Sunday, July 14, 2019

GSMNP - Day Three

Day 3 was my final day in Smokies.  We fished a stream near the camp in the morning and early afternoon hours and found the nicest brown of the trip which was willing to take a dry fly. 

By early afternoon, I had caught a brown, brook trout and rainbow.  The fish in this particular stream were exceptionally fast and even when you were alert and ready, they picked up the fly and spit it out before you could even react!

David sneaking up a small tributary and finding a small wild brown

My plans originally were to camp the last night and then leave for Shennandoah the next morning but a quick trip to the local laundromat and a check of the weather suggested leaving early was a better option.  I hustled back to camp, packed up, and drove to Johnson city TN to spend the night.  The next morning it was raining pretty good so I guess I made a good call.   The drive north from Asheville NC was one of the prettiest drives of the trip and one I won't soon forget.

Saturday, July 6, 2019


Day 2 looked like  it was going to be a clear, and perfect for a long day of wading upstream a small mountain stream.

David thought I would like the second creek we explored since it had a decent gradient.  We heartily enjoyed a full day fishing and climbing up a mountain stream that tumbled down among thick laurel and rhododendron under a canopy of tall hardwoods and hemlock.  Several times we needed to climb over some pretty impressive hemlock log jams.

We fished dry/droppers the whole way up and caught wild rainbows and brook trout on both flies.  The higher up we got the bigger the fish got.  Near the end of the day, David hooked the best brook trout of the trip, an impressive specimen for a small mountain stream.

David with a fine GSMNP brook trout!

Lunch break

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Brook trout and Black Flies

When I think about Spring in the Adirondacks, I think of two things only one of which is a pleasant thought; brook trout and black flies.

The trout season is now open in the mountains and it was good to be out on a turbulent high gradient mountain stream again.  I missed fishing these waters since my last venture in the fall.  With the move and all that is new in our lives, it was good to be in a familiar, wild place again; the sound of tumbling singing once again to my soul.

my spring favorite - bluets

I was up very early to fish the first few hours of daylight for one primary reason, to avoid the black flies.  In the open areas of the forest the bluets were out in force with the occasional white trillium.

Fishing so early in the morning with the high waters of spring meant the dry fly wasn't going to be that productive but I still tried for a little before I resorted to the Ausable Ugly.  The version with a orange hot spot found a few willing takers in the early hours.

By the time the sun's rays were filtering through the forest, I was off the stream and on my way home thanking for a couple hours of peace and quite that were relatively bug free.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Stripahs on the fly

I am a Pennsylvanian, born and raised where trout fishing was king.  As I kid, we would occasionally visit the shore but never fish there.  Since moving to MA, everyone around here talks about fishing for Striped bass.  Not know a thing about fishing tidal water, I was hoping to tag along with a friend who could help me get started.  When my old neighbor from CT called and asked if I would like to join him on Cape Cod to fish for Stripers, I said WHEN!

Mike is also from Pennsylvania, so after a fair bit of ribbing about the sacrilege of fishing anything but sweet water, we made plans to meet up early in the morning later that week.  My wife thought I had really lost my marbles when I told her that I was getting up at 3 am to go fishing.  Mike was gracious enough to provide some flies and he thought I could get by with my 5/6 Spey rod.

We met on Cape Cod at 5:30 in the morning.  Mike made some calls to other guys he knew that were fishing in the area and he picked the spot to fish the incoming tide.  We were fishing an estuary that was about 1/2 mile from the Atlantic Ocean.  I was amazed at all the wildlife around us.  I watched a small crab making his way along the bottom and later a pair of horseshoe crabs that were cruising along the bottom.  There was lots of bird life as well.

Mike's first fish

Mike's son Dave was the first to hook up followed by Mike and before long I had my first striper on the fly.   We had pretty steady action on schoolies until the tide turned.

We stopped for a bit and had some breakfast and checked out another location but the wind was blowing too hard directly into our faces so we re-grouped and headed back to our first location.

Using the two hander

Mike reached out to another friend who was fishing on the other side of the inlet from us.  Phil said they were doing pretty well so we headed over and did really well on the incoming tide.

My first linesider

Phil caught the best fish of the day while we were there.  We all caught a handful which included my best fish of the day that I caught on the 7wt single hander.  This fish was a bit stronger then the others and ran hard after being hook and peeled line of the reel, making me wonder if I had brought a knife to a gun fight.  I eventually gained the upper hand.

My best fish of the day in the rain

Phil with the best fish of the day

I had a blast! and learned a lot from those who were fishing with us.  A special thanks to Mike and his friends for introducing me to Stripah fishing.