View Full Version : First Back Country Fishing Trip

12-07-2007, 01:36 PM
Hello all,
I'm planning on taking my first back country fishing trip and I'm looking for some advice. I'm planning the trip in March and I'm taking my father. He is a tough old bird but I don't want a trip that would be taxing but enjoyable for him. We really would like the solitude that the unbeaten path can give. It will be a three day trip and will overlap the weekend. I know that Eagle Creek will probably be less traveled but the fish will be smaller and Hazel Creek has higher foot traffic but the fish are bigger. I've hiked up Eagle Creek Trail to the AT before and I liked the campsites along the way (the trail sucks after campsite #97). How are the campsites on Hazel (#86, #85, & #84)? Also this is only my second time down to the Smokies to fish and in central Indiana there aren't any trout. So what fly assortment should I look at bringing? I know how to high stick and I figured that is the way we will fish the majority of the time. Am I correct at assuming this? I have never posted anything on this forum before but I've been reading different threads for about a month now and I know you guys know the smokies. Any advice will be great. Thanks

David Knapp
12-07-2007, 03:45 PM
First, welcome to the board! I can't help you specifically with those streams but March can be really unpredictable in the park...you need to be prepared for extreme weather conditions as they are still very possible in March and even into April. On the plus side, you probably won't have as many people around at that time of the year... The fishing can be hit or miss in March, particularly early in the month...

12-07-2007, 09:05 PM
PA is correct, March can be quite unpredictable weatherwise. You might be better off over on Deep Creek or Noland Creek. If the weather turns really bad, you'd be able to get out easier. If you go to Eagle or Hazel, you'll have to depend on a water taxi to take you across the lake.

That being said, Eagle and Hazel are both more remote than Deep Creek or Noland Creek, if thats what is most important to you. I'm not sure the fishing will be much better on any of them over any other, but Deep Creek has almost as much history as Hazel Creek and probably more than Eagle Creek.

If the water temps are good you can probably do quite a bit of dry fly fishing, and if so the usual suspects work well to the backcountry trout. Namely Parachute Adams, EHC, BWOs, Light Cahills and Stimulators (plus other favorites that I know others would add). But, presentation is much more important than pattern. You should look at some of the older threads in the Smoky Mtns Forum and you can get a good idea of what folks were using the last two Marchs and what the weather was like and where they were catching fish.

As far as high stickin'; that really depends on where you are fishing and how you are fishing. Many of the brookie streams can be that way with dry flies and some of the bigger streams you can get away with that with nymphs, but I wouldn't say you would be able to do that with dries on some of the bigger streams. The most important thing down here is to adapt. You may have to change tactics from pool to pool. Stealth is the key more than anything else. And keep moving. Don't waste too much time casting to a trout that isn't interested. After about 2-3 casts I would probably move on. He's either spooked or not interested. If after a number of pools you haven't interested the fish, change flies or tactics. The fish are as selected on particular patterns but a good drift is critical. That's my $.02 synopsis!

Welcome and keep asking questions!

12-07-2007, 10:08 PM
I would agree with all that has been written above. As far as flies are concerned, I find myself using a handful of patterns - as has been said many times, presentation is far more important than pattern. That being said, the general trend is darker-colored flies early in the season, and lighter colors as the year wears on. For a dry, you really can't go wrong with a parachute Adams; it's highly visible, and it is sort of a "generic" pattern that matches a lot of different insects. In the summer, I switch over to the yellow PAs. As for nymphs, you really can't go wrong with the basics - Prince, Tellico, etc. I tend to "go small" on my fly selection - in other words, if the general trend is to fish a #14, I'll go with a #16 - I figure that a smaller fly will pick up fish that might be a bit skitterish, particularly if the water is low and clear.

As for a location - Pete brings up a good point about Eagle/Hazel...you're kind of trapped there if the weather gets bad. I've never fished that part of the park, so I can't say much about it. However, if you're looking for some solitude, and not too bad of a hike, I would suggest the Palmer Creek and Pretty Hollow Gap trails in the Cataloochee area; while the road into the Cataloochee valley isn't the greatest ( I was up there a few weeks ago in the snow, and decided to turn around when it started to stick to the road), it isn't bad in halfway decent weather (hard packed dirt near the park boundary), and you eventually get back to a paved road once you get to the valley. I've never camped there, but I have hiked a good ways up the Palmer Creek Trail, and it isn't bad at all. Backcountry campsite #39 is on the Pretty Hollow Gap trail, which branches off of the Palmer Creek trail. Definitely invest in a good park map - LRO has the National Geographic map, and it has a lot of detail on it.

Hopefully, we'll be up there the last week of March ourselves.

12-08-2007, 02:15 AM
I just wanted to say thanks for the help. Also how quickly can the weather change? I was leaning to Eagle Creek because if we did have a bad weather snap we could hike out on the fontana **** but the plan was to watch the weather reports and once we saw that the weekend was looking good we would head off. My work is pretty good about letting me off on short notice and my dad is retired. The last time I came down I fished a elk hair caddis with a drop prince nimph. Would that still be a good setup to use? I'll still start tying some parachute adams.

12-08-2007, 03:36 AM
that time of year, you're gonna be into some BWO, blue quill, or quill gordon hatches. or you may have no hatches at all. it's unpredictable. I'd come armed with BWO's in #16-18, quill gordons in #12, and blue quills, maybe a #16 give or take a size. the adams will generally imitate these as well. as for nymphs, you'll have to ask someone else. by march I'm usually chomping at the bit for dry fly action.

12-08-2007, 11:56 AM
As far as the weather in March, it can be very drastic changes in a very shory period of time. I was up there the first weekend in march last year and the weather went from 55-60 degrees in the evening to 1-2 snow on the ground the next morning. Just be prepared.

Gerry Romer
12-08-2007, 12:06 PM
Don't forget wet flies. Soft hackles do well in the early spring. I've had good luck with wet March Browns in size 14 and 16. And of course the fabled Smoky Mountain Black bird is a must-have, fished alone as a soft-hackle or dropped off a Para Adams!


12-08-2007, 12:39 PM
Ok, smokey mountain black bird. Just a black soft hackle? I hear about this fly a lot, but have never figured out what it is.

12-08-2007, 02:11 PM
Welcome Indianafly,

99 % of my FF takes place in the back country of the park. I have fished the Eagle system and its tribs many times. Here are some bullet statements to consider for you and your dad's trip.

Weather- Can change in an instant and the local weather forecast my or my not be of help. Different altitudes of the park have their own micro-climate and the best bet is to be prepared for all contingencies. Plan well and you will be richly rewarded! I've fished 70 degree days and had the night temps plummet and rains swell the river to the point that I almost didn't make it out! Just sayin

Stream Crossing- You have hiked this stream so you know whats in store. If its really cold the “multiple” crossings are going to bite. If you come behind a bunch of rain it could be very dangerous. If it rains hard one night you my be stranded in cold and high water conditions and have to wait it out(carry extra food) Even high altitude rains can be a beast. Ummm, I've had this happen.

Gear- Pack light-freeze at night! More than likely you have hiking/camping experience from your post. Again, plan well and enjoy.

Fly Fishing- You mentioned size of fish. I was surprised at the size of the fish in this stream. The lower section above fontana will hold the larger fish of course. Depending on how far you are going to hike up, the tribs offer a good time,especially if you like fishing small streams like me.

Flies- Lots of info already given. I like dry fly fishing! I'm not a purist,but darn close. I hardly ever fish any thing other than an EHC(brown,green,back), BWO, Yellow Stimi and Para-Adams, yup even in the early spring. I usually use sizes #12 to #20. I carry others but they never see the water and are just eye candy at camp.

Trail- You are right,the trail above #97 is impassable and there is NO fishing to be had!

Solitude- This time of year and with its location you will most likely have the place to yourself. But don't be surprised to see a couple of ol'timers that stomp this ground 4 seasons and the obligatory hikers. Maybe even me. I'll be above #97 trying to clear a trial for others?

Have a great trip, and give um a sore lip.

12-09-2007, 03:04 AM
Thanks everyone for all your help. I do have one more question. I was wondering if it is better to hike to camp and then backtrack and fish to camp or fish from camp and hike back. It may sound like a odd question but I just want everything to go smooth. Also dryfly1 you right about the trail after #97. My buddy and I three years ago hiked from #90 to Spence Field on the AT and after #97 there were spots where you are on your hands and knees crawling. I had never been beaten that bad by a trail before and I hope never to again. I also wanted to say thanks because I never thought about the streams swelling from rain and that many creek crossings would take its toll. Any ways I know that this trip is a few months away but after I’ll make sure to post pictures and tell you guys how it went. I do really appreciate all the help.

12-09-2007, 08:09 AM
Hey Indi,

I typically solo hike into all my waters and never take the water shuttle to Eagle or Hazel. So by the time I get there and set up camp i am a little tired and ready to wet a line. I will enter the water at camp and fish upstream for the remainder of the day and hike back to camp that evening. On day #two I hike down stream that morning and fish back to camp. I cover a lot of water!

Since you are with your dad and most likely taking the shuttle over,you will be fresh and have a couple of options.

flip-flop each other and either start at camp and fish up or hike down stream and fish up. Works well either way.
Split up and one hike down and one fish up and meet back at base camp that evening.Since you have 3 days I would consider multiple base camp sites? After a day or 2, get up the next morning hike up to the next site,or down, set up camp
(this is what I always do)and hit some fresh water. You will be surprised how much water you will cover and will be looking for more. 3 days on the same water is a looong time. And don't be confounded by all the over growth initially at the small streams. While they can be quiet tangly, they usually open up and offer some exquisite smoky mountain solitude FF.

I was joking a little about the trail above #97. But it's what helps keep this place less traveled. In my opinion it's the most difficult piece of trail in park. Move up a foot suck air and repeat.*Wise Fly Fisher say: Do a little "shake down" hike with the "old man" before your trip and a gear lay out. Somebody always forgets something!! Better to discover this at home..

Enjoy..... I gotta go look at some old pic's , I'm getting that back country itch!

12-22-2007, 10:43 AM
That time of year is iffy, but I would make the trip anyway. Just bring a little extra food and make sure your bags are rated for the potential temps. I would go to Hazel or Deep because the trails stay on one side or have bridges at crossings, not too sure about Deep, but for Hazel this is accurate.
Flies have been covered. The campsites on Hazel are all good, but some distance. Proctor is close and nice as well. You won't see many people there that time of year. I do remember in 04 or 05 we planned on Hazel, got to the Fontana dock to take the shuttle and found that there had been some snow on the spine, the melt had caused the water temps to plummet, it was in the 30's and we bagged it that day. Hazel is pretty to hike around as well, sounds like you already know that. Get a book on the area, it may make the trip more interesting yet. Enjoy yourselves.

Rog 1
12-26-2007, 12:27 PM
If you want to go to the Tn. side of the park my favorite spot is No. 24 at Rough Creek...about 4.2 miles and all along the Little River....fairly easy walk and can fish a lot of different water from this location....Fish Camp Prong is only a short walk back down the trail....to me, some of the best dry fly fishing water around.....campsite is nice and you can manage a slam fishing from the campsite upstream.