The girls and I drove up to what has become our second home lately - the Smokies. We were up twice in June, and couldn't get enough. We have to take advantage of the girls' summer vacation - it's tough to do anything once school gets its hooks into them, along with all the extra-curriculars.
We left bayou country early Saturday morning, and we headed for LRO to stock up on a few yellow flies before heading for Maggie Valley. We decided to fish the North Carolina side, as the last time the levels looked a little better on that side, not to mention what rain the mountains have been getting has been mostly falling over there. I was too tired to fish any on Saturday, so we got a good night's sleep and hit Straight Fork. Last month, the temperatures were perfect, and they remained perfect this time...right around 61 degrees.
In places, the flow looked stronger than last time - in other areas, it looked a little lower. We bounced all around the stream, and I must have had at least 15 hits....which translated into a below-the-Mendoza-line average of .133 - two fish, a brookie and a bow. I missed the hookset in just about every way possible. We left late in the afternoon, got some pizza, then drove over to Cataloochee to look at the elk. While there, I tried a few casts at the mouth of Palmer Creek, had two nice hits from the same fish, and, you guessed it, missed him both times.
On Monday, we went to Ghost Town in Maggie Valley. It was fun, but I don't know if it was worth the $$$. We headed back for Straight Fork late that afternoon, where my oldest caught the same disease I acquired the day before - she had 9 hits, and nothing to hand. Meanwhile, I couldn't buy a strike. To add insult to injury, it rained on us, and the stream rose and became a bit off-colored. Just before it became too dark too see, I tried one last spot, just inside the park boundary. I saw one interesting pocket, and tossed the brightest yellow fly I had in the fading light. Sure enough, I saw the fish rise and sip it in - a nice little brown. The stink was off.
The next day, we went back to Cataloochee. I caught a nice bow right off the bat, then missed a few others. Then, I managed to catch this little beauty:
I found it interesting that I caught this brookie where I did. Every book I have on the area says to head higher up for the specs. Last month, I was able to catch all three species on Straight Fork within yards of each other - this month, another stream, and similar results. While I realize this is hardly scientific proof, but perhaps this is an indication that the brookies are finally adapting and co-existing with the other species, moving lower into the streams. Let's hope so - I love the variety, the mystery as to which species will hit next.
We checked out the motel and started back for home on Wednesday. We planned on fishing in the Kephart Prong area for a bit, but the rain was a bit strong. I decided to drive on, and sure enough, we ran out of the rain on the Tennessee side. I pulled in to one of the parking areas, and we headed for the West Prong of the Little Pigeon. I had never fished that stream, but it sure fit the descriptions I had read; massive boulders, and one deep plunge pool after another. The water was incredibly clear, and I was able to spot a number of trout in their holding positions. I had a few hits, but nothing solid. I changed my tippet down to 7x, and fished "one more pool" before we had to go. Sure enough, I had a vicious rise, and after a very eventful struggle, brought a very nice 10 inch bow to hand. While that might not sound like big news, it was a personal best as far as wild trout go for me, and it put up a great fight on my 2wt. On that note, we left. On the way, I drove along Little River, and headed up to Tremont, just to take a look. The stream has seen better days, as you all know. I took the temperature well into the gravel, and at mid-day it was 70 degrees - not a good number. It's amazing to see the difference between the two sides of the park - the streams are really hurting on the Tennessee side. From my standpoint, it is particularly painful to see; my first trout in the Smokies came from Tremont, and I prefer to fish that side because it is that much closer to home. Let's all hope that the recent uptick in rainfall continues, and the streams on the Volunteer side improve in health.