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Grannyknot 05-16-2010 10:33 PM

Slickrock Creek 5/15 & 16
My Friend Dj and I had been planning to go to Slickrock Creek for some time now but with the way things work in my life, you plan something too far in advance and its gonna fall through. We decided on Tuesday that we would make another attempt at the trip. Friday night we sat down with our wives for an Italian meal at Savellis Restaurant here in Knoxville. Anticipation of the trip pretty much dominated the conversation between Dj and I. Our wives however, were not overly impressed that we were going to leave them at home to go backpacking and fishing in the mountains.
I had already packed my backpack, so when we arrived home at 10:00pm, I was ready to go to bed to be wide awake at 5:00am for our departure. About 10:15 Dj text messaged me….”Hwy 129 is still closed…looks like slickrock will have to wait for another trip”. I called him to discuss this unfortunate turn of events. We discussed going over the skyway to Robbinsville, then cutting up, or across Newfound gap and then down, but figured in the end it would take almost twice the amount of time our normal route would take. New destinations changed between the Bald, North, even a brook trout trip in the Citico headwaters. Nothing impressed us though, so we decided to meet in the morning and decide on the road.
At 4:00am I suddenly woke up, and asked myself what had woken me up, a few seconds later it hit me. Farr Gap! Part of the BMT leaves the Fodderstack trail at Farr Gap to enter the slickrock creek valley. Farr Gap wasn’t too far and the trail looked do-able in an hour or two. When I arrived to meet Dj, I told him, showed him on the map, and he pointed the car in the direction of Doublcamp road in the Cherokee NF.
On the way there I prepared him for what me might encounter. Several people had said that Slickrock Creek was now a “dead stream”, a “figment of what it used to be”, some even called it a flat out disappointment. We were well prepared for what was about to happen.
We arrived at Farr Gap around 8:00am and quickly hit the stiffknee trail, which crosses the border between the Citico Creek Wilderness and the Joyce-Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness, and quickly descends into the Slickrock Creek valley via the Little Slickrock drainage.

The hike is very steep off the side of Little Stiffknee top and quickly drops down into a huge grove of hemlocks and pine. It’s a very pretty valley. Very open with limited undergrowth and a large canopy, much like Sycamore Creek. We set up camp where Little Slickrock comes into Slickrock Creek.

We set up our tents, had an early lunch, and rigged up our rods. We hiked downstream toward Yellowhammer gap and got in the water around noon.

There wasn’t anything of significance hatching and I only saw one stonefly crawling around. I turned over several rocks and could only find very small nymphs (16-18. We fished for 4 hours and never even saw a fish, no rises, no spooks, nothing. I tried everything from Green Drakes and Stimulators to Pheasant Tails and Prince Nymphs. At about 4:30 we started hearing thunder in the distance and decided to go back to camp to rest and wait out a possible thunder shower. At 5:00 the skies opened up. For a good 90 minutes our tents were pounded with rain. I stayed dry in my BA seedhouse, but Dj’s MSR Hubba Hubba had a compromised seam. I sat there in my tent, a little dejected about our results, and read Harry Middleton talk about how trout are the most finicky creatures ever and how they demand certain things out of us to be caught and just plain live.
The rain stopped at 6:30, so I got out of my tent and went to survey the creek. The water level wasn’t much different, but the water had a lot of color. You couldn’t see the bottom of the pool next to our campsite that was so visible earlier in the day. I wondered what this change meant for the trout. With nothing better to do, I rigged up a double nymph rig and a yarn strike indicator and hit the trail. We went upstream from the campsite and crossed the creek at the first crossing. While waiting on the other side of the creek for Dj to cross, I eyed a nice deep hole at the tailing of a quick run. I made a good cast toward the bottom of the run, and my strike indicator went under. I let out a woo-hoo! like a small child opening a gift on chirstmas day.

It now started to thunder in the distance and sprinkle a little bit. I was worried that our luck was running short. At just about every good run, a good cast was producing at least a strike. You can tell it was starting to rain harder in these pictures since I had to put my rain jacket on.

I wish I had a better picture of this fish, because he was the biggest one I brought to hand and was colored up very nicely. All these fish hit a #12 Tellico Nymph that was hung about 30 inches below my indicator. Thanks to Hugh Hartstell for the recipie on his website, this one worked out well.


Grannyknot 05-16-2010 10:37 PM

The thunder got louder and closer, the rain was coming down harder, and we saw the flash of a lightning strike over the ridge, so we thought it best to give it a rest and get back to camp before we got ourselves into trouble.
Sunday morning came with clear skies, but the computerized voice on the weather band radio was calling for a change of scenery. Another storm, this one much bigger was set to roll through the area around noon. We rigged up our rods one last time for 30-45 minutes of fishing before we packed up and headed out. We got out on the river, barely downstream of camp and Dj immediately picked up a nice fish. After he released it, I moved up ahead of him to take my turn at a nice deep run. I peered over a boulder into the run and casted in. It drifted along for a few seconds and the indicator went down. I pulled but nothing was on the other end, so I thought it must have gotten hung for a second. I casted back in and it went under again. This time I had a big one on. I saw it turn and roll in the run like and alligator on a leash. I got up next to the rock I was crotched behind to see how I could get it to my hand. It was coming right for me and it was moving fast. It took off down a quick chute of water right beside my feet and I got a good glimpse of it. Easily the biggest wild fish I had ever hooked up with. It took off downstream with a fury like I had never seen. Meanwhile my drag was singing and I was doing my best impression of Brad Pitt chasing the fish downstream. Then I remembered why they call it slickrock creek. My foot went out from under me. I caught my balance, but when I did, I accidentally put tension on the line. The fish snapped my 6x tippet like it was 40 year old dental floss. I yelled expletives and Dj joined me in the profanity. Then I just laughed. My heart was beating so fast & hard you would think I just stabbed myself with my epinephrine injection. What the heck…I didn’t even have my camera with me. I wandered up the creek and caught one more small fish and decided to call it a day. We went back to camp and crammed all our wet gear in our backpacks and hit the stiffknee trail for the most humbling part of the trip.
The hike out wasn’t terrible. It gets pretty vicious around the saddle at little stiffknee top, but its no worse than the hike out of Deep Creek up to Newfound Gap Road.
I don’t thing Slickrock Creek is anything like it used to be, but I’m glad to see it is at least trying to make a recovery. The one thing that did bother me was the amount of trash we found in the backcountry. We packed out as much as we could handle, including a thermarest that looked like a bear had had its way with it. I think “disposable” water bottles are going to ruin this country. Maybe Aquafina or Dasani will have their own landfill one day.

Thanks for reading.

gmreeves 05-17-2010 09:31 AM

Great report about a stream I haven't fished in probably 10 years. I'm glad to hear that their are still fish swimming in it's waters but am upset about the trash found.

Noonan 05-17-2010 10:01 AM

Great report. Looks like there are some healthy fish in there even if the numbers are down. Thanks for posting.

Grannyknot 05-17-2010 01:46 PM

Heres a picture of all the trash we carried out.
And yes, that is a thermarest.

Wilson10 05-17-2010 02:09 PM

Nice report Cody. Wish you could have came to Troutfest with us Saturday, but I'm glad you all had a good trip. I've never been up into that area, but it looks beautiful from your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Knothead 05-17-2010 03:37 PM

Congrats on picking up the trash. I try to do that myself. I teach Hunter Education in Tennessee, Ethics and Responsibility. I tell the class to carry a couple of the plastic bags from the grocery. They don't weigh anything and can be wadded up and put in a pocket to be used later. BTW, great story! So much water, so little time.

Carlito 05-17-2010 04:27 PM

[QUOTE=Grannyknot;80597]The hike out wasn’t terrible. It gets pretty vicious around the saddle at little stiffknee top, but its no worse than the hike out of Deep Creek up to Newfound Gap Road.

Sounds like death march potential...

Glad you had a good trip... I'm jealous of those nice browns you caught!

$3Bridge 05-17-2010 09:46 PM

Those are some nice looking native browns there. I have always wanted to make that trek to Slickrock.

highstick 05-17-2010 10:32 PM

Your pictures take me back right away to that campsite and exact same tent set up. I made that trip for three spring breaks while in school and absolutely loved each time. Not that the fishing was overly spectacular or even good but something about that place still has me wanting to go back. The tree next to the fire pit has those two roots exposed and I would lay my therma rest between the two roots and against the tree and have a back woods lazy-boy. The Hike in is a cinch, bombing down hill all the way. The hike back up stiff knee, however, is a much different story.

Even a few years ago I found fishing to be much the same. Only a few fish caught each time but I did break off on a true giant as well, on a dry fly (Tennessee Wulf), on my last trip. My first trip I had great success on the last day on dries about a mile down stream from the camp. I also sat and watch a solid 18" fish in the tail of the large pool in front of the campsite one afternoon for at least 20 minutes, only to spook him on my first attempt.

Your pictures and story made my mind up. I am going back.

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