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Old 12-12-2011, 02:44 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Default Your most treasured park fishing memory

Things have been mighty quiet on the Forum of late. Perhaps because of recovery from too much Thanksgiving gustatory delight, too little fishing, or Christmas preparations. At any rate, while musing about past delights I have experienced in the Park over the years, along with browsing some of Fred Turner's latest maps with an eye to suggestions for improvements, a thought came to mind. I'd love for lots of you to share your most treasured fishing memory in the Park. After all, December is a time to remember.

In that spirit, I'll share two, and looking at Fred's Deep Creek map brought them to mind. The first dates back a full six decades and involves the first trout I ever caught on a fly. It was near the Bryson Place, the fish was all of 7 3/4 inches in length, and it obviously needed to be taken out of the gene pool since I never saw the strike, the fly was likely dragging, it hooked itself, and I "played" it with all the finesse of a rampant hippopotamus. Still, I brought it to hand and I can still take you to the precise pool today (and it came out of the gene pool, duly dressed up in a corn meal dinner jacket).

The second is more poignant and not so intensely personal. It involved a multi-night camping trip on Deep Creek, covering the stream from the Hwy. 441 trailhead all the way down, changing camps daily as we went. Frank already had serious heart trouble and didn't fish a lot, but he shared a world of wonder around campfires, taught me a lifetime's knowledge of brown trout in four days of fishing, and reminded me in the most moving of fashions how the fishing is only part of it. He was a great man and fisher of men who served his country in both World War II and the Korean War, then came home to the Smokies, as he put it to me, "to fish and find his soul." He did that in a way which is an enduring testament to all that is good and gracious about both fishing in the Smokies and what it was like to be a member of the aptly described "greatest generation."

Maybe some day I'll share, in even fuller detail than I do in my book on the Park, the simple genius of this man who was what Kephart described as "branch-water people" and yet was a truly inspirational individual.

One other thought, a bit early as I try to jump-start things. Merry Christmas to one and all and fond wishes for tight lines and fine times in 2012.
Jim Casada
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Old 12-12-2011, 02:54 PM
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David Knapp David Knapp is offline
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Great topic Jim! I'll have to give this one some thought...the Park has provided so many memories to be thankful for over there years that its hard to narrow it down...
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Old 12-12-2011, 03:10 PM
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BlueRaiderFan BlueRaiderFan is offline
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Mr. Casada,

Thank you for sharing. I always love reading your stories. I guess for me the two would be my first trout at the gravel parking lot up above Tremont. I caught it on a nymph and was high sticking but didn't even know it (well, the rod tip was high because I kept getting caught up, not exactly high stickin). The other would be the large trout I had on earlier this year (or was it late last year? My memory is terrible). I've never had a trout on that big in the park and only one bigger on the Caney Fork. It came out from an undercut bank and nailed my nymph. I set the hook and he ran upstream into some really rough water that was coming down into a pool from about 3-4 ft above and he jumped around a few times trying to get up the small waterfall...then he ran down into the pool and just stayed there...that's when I made the mistake of trying to pull him to hand against the current on 5X tippet...had I pulled him with current and toward the bank I may have gotten him to hand. I still say he was at least 20" but have no way to prove it. Anyway, that's my two.
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Old 12-12-2011, 03:50 PM
Knothead Knothead is offline
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Many years ago, I had the opportunity to fish the Park during the week on a day off. I asked the president of our TU chapter what he recommended. He directed me to another member. Rick said, "Tremont" without hesitation. He then explained it was the Middle Prong and gave me directions. I lost my first fish which seemed to be a decent size (aren't all lost fish a decent size?). I fished several different places that day. The final tally- 5 rainbows, 4 browns, 2 brookies. I was later told by a guide that I had an exceptionally good day. A grand slam! I'm going to keep trying to duplicate that day. Oh yes, all were caught on an elk hair caddis.
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Old 12-12-2011, 06:24 PM
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Rog 1 Rog 1 is offline
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I have been fishing in the Park for 51 years....how to choose....I can still take you to the exact little plunge pool on a side channel in Porter's Creek where I caught my first trout...then there was the deep channel on the LR beyond the Goshen Prong where I lost the biggest rainbow I ever hooked and was chastised by my grandfather for the profanity the event evoked....then there is the 16" bow on WPLP and the 14" brown on LR above Elkmont caught on my Orvis one ounce rod...but the one event that stands out above all of these is the chest thumping my son engaged in when he bested me for the first time while fishing Straight Fork in NC...makes a Dad proud.
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Old 12-12-2011, 08:04 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Rog1--I imagine most of us remember our first trout on a fly, and your memories, like mine, stretch back a good while. Of course I can also vividly remember my first squirrel, first rabbit, first grouse, first quail, first deer, first turkey, etc. In most cases (though not the rabbit), I could go back to the precise place even today.
Jim Casada
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Old 12-12-2011, 08:39 PM
lauxier lauxier is offline
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Several years ago,My wife,daughter,and yours truly made a last minute decision to spend Christmas,in a rented cabin,hopefully with a view,somewhere in the Great Smoky Mountains.We obtained a nice cabin,there were lot's available.The cabin was nice enough and equipped with an Christmas tree and Santa decorations.On Christmas eve,I got my stuff together and went into the park to fish.I went to the upper most part of tremont.It began to snow,3 or 4 inches,in about 30 minutes.The sun popped out from behind the clouds.It was all kind of surreal.As beauty goes,it was like being in some kind of glistening heaven.I came to the Smoky's with my wife and daughter,hoping to find Christmas but I was really trying to run from grief.The truth is,I(we,my brother and sisters) had recently buried my Mom(My Dad was already gone).I took pictures of that snowy day and as I got in my truck I realized greiving for the the "Loved Lost" is good...as for the fishing...I caught a couple of fightin' rainbows..4 inchers I think...it was very memorable..
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Old 12-12-2011, 09:22 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Lauxier--Thanks for sharing a poignant and powerful memory. What a grand reminder, to all of us, that the fishing is only part of it. This will be my first Christmas without my father, who died this past January aged 101, and even though his was an exceedingly long and full life, I know I'll struggle. Your sharing helped more than you can possibly know, because it serves as needed reminder of the fact that we always have loved ones in our memories.
The fact that my father introduced me to fly fishing is an integral part of that warmth I carry in the storehouse of my heart.
Jim Casada
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Old 12-12-2011, 10:59 PM
Crockett Crockett is offline
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Catching my first trout on a fly rod is my memory. I had no lessons and was basically self taught. I tried for weeks to catch a trout in the Smokies to no avail. Then on a trip to Hazel Creek with my friend Matt we fished for 2 days. I had no luck still hadn't ever caught a trout. We were camping at Sugar Fork and I went off just upstream of the campsite around the first bend where Hazel Creek has a long straight stretch with riffles. I didn't know what I was doing so I tied a prince nymph on and just kept letting out line and letting that fly go drifting way the heck downstream then when I about got to the backing I would reel it all in and start over haha. On one of these "hail mary trolling" runs I actually had a brown trout take it. I reeled it in and it was the most beautiful 6" brown trout. So my first trout on the fly rod was a brown trout on Hazel Creek I will never forget that nor the spot right above cs 84.
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Old 12-12-2011, 11:13 PM
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David Knapp David Knapp is offline
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Before I even understood how to go about catching any trout, I dreamed of catching big browns. Early in my fly fishing career, I was doing good to scare up a small rainbow or two, but that didn't stop me from hoping for something more special.

One day, my dad (who usually drove me to the park to fish) had taken me fishing. He never actually fished but was the first one to take me fishing when I was 4 or 5 and almost the only one who ever took me before I was able to drive myself. This particular day was a beautiful early June day. We had explored several areas, but I was not having particularly good luck with just a few small rainbows to hand (from Tremont if I remember correctly).

As sunset was approaching, we stopped at one last pullout, this time on Little River. My dad was tired and decided to stay in the car. When I started driving myself, I came to understand why people would be tired late in the day, but at this point I was blissfully unaware. I trekked down a dim but short path to the stream and began tossing a yellow Stimulator.

I worked my way to the head of the pool and was casting in the pocket immediately above the main hole when I first saw the flash of gold. A nice brown came out and circled furiously around my fly before disappearing back under the white froth. Two more casts produced similar results and then the brown seemed to have vanished for good. Desperate measures would be needed.

Recalling how I had enticed a big Abrams Creek rainbow by dancing the fly on the surface during a hatch, I contemplated a similar trick. The big Stimulator was soon skittering across the surface and almost immediately the brown reappeared, charging through the water towards my now tantalizing fly. One last mighty twitch brought the intended result. I was now attached to what I then viewed as a monster.

Carefully battling the fish down through the pool, I finally brought it close enough to land. The 14 inch brown was heavier than many similar sized fish I have since caught. I will always remember that first nice brown even though I now dream of fish measured in pounds and reaching well over twenty inches. That fish was a major accomplishment to me as I am mostly self-taught, and at this point in my fishing career wondered if I would ever catch anything over 10 inches.

I have many other amazing memories from the Park. In fact, that is one thing that I love so much about it. Every trip gives me a special memory, and that is the way it should be. As soon as it becomes common or everyday, then it will no longer be the magical place that it should. I still get excited the night before a fishing trip and hope that will never change...
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