes in the warmer months.

JoeFred
02-10-2012, 06:20 PM
Muh...as long as it's a fly that's hand tied, I don't care if it's dry or wet. I think that dry fly fishing is more of a challenge when going after larger fish, much more for me, but other than that there is no difference in my book.

BlueRaiderFan, you've published a book!?! For real?? :rolleyes: I'm kidding, of course.
JF

BlueRaiderFan
02-10-2012, 06:27 PM
How do I get into these things? :eek:

JoeFred
02-11-2012, 10:59 AM
...Even on nice weekends in summer most campsites are empty and hundreds of miles of stream sit untouched. Backcountry camping is currently back down to the same level as 1960s which is pretty incredible. Nowadays it seems everyone sticks close to their cars...

That is very interesting. Now that reasonably good cell phone reception is possible on some of the Park roads, suppose that is becoming a factor now days? Just a relatively few years back we were out of immediate contact with the family or office when we pulled out on the street. Now you can get some distance up LR Middle Prong Rd, Greenbrier Rd, etc. before the bars are gone. I did get quite a ways up Porters Creek Trail once and could call out, but at that point I was past the decent 'bow waters, so nothing was gained really.

fishngolf
02-11-2012, 12:47 PM
My recollections of fishing the park from the late 50s to late 60s as I was growing up in Knoxville are almost exclusively from the Tenn side of the park with very little time fishing the backcountry:

1. Fewer fishermen and an overwhelming majority of those I saw fishing used spinning gear. I don't remember Knoxville even having a shop that carried a lot of fly fishing gear or supplies although I'm sure stores like Tennessee Sporting Goods must have stocked some.
2. Fish caught were primarily rainbows with far fewer browns than today. Specs were caught only in the headwaters blue lines. My friends and I didn't target the brook trout as so many do today.
3. Catch and release was a concept I never saw practiced.
4. Wet wading or hip boots were used by most everybody. I don't remember seeing anyone in a pair of chest high waders.
5. The trout generally were quite a bit larger on average than those I catch now.
6. In general park rangers seemed more involved and knowledgeable in activities other than traffic and crowd control that seems to take so much of their time today.

Most all of these have been mentioned in previous posts. I think the experiences of those growing up on the Tenn side were probably much different than those on the NC side. I know most of my trout fishing was on the Little T and Clinch as opposed to Park waters or all the quality small streams that held trout in W. NC. With all the TVA reservoirs surrounding the Knoxville area, I don't remember trout fishing as being that popular during that time among my acquaintances. It seemed to become a "yuppy" thing to do in the early to mid 90's.

Just my personal recollections and I'm sure they have been clouded with the passage of time. That said, far fewer people I grew up with viewed the park as a prime fishing water back then. We used it to hike and camp with little of the camping being back country.

I really enjoy reading the experiences of those that fished the Park heavily back in the 50s and 60s. I now wish I had done much more when I had the chance.

JoeFred
02-11-2012, 04:19 PM
...
Most all of these have been mentioned in previous posts. I think the experiences of those growing up on the Tenn side were probably much different than those on the NC side. I know most of my trout fishing was on the Little T and Clinch as opposed to Park waters or all the quality small streams that held trout in W. NC...

Very good stuff, fishngolf. Thanks for sharing.

I think the fact that there are so many quality small streams in W. NC fishing the Park on that side is much less emphasized by fly shops and outfitters there as well as the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. You have to look hard to find books in the store on the topic of fishing, and unless I overlooked them, which is unlikely, they do not have the USGS topo quad maps there as they do at Sugarlands. For good reason the 'Luftee Center seems to focus more on the historical aspects of the Park. In at least that regard they are nicely equipped & when I've been there, capably staffed.
JF

Grampus
02-12-2012, 07:46 PM
A lot of interesting comments on this topic.

As BlueRaiderFan said, there are catchable numbers of smallmouth around Indian Head Rock and below on Little River. Been there done that:smile:

As Rog1 said, the rangers were a lot more creative years ago in their patrolling. We referred to them as "Possum Cops" after witnessing one in a tree with binoculars. I also had the pleasure of witnessing one "Possum Cop" fall out of a tree on Tremont:biggrin: I could tell some interesting stories about interactions I've had with rangers over the years...

As GrannyKnot stated, there seemed to be a difference between techniques used by anglers from WNC and ETN. As an East Tenn native, I easily fished over 10 years without ever tying on a dry fly, though I did tie and sell a lot of them to anglers in NC. If we saw a dry fly fisherman, we referred to him as a "Waynesville Boy". I always believed many "purists" were not competent at nymphing and thus tried to shun the practice. Back then, I didn't give a crap as I walked out with my limit in large trout for the skillet. I was there for the catchin and not the fishin:smile:

Prominent changes I've noticed are


the explosion of fly-tying materials. Years ago, we tied from materials we found on the side of the road, or we stole from our cat/dog, or from our cat/dog, and from the business end of our shotguns. IMHO there's WAY too many patterns for the Park, making things way too complicated. Having kept detailed fishing records for over 25 years in the Park, I can tell you the old flies still work in the same streams at roughly the same time of year.
The average skill of fishermen is now a lot lower than way back when. If you saw someone wading around in drab clothing and old boots, they could pretty much catch their limits. This is mostly because more newbies do and are getting into the sport. I saw this change around the time "A River Runs Through It" gave every male a mid-life crisis and felt the answer to life's problems was to grab a fly rod. Fortunately, many headed to the tailwaters and found the Smokies too much of a challenge.
Another sad change is the absence of browns in Abrams. There were some HUGE ones years ago:frown:
Grampus

BlueRaiderFan
02-12-2012, 09:37 PM
Good stuff, Grampus. I know I struggle with a nymph and it took me two years to get decent at catching fish in the mountains on anything (and that's with people spelling it out and telling me exactly how to do it). Now about once a year I run into tailwater timmy and listen to his tales of woe about not catching any fish in two days. I do my best to give em a quick class but you can see about half of em are just waiting on you to stop talkin' so they can complain some more...oh well, maybe it will keep 'em off the river...more for us. The best thing about fly fiishing is getting to hear all the stories from guys that have been fishing the park since I was a kid (or before that sometimes). Thanks for sharing.

Owl
02-13-2012, 01:54 PM
Wet fly. Dry fly. Indicator. Tenkara. Rapala. who cares? I've never understood why some folks think their preferred method is the only one that's legit. If they're fishing legally, who cares? A single hook Rapala or other lure would probably be down-right deadly on larger park fish. I've never tried it, but I sure wouldn't tell someone they weren't fishing properly if they tried it. Life's too short to worry about whether or not someone is fishing a nymph. Good grief. :)

Great post Mr. Casada. POTY so far for sure.

Jim Casada
02-14-2012, 06:27 PM
Grampus (and a whole bunch of others)--Thanks for some interesting and for me at least enlightening comments on changes. I'll address a few of them specifically:
*I had a lengthy conversation with Steve Moore this morning and his perception of the smallmouth situation pretty much meshes with mine--they are basically gone except for lower Little River and Abrams Creek. Although they don't have detailed data on smallmouth, what they have found in surveys in the lower reaches of streams such as Deep Creek and Cataloochee is a near total absence of smallmouths. It's a habitat issue in his view--water too cold, food base, etc.

*I was really intrigued by the fact that old-timers on the Tennessee side apparently used nymphs far more than on the N. C. side. I can assure you it wasn't an issue of elitism or anything like that. None of the anglers I knew as a boy and young man were anything other than sons of the Smokies. The only fly rod nymph fisherman I knew was a park ranger, Buford Messer, and he was very good. Several oldtimers used three-fly "casts" with a cane pole and either wet flies or nymphs (or both). The four or five finest fishermen I knew--Frank Young, Claude Gossett, Alvin "Little Man" Miller, Levi Haines, and Raymond Mitchell--all used dry flies exclusively. My longtime fishing buddy over in Graham County, Marty Maxwell, says the same was true there, and it was also the case in Haywood County. Maybe one factor was the considerable influence of Mark Cathey, maybe the most legendary of Smokies fishermen. He used nothing but a dry fly and only one pattern--a Grey Hackle Yellow.

*On a personal note, I never used nymphs (or streamers) until I was in my late 30s. Somewhere around 1980 I began using a dry fly and dropper combo after seeing it in use out West. It was a revelation.

*I don't think that there is much question, at least in my mind, about the comparative overall skills of fishermen of today vs. yesterday. Almost everyone I knew as a boy and young man was competent or more than that thanks to a "pass it down" mentality which was strong indeed. I see a fair number of folks today who, if they catch a trout should keep it because it clearly needs to be taken out of the gene pool. On the other hand, I think the really top-notch anglers in the Smokies today are the best ever.

*Several have mentioned big rainbows and some have suggested they were stocked. It was pretty darn easy to differentiate between a stocked fish and one born in the Park back when they were stocking. Wild rainbows got bigger then, at least in the waters I fished most (Deep Creek, Hazel Creek, Forney Creek, Luftee, and Noland Creek). Of course they had little competition from browns as compared to today.

*There were lots of really good spin fishermen. Ed Chambers, a fellow from Bryson City who oversaw trail crews, was masterful. He almost always carried a spinning rod and a couple of Colorado blade spinners trialed by a Yellarhammer tied on a long shank hook with him. He would fish at lunch break.

*Owl mentioned single-hook Rapalas, and I know a fellow who is pure death on big browns using precisely that approach. Let him find a stream a bit murky and he wears them out.

That's a bit off the top of my head and thanks to everyone for their insights. I particularly enjoyed getting the perspective from the Tennessee side and the reference to a "Waynesville" approach.

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