The smoky mountains are synonymous with fly fishing for brook trout to me. When I go there, they are the only trout I wish to pursue. Not to say I wouldn't like to catch a brown in the park, or that I mind catching a rainbow here and there. My target is solely brook trout though. There is something special about getting away from the smell of burning breaks, cars speeding by, and hikers everywhere. Back in the backcountry, and up in the small headwater streams lives a native gem that most visitors to the park rarely see or even know about. Most are concerned with catching glimpses of bears, elk, or turkeys. I enjoy those too, but when I come to the park, I have one thing in mind: catching brook trout. You can find them holding in high altitude streams, swimming and sipping any unfortunate bug that lands on the surface of their pool, just like they have done for centuries. There is something magical about this. I don't know if it's my curiosity, or the sense of adventure, or the hunting-like stalking that makes this so much fun, but I love it!
I had been dying to fish the first stream that I fished in the park again, and decided this was the weekend. Before things get too crazy in the fall, I retreated to the mountains for some boulder hopping fun. I left at 1:30am to hopefully beat any locals that might have the same plans I did. Driving through the Ocoee and Nantahala gorges woke me up long before my coffee did, and the heavy fog was an added cheek pucker effect. I arrived just after daylight.
As I drove into the park, I stopped to watch the elk graze...
I continued on to the trailhead. I arrived to see that I was the first visitor and jumped out and humped it up the trail. It was almost cold up in the high altitudes, a welcome change from the Alabama heat. A few minutes later I arrived to where I would enter the stream. Once I stepped into the cold mountain water, every worry I had was left on the bank. This was about me and the brook trout.
As I fished up, things were slow. Which was expected as early as it was. I picked up mostly smaller rainbows, which I had never caught at this point. So, I decided to hike on up to a higher barrier (waterfall) and begin fishing there.
This should do it...
The next pool after climbing that waterfall, I cast into a likely holding spot and I brought to hand what I had come for.
I kept moving up, picking up several other small brook trout. I stopped every now and then just to look back and admire the beauty of the stream.
I came to a nice deep run that had some red fins swaying in the current. I could tell it was a nice sized speck.
I made numerous frugal attempts and fooling him and even changed flies a few times. Most people will tell you that brook trout are easy to catch, as long as you don't spook them (a challenge in itself). I tend to agree, but this fish was every bit as picky as a large brown. I tied back on the original fly and either out of frustration or finally getting a good drift, he slammed it!
This guy was dressed in his Sunday best already and is probably one of the most beautiful and bigger brookies I have caught.
After a few quick snaps, I sent him back to hopefully be caught by someone else....
I had used an old snuss tin I found as a fly box for this trip. I layed some magnetic sheeting on the bottom to hold my nymphs, and packed the dries in on top. I was considerably lighter than my small Cliffs fly box, and smaller.