Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountains

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 7 November 2017

I’m back from my humbling yet exceptional trout fishing trip up to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If trips are graded on the number or size of the fish caught, well… thankfully they are not! Truth is I am almost clueless on how to catch trout, and I proved it, but I do know when I am enjoying myself, and without a doubt, I had a blast.

Actually, on the first night, at our “last supper” as we called it, when we were in this historic old Inn and enjoying their delicious dinner (and maybe the fine beer from the local microbrew a bit too much), I found myself out of breath and unable to talk since I was laughing so hard at a funny story I was recounting. Obviously, I can crack myself up. I don’t even remember if my fishing partner was laughing or not, just that I was, already, probably having too good of a time. I usually try to refrain from making a public spectacle of myself, but the fact that the dining room was packed with a full complement of stodgy old grey haired yacht club types only made the situation that much more hysterical.

As to the fishing, I could offer a number of excuses. I had been warned that the fishing might be tough as the area had suffered through weeks of record-breaking hot weather. Additionally, the day before we arrived, the area received another record-breaking event, this time it was rainfall – more in 24 hours than had ever been recorded. Personally, I think the temperature drop during our stay might have put the fish off a bit too. I know that it had an effect on me because, at home, I had become accustomed to waking up to temperatures approaching 80 degrees F, and the 50-degree drop was a bit of a shock. But, after all that, I have to believe the fact that leaves were dropping by the tons probably had the most effect. Not only was the surface of the stream littered with multicolored patches of nature’s famous autumnal flotsam, but underwater the sunken leaves were taking up a good percentage of the water volume too. If I were a trout I probably would have been in hiding.


I did catch a handful though, some on nymphs and some on drys. I started with nymphs as that is what was suggested, but not doing so well I switched. When the surface did not produce very well either I wanted to go back, so not knowing what to do, I split the difference and put a nymph on a dropper under a caddis, and that is how I spent most of my time. The funny part was that when I expected the nymph to work, they ate the caddis, and when I thought the dry would work, well… you probably can guess what caught. We did meet one other camper and fly angler who reported some luck and seemed to have a better idea of what to do. We saw no local anglers at all. We had the streams all to ourselves. I expect the locals stayed away because the entire area was packed with large RVs having descended en mass upon the area for the annual visual spectacle of the hills turning color. Few moved more than a dozen feet from their RVs and none were found on the trails.


When trudging back on one trail, I came across that one angler and I’m not going to deny that I stopped and watched. No, I did not hide, well not exactly! It turns out he was swinging streamers downstream on a sinking line. Go figure. I had neither.


I relied on bow and arrow casts and roll casts for the majority of my fishing. I seldom had more than one rod length of flyline outside the tip, but by lengthening my leader to around 16’ I seldom needed more. It was a very different but interesting tactical challenge. I was using a 9’ 5wt with a DT4F line. I have an 8’ 4wt rod, but it is a 2 piece blank and would not pack as easily as the 4 piece 5wt. Although I think the 5 was a bit too much rod for the smallish trout.


Aside from the fishing, the trip was an absolute delight. I believe I am most comfortable when sitting in front of the glowing red embers of a warmth-giving campfire, and as Robert Traver explained many years ago, “bourbon from an old tin cup always tastes better out there”. Mine is stainless steel, but I cannot disagree.


Hiking through the woods, sleeping in a tent and needing the warmth of a sleeping bag, or quilt in my case, was novel and appealing. Seeing new wildlife, like munching groundhogs or high tailing chipmunks and scolding squirrels was very different from my usual watery tropical Everglades. Not to mention the elk herds and lazily grazing turkey which apparently had no concern about Thanksgiving being only a month away. It was all a very welcomed change of pace, and one I expect to savor on many future expeditions. I may even, someday, learn how to catch a few more trout.


I have included a couple photos. For the trip, I purchased a new camera and I took the advice from others here on SL and went with an Olympus TG Tough, the newest release, a number 5. I am pretty happy with it. It is a bit larger than the old Pentax Optio I lost, but otherwise, I expect, like when casting high-end flyrods, with this equipment it will always be my talent that is the limiting factor.NC#1 RSFSL NC#2 RSFSL NC#3 RSFSL NC#4 RSFSL NC#5 RSFSL NC#6 RSFSL