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.