Saturday was calling for thunderstorms so we decided not to hike to far back in case it got bad. We arrived at the trailhead at Elkmont at about 8:00 and hiked in for about 35 minutes, around the first bridge. We caught up with some older gentleman on the way up and enjoyed a nice conversation with them for awhile. They said they had been fishing the park for over 30 years, back when you could drive up past Elkmont. They also shared with us that they would be nymphing with no indicator and splitshot. After hearing all of this information I was sure that a good day was in store for them. After getting to the water, the first thing that was noticed was once again how low and clear the water was. While this section of the river housed many deep pools, you could tell that the stream level was nowhere near the norm.
We got in the water and I rigged up with what I had used the day before: a stimulator with a SMBSH dropper. With the way the fish attacked the SMBSH the day earlier I figured that would be deadly on this stretch of water, but for some reason the fish didn't seem interested in the dropper. Instead, they seemed to always key in on the dry so I finally just clipped the dropper off. Fishing was consistently average much like the day before. While I didn't get a strike out of every good looking pool or lie, I was managing a strike every
little bit or so.
This was a nice stretch of the river to fish not only because of it's raw beauty, but because it really gives an angler the chance to use stealth to outsmart the fish, especially during a time of low water such as now. Giant boulders and plunge pools offer an excellent spot to hide behind while fishing the hole above you which is often at or near eye level. There is something about this tactic that gives an enormous sense of accomplishment when a trout is landed.
At the end of the day, I managed about 11 rainbows all off the stimulator. I did manage a nice sized 12" fish full of energy who put quite a fight up against my 4wt. Helios. Shawn, unfortunately, had a tough day and only managed a few strikes. Although most rainbows were in the 6"-8" range, you could tell the river definitely holds some nice sized rainbows and the opportunity to catch a large brown as well.
On the hike out, we met up with another couple anglers who pointed out this guy hanging on some tree limbs about 5' high. Although harmless, definitely will make me look up every now and then while hiking through the woods.
After returning back to the trailhead we met up with the same two fisherman that we walked in with, as well as another angler that was talking to them. We learned that all three had no luck at all. The two fisherman that we ran into on the hike out also reported no success. I figured that the low water was probably the culprit of the lack of fish. All in all it was a great trip and I found what is probably my new favorite piece of water. It offers everything I love about small stream fishing, the plunge pools and boulder hopping, just a little bigger with a decent chance at a good fish. I was pretty happy with the number of fish caught during such challenging conditions, but I can't wait to get back when there is more water to contend with.