View Full Version : the wait is killing me

big irish
03-03-2006, 06:22 PM
My journey started 2 winters ago. After years of ruminating by the campfire how supremely cool it would be to take up the fly-rod instead of the simple spinning rigs we banged around on canoe trips...my best friend Phil and I ordered cheap combos from a catalog and waited for warm weather. We imagined smooth casts and lunkers and ignored the probability we'd never be very good.

I have now decided the romance that initially drew me to fly-fishing is as over-wrought as it is accurate, like the cruel, fickle beauty of golf. The opportunity to spend a few quiet hours by myself, detached from my fast-paced job and without my 3 young children proved, however, too expensive in terms of time. I wanted to slip into the water every free minute I had...but with my job transfer to middle TN this fall and the demands of a career and fatherhood, the junkets have been scarce.

I am totallly self-taught (or self-inflicted?) courtesy of a few well-recommended books and way too many hours on the internet. No lessons ever, just the aloof confidence that I at least know what I'm supposed to be doing. Visualization they call it. I cut my teeth clumsily on couple smallmouth streams in central KY and many long Sundays casting from the dam of a friend's 5 acre farm pond.

I still can't tie a clinch knot without a cheater. There have been many days where the best action I got on the stream was courtesy of a stiff fart in my waders. My first fish ever on a fly was a tall, feisty bluegill pulled from that farm pond on a green sneaky pete...and I've been itchin' ever since to duplicate that thrill. romance or not. The exhilaration that exact moment has proved elusive...until now....or at least March 17th.

That day marks the first of 4 days I'll be in the GSMNP with a buddy for some backpacking and fly-fishing. This is my first trip to the Smokies ever and my first camping trip since last fall- I flat *** can't wait. A local fella is guiding us Friday and then we're setting off up the Little River trail to ply our rookie skills and veteran ambitions on the unsuspecting trout of yonderlands.

Thank you to LRO for putting this board together- it's been fun to see I'm not the only person infected. Special thanks to Byron for the daily fishing reports...that have done nothing but magnify my anticipation and cabin-fever to near emergency levels. I'll be in LRO before or after our trip and I hope to spend some money and hear some lies, maybe even from my own mouth. msh

Byron Begley
03-04-2006, 10:37 AM
Big Irish, Welcome to the board and site. I know how you feel. You are in for a great time. I remember my first Smokies trip. I grew up on Boonesborough Road near Richmond, Kentucky. I got my first fly rod in 1962, and did most of my fly fishing on farm ponds for bass and bluegill. My first trip to the Smokies was a camping excursion with my friend Chuck a few years after that. We were both 16.

Thanks for the comments, especially the fishing report. I do that first thing every morning when I get to work. It's a lot of fun for me. This morning, Walter Babb, my friend and an expert Smokies angler reviewed and gave me input. Trying to determine when these spring hatches will occur is all about guessing what the water temperature will be.

Good to have you on board and I'll see you on your dream trip.

Byron :)

03-05-2006, 07:44 PM
Big Irish,
I think you have a gift for writing. I enjoyed reading your post. It sounds like me when I started but not expressed so well.

Be sure to post a message recording the events of your trip!


big irish
03-20-2006, 02:31 PM
From it's early planning stages in December, the months-long wait preceding my trip to the GSMNP proved worthy in the end.

I drove in from Nashville Friday morning with a co-worker, Scott. We met my best friend Phil from Louisille and my brother Matt from Atlanta at LRO. We then headed together to Elkmont to reserve a site and wait for our guides. They met us around noon and we set off shortly in 2 groups- Matt and Scott started near the campground while Phil and I moved upstream with our guide to some different water. While I can only attest to our time with our guide, Matt and Scott were equally impressed with the guiding experience.

Around 1:30 or so we encountered a hatch- the first I've ever witnessed. To say the fish were 'rising' to insects is inadequate, too passive to describe the animal agression of that moment. These fish were hammering bugs from the surface in a frenzy about every 30 seconds in a pool that was no more than 40 feet long. It was my turn with the rod and a quill gordon...and my heart was pounding. I missed one strike altogether when I took my eye off for a blink to mend line...and I lost another fish that I managed to hook but lost when I yanked it out of the water and off the hook like it was a yo-yo.

Ian offered that I'd 'horsed' that fish off the hook. Muscle was proving to be the tallest obstacle in my effort. Ian's pedantic approach that afternoon in correcting my shortcomings was simply Zen; he methodically uncovered the big pieces with broad strokes- I was left to improve through my own trials, errors and intuition. Our guide explained how to read the water, where the trout feed, effective presentation of the fly, etc. He put me on fish, but left it to me to catch them. These first missed opportunities drilled some fast lessons into my head while his running dialogue instilled confidence.

That hot spot fished out by my clumsiness, we hastily moved to the next run hoping for more of the same magic. What followed was a bubbly pool behind a large boulder with slow water in a swirling eddy next to some fast water. He asked us to asses the scene and fire away- he explained this was our time and not to be surprised when we had a fish on- he stated 'it' was going to happen NOW. Phil's first and second cast drew strikes that he missed- the last leaving Phil's fly and line in an overhead tree. While Phil and Ian repaired the tangle, I stepped up and threw a back-arm cast that drew a strike almost instantly.

This time I managed to put it all together: set the hook, rod tip up, keep him in the water, easy, easy...and finally a nice little rainbow was in my hands. After a loud hoot, some high fives, and a congrats on the first fish of the day from Phil, we managed to catch and land about a dozen more fish in the next 3 hours. Not bad production for 1 guy fishing a narrow stream while 2 alternately watched. The largest catch was a 7 inch brown I nailed from between two tight rocks in very shallow water- it was a beautiful fish that put me two-thirds of the way to a GSMNP slam in only my first day. Phil and I came off the stream at 4 pm walking like winning prizefighters, heavyweight in my case.

Saturday the four of us hiked up the Little River Trail to backcountry #24, about a half-mile above the Goshen Prong Trail. We set up our tents, cooked a quick lunch, and were on the Little by 1 pm. This was much smaller water than that near Elkmont- only 20 feet wide and seldom deeper than the knee. The pools were small and separated by smooth, moss-covered rock. Looking up the river grade the white water looked like a slinky rolling back and forth down a stone staircase. The weather was a perfect 60 degrees with the sun shining steadlily through the towering, bare trees. There was no wind- just the cool breeze rising off the rushing water. It was breathtakingly beautiful standing in the middle of the stream- just being there was reward enough.

But we were here to fish, barely armed with 4 hours of neophyte accumen, and all the confidence in the world. Could we catch some fish on our own in this wild with no guide to offer advice? Attempting in earnest to employ every lesson I'd learned from Ian the day before, I got into 2 rainbows within 30 minutes, one of which was at least 7 inches and very fat- it weighed nearly double the similar length fish I'd caught Friday. It felt like gold in my hand. I was validated.

Phil caught 2 rainbows and 1 brown that afternoon- the latter being the largest fish either of us caught that weekend at nearly 8 inches with a deep belly. These fish on the upper Little obviously were eating well- they even liked what we had to offer. We came off the stream by 4 pm and were settled down to a hearty repast of Kentucky bourbon and Domincan cigars by the time the sun went down. Despite an imminent sleep on the hard ground, very sore muscles from the inbound ascent, and sub-freezing temperatures expected overnight, all was right in my world.

We hiked back down to Elkmont on Sunday afternoon and headed our separate directions home, promising one another we would not allow another a trip to the Little for camping and fishing to get very far away. Special thanks to our guide for his services and invaluable lessons- I would suggest to anyone looking for a special lesson from a gifted teacher. You will not be disappointed by the company or the insight.

03-20-2006, 05:50 PM
Great read! Very few can write with so much feeling. I would suggest a fishing diary if you have not already started one. May be the makings of a book.
Keep'em coming!