sammcdonald--I love the thought that there are fewer of us who have "been there, done that" each year. There's considerable truth in that and I somehow find it heartening. As land within the Park reclaims, to an ever greater degree each year, the natural state which existed before the area was settled, it becomes tougher to get to lots of places.
Here are some random thoughts from someone who, I guess, qualifies as an "old timer" (although I've never really thought of myself in that way) which you triggered. However, there probably aren't a lot of people on this forum, or a lot of anglers in the Smokies, who have a full 60 years of fishing Park waters behind them as I do.
1. Places which used to be known as "fields," such as the Jenkins Fields on Deep Creek, have long since been completely reforested.
2. Most of the old railroad grades are now badly overgrown and virtually impassable on foot. For example, as a boy and young man I used the one on upper Straight Fork (above the "million dollar bridge") with some regularity. Last time I was in there, a couple of years back, I could barely even find it.
3. A good many names have changed. Mud Creek has become Kephart Prong, Kaiser Creek has become Ledge Creek, the Perry Gap Bend on Deep Creek is forgotten, etc.
4. There are far fewer smallouth in Park streams (or more accurately, there is much less mileage in Park waters holding smallmouths) than was once the case. I think cooler water because of more canopy is the explanation.
5. I doubt if there are 10 people alive and fishing who could locate the once famous Cathey Hole on Indian Creek, fewer still know the Hoye Hole, etc.
6. Backcountry campsites are known by numbers, when once all you heard them mentioned by was their name.
7. Fishing wet flies seems to belong to a world we have lost.
8. I haven't heard anyone, other than me, call a rainbow trout a California trout in decades, and the same holds true for calling browns German trout.
9. I actually asked a big audience of locals in Gatlinburg 18 months ago what they knew about Wiley Oakley. Other than knowing there was a drive named for him, no one could tell me much of anything. None knew his favorite song ("I'll Fly Away"), none knew about the little books he wrote, and only one knew that Gatlinburg was once known as White Oak Flats.
10. When was the last time you saw someone fishing (using flies) with a cane pole?
11. How many folks do you know who eat branch lettuce in early spring while on fishing trips?
12. When was the last time, other than in Little River, anyone caught a redeye (rock bass, goggle eye) in the Park?
13. How long do you suppose it has been since someone traveled the old manway from Cataloochee Ranch to Three Forks?
I could go on, but that's a baker's dozen contributions to nostalgia, a world we have lost. I just know I'm blessed to have been a part of it, and that's one reason there's so much history in my book on the Park. I firmly believe you can't truly know where you are going if you don't know where you have been, and I for one have been extremely fortunate to have been a lot of places in the Park and to have known a lot of grand fishermen from days gone by in the Park.
I think it was Hugh Hartsell who said, a few months back when the two of us and one or two others started waxing nostalgic, that we were sort of living history on this forum.
Maybe I've bored everyone by waxing philosophical, but if so, just give me thanks for providing a perfect antidote for insomnia.