We just got back from our latest trip to the park. Normally, I wouldn't plan a trip up there on a holiday weekend, but with circumstances at work being what they are, I had to take advantage of a three day weekend (plus an extra travel day, so I wouldn't be so tired when I got back). The original plan was for me to work out of the house the day before, and to get on the road by about 2PM or so...well, plans changed - I had to go to the wonderful capital of the Great State of Louisiana on some business for my company, and I couldn't get home until late in the afternoon, so we didn't get on the road until close to 10PM. I made a lot of stops for quick snoozes, including the Tennessee welcome center on I-24, where we had a bizarre experience. We were coming out of the center, and were back in the car and buckled up, when an old man rapped on my window. He said something about his wife trying to get my attention, and that he needed to get to Grady Medical Center in Atlanta for some sort of emergency transplant, but was out of gas money. I was a bit groggy and wasn't sure what to think, so I gave the man a $20. He got in his car, and his wife hit the gas...his car did look pretty crummy, but the way they took off made me wonder if I was jobbed out of a "croaker". I thought about following them to see if they really made the turn down 75 to Atlanta, but I couldn't keep up...oh well, it's only money.
We drove up to Cosby, which was as packed as I have ever seen it - tons of picnics, and the campground looked pretty full too. That didn't bother me, but the sight of a carload of guys with flyrods getting started did. The rods looked way too heavy for that stream, but it didn't matter - I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder for them, so I decided that we would check in at our motel in Newport instead. We got a swim in, and a bite to eat, and came back that evening. We paired up, with daughter #1 going with #3, and #2 went with me. We went fairly high up the stream - the water was pretty low, but was nice and cool. There were a lot of stretches that held good locations when the water was higher that were dry or too shallow. I hit a pool about the size of a dinner table, and got an immediate strike from a substantial fish. I was a bit surprised to pull up an 8-inch rainbow - he was no doubt the king of that pool, and the terror of the brookies that normally dominate that stretch of stream. I released it as more or less a reflex action; afterwards, I wish I hadn't. David Knapp, on his excellent blog (/thetroutzone.blogspot.com/) recently posted about this very situation - a rainbow in brookie country, and whether it would be better to remove such fish...perhaps even have an "open season" on certain designated spec streams. Anyway, I wish I had saved him for the grill.
A little while later, daughter #2 pulled in this fine fellow:
I picked up a few brookies, then we met up with my other girls. It turns out my oldest smoked me - she fished a little lower down, and apparently had the Midas touch, with 7 specs and a bow. She slayed them with the foam yellow neversink stonefly, which turned out to be the go-to pattern for the rest of the trip.
On Saturday, we slept in a bit, then decided to play tourist by going to the aquarium in Gatlinburg. We come up so often - about 7 times a year or so - and we own property in Cosby, so in many ways we don't think of ourselves as tourists...although we are living out of a suitcase while we're here. It was pretty nice, although I think the admission price is a bit steep. In the main tank, along with the sharks, exotic reef fish, and sea turtles, were a couple of fish that reminded us of home - a small tarpon (about 50lbs) and a nice 18 inch "rat red" (redfish). The display mentioned that the redfish were making a recovery from the decimation they experienced during the blackened redfish craze - a bit inaccurate, as they have long since recovered and then some...in fact, a lot of commercial crabbers are cursing their recovery - a red will cross dry land to get to a crab.
Afterwards, we went to Greenbrier and fished the MPLPR. I had only fished this area once before, and that was in February, which was hardly a fair trial. We went to the Ramsey Cascade trailhead, only to find the parking area full (again, no surprise)...so, we went a bit downstream and started. This time, I paired up with daughter #3, and she was rewarded with her first Smokies trout, a nice little rainbow:
I picked up about 10 in a short stretch of stream, and it was the foam stonefly which did the trick again. My other daughters did well, too. They wanted to get in their daily swim, so I dropped them off at the hotel and went back out on my own. I went back to Cosby, since it was close and I wanted to maximize my time. I wanted to see how quickly I could fish a stretch of stream, maximizing my efficiency and avoiding marginal areas. However, mother nature had other plans, as some much needed rain fell. It was only about a 30-minute shower, but I had to stop while it was going on, since it was too hard to see my fly during it. I got soaked, but that was no big deal. I tried a few ant patterns after the rain, but didn't get any takers, and soon was back on the foam. I picked up 10 or so specs...one of them thought he was a bonefish, because he took off on a straight fast run instead of burrowing down and shaking his head. Another one I caught was painted in the brilliant colors normally associated with the spawn - I wish I had snapped a picture.
Sunday, we checked out and went over to the NC side of the park. We fished Straight Fork, which I love but daughter #1 hates - she hasn't caught much there, while I've done pretty well there. She hasn't caught a brown yet, and the lower stretches before it leaves the park are dominated by them. I ended up with 4 of them, none of them monsters, but nice fish...this time, the neversink was outfished by a yellow parachute adams, which always seems to produce for me there. Again, my oldest was skunked - you could see the smoke pouring out of her ears. We headed over the mountains to the WPLPR. We each picked up one rainbow - we didn't get many hits between us...perhaps we were fishing "used" water. My daughter had my camera, and took this picture of a very dark rainbow:
We ended up at Elkmont. The kids were amazed at the sight of the "spooky" abandoned camps. I quickly picked up one rainbow, then started getting hits at just about every decent spot...I said hits, not fish, as I missed the hookset over and over. I was definitely a half-beat off, no doubt I was getting tired. So were the kids...daughter #3 disturbed a bumblebee, and was stung on the finger and, of all places, her upper lip. Poor thing - it swelled up so much she looked like Lisa on "The Simpsons". Understandably, she was freaking out, so we had to call it a trip then. It was the first time she had been stung by anything, and fortunately she didn't have any other reactions...the swelling was gone in a few hours. We headed down the road a ways, then crashed for the night. Today, I was able to have a nice, rested, leisurely drive home (instead of getting in at 4AM like last time). On the way home, I got off I-59 (that stretch in Mississippi has to be one of the most boring roads around) and explored some back roads in South Mississippi; after Katrina, I'm always looking for new escape routes - back then, I took every back road I could think of, and still ran into traffic leaving the coast. I think I found a way that's so desolate, no one will think of it in case we ever have to leave again...and I might take it on our next trip to the Smokies.
PS - We weren't able to swing by LRO this time, due to our location, etc. I wanted to thank Daniel for the excellent service in repairing daughter #1's 2wt in very rapid time.