View Full Version : Spring Break Report - Long

03-26-2007, 09:54 AM
Thanks to everyone who provided input as I planned my family's spring break trip to the Smokies. As promised, here's the report.

We drove up Wednesday and got into town around 6. We stayed at Carr's Northside Cottages in a one-bedroom cottage on the Roaring Fork. We were right by the highway, which led to some traffic noise, but we also had a small waterfall where the water fell under the highway. I didn't fish the creek because there was a good bit of trash.

Thursday, we took the Roaring Fork Motor Trail to the Trillium Gap/ Grotto Falls hike. If you have young kids, I highly recommend the book Scavenger Hikes of the Smoky Mountains. My kids are 6 and 10, and the book gave them plenty of items to look for, and distracted them from the fact that they were hiking up hill. I took my pack rod, but saw no bug activity or fish activity when we arrived at the falls. We hiked up the trail for another 1/2 mile or so. By the time we came back, the falls were packed with people in and around the water.

We drove back down the Motor Trail with me gazing longingly at every good run on the Roaring Fork. Finally, my wife says: "We could stop and you could cast for a few minutes." I don't like to argue with my wife, so I pulled over immediately. I tossed a parachute adams for about 1/2 an hour. No takes. But, my kids had a great time finding salamanders and nymphs.

Friday, I fished with Hugh Hartsell. Hugh warned me that the water temperatures in the park were still a little cold and that it was not as active as he had hoped. Nevertheless, we pressed on. He took me to Abrams Creek, hoping the water temperature would be a little warmer. I got a good education on high sticking, but few bites. I caught one small brown, maybe 4 inches. We ate lunch and then fished the little river closer to Metcalf Bottoms. Hugh found some rising fish and tied on a caddis with a BWO emerger. I missed a couple of strikes and then landed one rainbow on the emerger. It was long and skinny. Hugh called it around 12", but I think it may have been smaller. We drove a little further up little river road and did some more high sticking. At this point, Hugh's tutoring paid off. My line had the most subtle pause, but I still raised the rod and was rewarded with another nice rainbow. A short time later, I got lucky and landed another rainbow as I prepared to raise the line to re-cast. Both fish were in the 10 to 12" inch range. The first was caught on a biot bodied cahill and the second on a Smoky Mountain Blackbird. Hugh tried to finish the day by putting me on some slack water with dry flies, but I was beat. I got tangled on my first two casts and decided to call it a day. All in all, it was a fabulous day, and I highly recommend Hugh to anyone looking for a guide.

Saturday, we drove to Elkmont. My wife is a trail runner and was looking to get in a six or seven mile jog. I dropped her off at the start of the Elkmont road, and she ran to the Little River trailhead, crossed over on Cucumber Gap and came back down the Jakes Creek Trail. She was worried about getting eaten by a bear, but saw no wildlife other than humans.

While she ran, it was my job to keep the kids entertained. She suggested that we fish. So, I packed up my 6 year old's Scooby Doo Zebco and some wooly buggers. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack any split shot to give the rod some weight to cast. Luckily, as we arrived another fly fisherman was getting ready to fish. I shamelessly asked for some splitshot and he generously gave us some. I have since learned that he is Plateau Angler who posts here frequently.

Thanks to Plateau Angler and the split shot, I have a cherished memory. The kids and I walked to the first big pool above the bridge at the trailhead, figuring that the pool gets enough pressure that we won't offend too many people by fishing there. I would toss the wooly bugger as far as I could into the current, and hand the pole to my 6 year, with instructions to reel in nice and slow. Then, I would turn my attentions to nymph-hunting with the 10 year old. To my great and shocking surprise, after several casts, my 6 year starts reeling like mad, and his rod is dancing around. Sure enough, he caught an 8-inch rainbow!!! Later on, he started reeling again. The rod was dancing, but I never saw a fish. It may have been a rock.

This rainbow was peculiar to me. As my son reeled it in, I thought it was a brook trout, because it was almost black in color. But, I knew that they weren't found that low near Elkmont. Upon inspection, this was clearly a rainbow with the red band down the side. The only other fish I have seen like this was a trout that had snapped off an angler, and then gotten wrapped around a rock. He couldn't get away, and was in shallow water and had turned black. Does anyone think my son's fish was sick, or is there some other explanation? In any event, I'll never forget the look on his face as he reeled that trout in. Thanks again, Plateau!

After my wife finished her jog, we went to Sugarland's visitor center and walked the Fighting Creek nature trail. Again, I had my pack rod. This time I tied on a size 18 caddis. In about 1/2 an hour, I caught five rainbows from 4 to 6 inches. Very rewarding after my struggles the day before. Again, my family was incredibly patient while I indulged my pastime.

Sunday, we drove to Cades Cove on the way home. I saw Plateau Angler fishing the Little River and was able to figure out his identity after reading his report.

Overall, this was a great family vacation. My boys probably would have liked to spend more time on the go cart rides and putt putt, but we emphasized the Park. We will most definitely do it again in the future.

Thanks again to all who helped. I bet the fishing will be incredible this week as the water really warms up.


Jack M.
03-26-2007, 10:39 AM
I think that's what it is all about.

03-26-2007, 12:03 PM
Great report. I love the grotto falls hike, being amidst the towering giants of the forest and catching bugs in the streams is always fun no matter your age.
I also liked the statement. "We could stop and you could cast for a few minutes." I don't like to argue with my wife, so I pulled over immediately.
Sounds very familiar, I always choose a hike or drive by a river, and keep a pack rod under the seat , JUST in case! I had a good afternoon of fishing myself, but I'm choosing to not tell much about it because sometimes you have to keep those secret fishing holes and good fish a secret!

Hugh Hartsell
03-26-2007, 01:12 PM
Bob, it was a pleasure to be able to guide you and watch you accomplish all the different types of fishing techniques that we needed to use. We saw everything from water that had insects coming off by the zillions to water that was so cold that the fish were barely detectable when they would hit a fly. We also fished water where the sun had warmed it up enough to cause fish to be actively feeding on top and all this gave us an opportunity to work on your skills at almost all levels. You took fish in all of these circumstances and that tells me that you are ready to hit the water again with confidence. I sure hope that it was a great time for all the family and I hope that we can meet each other again on the water.
Hugh Hartsell---East Tn.

03-26-2007, 07:09 PM

You've probably seen more in the Park than almost anyone on this Board. Do you have any theories on why my son's rainbow was so darkly colored?


David Knapp
03-26-2007, 07:32 PM
I've also noticed that occasionally you will catch fish that are very dark. This last trip, I caught one fish that was extremely dark in color. It came from a very large pool... Hopefully someone will shed some light on the reason behind this because I've been wondering about it myself...

Hugh Hartsell
03-26-2007, 07:32 PM
Two things come to mind when you see very dark colored fish. This first one may not apply since you caught him in a somewhat open place. The biggest reason that I have noticed thru the years is that the fish is in a location where sunlight does not hit very much during the day. A deep dark hole back under a rock ledge or a place that has the sunlight blocked by a hillside or lots of big rocks. The other is diet. Flyman is going to read this and he'll probably give some input that gets a little broader than this(ie. types of food and what it does to cause certain types of coloration in fish). It's known that certain heavy diets of particular minerals give brighter or darker coloration. There is also the spawning season? The colors that brighten up for that are usually the reds and golds. I wish that I could have seen where he was caught.