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MtnMike 04-06-2009 09:41 AM

Laurel Fork - Year's 1st Freestone Stream
All of my fishing time has been on the South Holston this year and I have been chomping at the bit to get on a mountian stream. All I had was Saturday morning, but I needed to get out. So I headed for my "local" mountain stream, Laurel Fork in Carter County. Arrived at the trailhead parking lot around 9:00 expecting to see at least some hikers only to discover that I was the first to arrive. The air temperature was 38 degrees. Headed up the trail anxious to see the creek...

I wasn't disappointed, but I was actually expecting more water. I was having a hard time deciding whether to stop and fish or keep hiking. I knew the water would be cold, so I decided to head on up to the falls...

Checked the water temp (46 degrees) while tying on a size 14 parachute adams. This pool at the falls fishes pretty good in the summer, I made a few casts, but as expected nothing was coming up. So, I tied on a BHPT as a dropper and made a few more casts, still no action. Decision time. I had planned to hit a spot in the gorge above the falls, but decided that I would start back down the trail and hit some of the more shallow and sunny spots.
There was a good looking spot about 1/4 mile below the falls that had all the right ingredients. I made a cast into the shallow run and was rewarded with a beautiful rise, set the hook, nothing. No problem, cast again, he politely rose again, set the hook, nothing. OK, it's been a while since I've been in the mountains. Third cast, he rose again, nothing.
I checked the fly, cut the dropper off (side note: I get enough dry/dropper fishing on the tailwaters, I go to the mountains to fish dry flies). Anyway, fourth cast, he rose, set the hook, the fight was on, he was all over the creek... and 5 seconds later he was gone. Unreal, this fish rises 4 times and I still manage to lose him. Oh well, I didn't expect the year's first freestoner to come easy.
Moved on down to the next likely spot. Nothing but the dry fly now. Got a really nice drift and was reward with an 8-9" brown. Ahh, the year's first freestoner on a dry fly. Now let's snap a picture, he begins to squirm and I drop him without a picture. You have got to me kidding me. Oh well, cast again, another rise...

At least I got a picture of this one, continued to fish the run...

Moved on down and caught a couple more all in the 6-9" range. I ended up with 5 and had to head out. I made my last cast at 12:30, probably when I should have been starting. The water was still cool, but bugs were coming off in the sunny spots. Glad I got out before this cold snap.
I may catch bigger fish on the tailwaters, but it is no where near as much fun as these little freestoners. Can't wait till next time.


cherokeeflyboy 04-06-2009 10:23 AM

Nice pictures Mike and pretty little brown. I will be there in 12 days and can not wait. Thanks for sharing your trip and pictures, it makes my blood flow.

tennswede 04-06-2009 09:18 PM

Mike, I will be heading up that way in May sometime. I still need to do Beaverdam and the other Laurel. Can't wait for the cold weather to pass.

MtnMike 04-06-2009 10:02 PM

Hey Hans,

Be sure and let me know when you are coming this way, maybe we can get together. I've gotta to spend some more time on the Mountain Streams.


wynnsman 04-06-2009 10:24 PM

Thaks for the report,,,,Ive been meaning to get over there one day. I love that little river. Do you ever fish above Dennis Cove?

MtnMike 04-06-2009 10:34 PM


I used to fish above Dennis Cove quiet a bit, but over the last couple of years I have mostly fished below the falls. From the Dennis Cove parking lot you can fish all the way up to Frog Level fairly easily. But most of the time I prefer to drive up to Frog Level and either fish down from where Firescald Branch flows in to the lower fields, or begin at the confluence of the 2 streams and fish up to the upper fields. I have also fished from Frog Level to above upper Laurel Falls. I don't know how familiar you are with the area, but the area right there at Dennis Cove gets fished pretty hard, because it is stocked fairly regularly. About 1/2 mile above Dennis Cove there is a cable across the stream that marks the beginning of special regulation waters. From here up it is a wild brown trout stream with a few brookies thrown in. The last couple of years have been so dry that I haven't been up there. It's a lot easier for me to park in Hampton and fish up to the falls. There is also plenty of good water above the falls back up to the AT parking lot.


Westslope 04-07-2009 02:26 AM


Thanks for the report, and the pics. I'm gonna be heading up into that area myself to fish some of the freestoners in late April, including Beaverdam, Laurel Fork and the Doe, I'll be sure to post a report as well. I fished Laurel Fork a couple summers back, between the AT parking lot and the falls, what a beautiful and rugged area, haven't explored above Dennis Cove or below the falls...

Tight lines, Iain

MtnMike 04-07-2009 08:08 AM


If you fished the section immediately above the falls that is indeed some rugged stuff. I will only fish through there when the water is down and when I have some company. I will occasionally venture just above the falls alone but not attempt to make it through the gorge. The mile or so below the AT parking lot is pretty simple and fishes fairly well. You may want to try the area above Dennis Cove, there is a jeep trail that takes you off the mountain road down to a place called Frog Level. There is a gate across Firescald Branch you can follow this stream down to Laurel Fork and then fish either up or down through some fairly low gradient water. Let us know how you do.


Carolina Boy 04-07-2009 09:47 AM

Pretty fish and pretty stream! Where is that at? I come north from Asheville to fish the SoHo, is that area on the way near Erwin or something?

MadisonBoats 04-07-2009 09:51 AM

Beautiful Place!

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