Saturday, June 29, 2019

Cataloochee creek

After a night of rain, we were hopeful for a dry day but the forecast indicated that we would be exposed to showers most of the day so we opted for fishing close to the vehicle where we could make a run for it if we needed.

The Hiram Caldwell House
We started by the stream that runs by the Caldwell house.  There were fish rising up under the foot bridge when we arrived.  Most were small and only nudged the dries we were drifting.  David managed to raise a decent wild rainbow under the foot bridge.

We continued up the stream, which looked very promising but we didn’t find many willing fish.  Thinking that someone had fished up in front of us, we decided to move on.

We then took a quick visit to the old chapel and took a look inside.  Palmer chapel is a very simple structure with wooden pews, and pulpit and windows to let light in.  It wasn’t hard to imagine the people who lived here worshiping God in simplicity.

We fished Cataloochee creek as it ran behind the chapel.  There wasn’t much of a gradient to speak of but the strong flow of the creek provided and endless series of pockets.  

We fished  dry dropper rigs and found wild rainbows that were willing to take both the dry and the dropper.  I was reminded once again how fast the trout in the Smokies are.  They will take a dropper and spit it out before you have time to react so you need to strike fast and firm.  I definitely missed more than I hooked.

GSNP wild rainbow
About half way through the afternoon the showers moved in and dumped a fair amount of rain.  By the time I got my camera covered and in my rain coat, I was quite wet.  Wet wading in the cool afternoon, along with the chill of being drenched sent us back to camp by late afternoon to get some dry clothes on and warm up.

Palmer House
After cooking some dinner, we stopped and observed a cow elk grazing along the road side around the barn of the Palmer house before heading to a longer pool.  As the evening darkness started to overtake the creek, a nice hatch of yellow sallies appeared.  I had a few fish bump my dry but I didn’t connect by David managed to hook a pretty brown.  As the darkness made it difficult to continue to fish we headed back to camp to rest up for the following day.

We expected the following day to be clear and a great opportunity to explore a long section of a higher gradient stream that David was interested in exploring.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The road to Cataloochee

crossing the Hudson
I've just returned from a week long fishing trip in Southern Appalachia.  David Knapp (The Trout zone/Troutzone anlgers) and I were able to camp and fish around Cataloochee NC in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for a few days.

crossing the Susquehanna
For those of you who are not familiar with the southern Appalachians, these are some of the most beautiful, ruggid and remote mountains in the east.  The thickness of the laurel and rhododendron that envelope these streams requires that the upper reaches be accessed by wading up the streams, crawling over rocks, boulders, and log jams.  Unfortunately, the introduction of the Asian woolly adelgid has killed a lot of the large hemlocks in the Park.  Those dying giants are then washed into the gorges creating massive log jams that can make navigating up these tight streams challenging.

One of a handful of PA browns
I left MA early in the morning, crossing the Hudson and the mighty Susquehanna rivers on my way to Bioling Springs.  I took a brief break in the afternoon in Boiling Springs PA to fish with my friend Brad.  We had meet a couple years ago and have stayed in touch via texts and phone calls but have not been able to fish together until this particular day.   We enjoyed a fine June afternoon, fishing one our favorite places on the Yellow Breeches together.  A few fish were caught between us before we had to part.

Two Pennsylvanians

My first view of the GSMNP
The next day’s drive took me past the Shenandoah mountains on my way to the Smokies.  

The road up the mountain and down into the Cataloochee Valley was an experience I won't soon forget.  The road climbs up and over a pretty steep mountain through a series of narrow switch backs.   

Pictures can’t convey the the experience of traveling this narrow dirt road as it snakes it's way along the edge of a very steep mountain and then down into the valley.  At times the road seems run dangerously close to some very steep descents into the valley below.

The Cataloochee Valley was once inhabited and the park service still maintains several houses, barns, a church, and a school house that serve as reminders of life in the valley in the early part of the 20th century.  These historic structures tell the story of a people who for generations called the valley home, making the thoughtful person question the human cost to preserve this beautiful landscape for future generations.

The road down into the valley
The first GSMNP brook trout of the trip

After setting up camp, I explored a nearby stretch of water for a couple hours while David made his way to camp.   

The creek was not a high gradient stream but there was plenty of water that was well beyond sight.  In water like this, I’ve found the dry dropper to excel and fish took both the dry and the dropper.   

We were fortunate to get the tents set up before rain came in overnight.

Stay tuned as I share pictures from our three days in the GSMNP and then my continuing trip to the Shenandoah National park.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Wild things, Wild Places

One of the things I love most about the Adirondacks is the wildness of the mountains. Even a short hike can bring you to some spectacular landscapes that have a very remote feeling to them.   Spring seems to heighten that sense when the rains have brought new life to the forest and the brooks are wildly tumbling down the mountains filling the gorges with their thunder.

This particular morning I met John and his friend Brad.  John recognized some of the areas I've fished from the pictures I've shared here and that began an email conversation that eventually led our meeting since we were both in the area.

John and Brad briefly removed their bug
nets for a quick photo
I had a hunch that a brook that I've fished a lot in years past, might be worth exploring with the wet fall and spring we've had in 2018 and 2019.  The previous years of drought were not kind to this brook or it's brook trout and I was curious if the recent turn in the weather had brought new life.

We met shortly after sun up and took a hike up the valley and dropped into the gorge.  Our first bushwhack turned out to be a miscalculation on my part and put us further downstream than I had planned.  We fished that stretch for a bit and then hiked back up, and headed further up the mountain to some plunge pools that I wanted to show John.  It takes some time and effort to seek out places like the one below but the effort is well worth it.

This is the place my mind takes me to when I think of the Adirondacks

From our brief survey, I was pleased to see that the brook trout population is rebounding.  Finding trout ranging in size from young of the year to a healthy size was encouraging.  In year's past, this stream has produced some of the largest and most colorful wild brook trout I've run across in the Adirondacks and I am hopeful that we will see a return.

The Ausable Ugly was the fly of choice once again

A classic Adirondack brook trout caught from this brook in 2012