Trout trip

Trout trip

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 23 October 2018

I am recently returned and currently recharged. My trip to the Smoky Mountains could not have been more enjoyable. Well, maybe the fishing could have been better, but I think that is on me, not the mountains.

It was such a pleasure to sit around a campfire and actually enjoy the heat produced. Sipping bourbon and replaying the day’s fishing with a good buddy added to the enjoyment. Sleeping in a tent and being rather comfortable even during the few moments of less than perfect weather was, in its own way, rather enjoyable too.

The quality of modern camping equipment and outdoor clothing, available to anyone with a computer and willing to spend the money, is simply impressive, and much, much different from the stuff I grew up using.

While mentioning modern technology, I have to admit we were guided to each of our destinations by an all-knowing voice emanating from my smartphone. It even suggested some fantastic southern barbeque locations for lunch. Instead of searching through intermittent radio channels of predominantly country music and religion (neither of which I appreciate being forced upon me), we were serenaded by a continuous downloaded stream of Blues, Jazz, and 70’s era alternate Rock. Up to date weather information was monitored and corresponding campsite reservations were made on the fly. While all of that makes for smooth sailing, it also removes much of the usual unknown, or maybe in other words, the feeling of adventure.

Because of my standard fishing trips require it, I have gotten into a habit of carrying a simple pocket compass. For kicks, on this last trip, I occasionally pulled it out and, before looking, let us both guess which way was north. Without plotting or monitoring the course our sense of direction was pathetic! While I appreciate how simple some things have become, I am not sure how I feel about the trade-off.

As to the fishing? Well, according to some folks who appeared to be locals, and definitely looked to have all the right equipment, I guess I did pretty good. I must say a small rainbow trout is truly a beautiful little creature. And they feel very different from the fish I am accustomed to holding. They are much colder (of course), but they are also quite dense and limp. I admit I admired each one at length, in the water, until they got tired of my adoration and split.

My biggest disappointment was with my inability to catch a fish of any significant size. I tried all sorts of things: dries, wets, and nymphs, sometimes all three at once. The most fun I had was on dry flies, although I caught the majority on subsurface flies.

On the first creek we fished, as I waded into the water, a yellowish insect that looked like an oversized mosquito descended awkwardly from a tree limb and lighted upon the surface. It immediately was consumed. I put on a spinner pattern I tied with the fur of a snowshoe hare foot (Thank you TZ!), and proceeded to get hit after hit. But, alas, that only lasted for a short distance at the bottom of the riffle. That pretty much ended my dry fly fishing, although I kept trying, maybe for too long.

The best number of fish came from a much different stream full of huge boulders and miniature waterfalls. The evening before, as we scouted the water, we stood on a footbridge and watched trout, much bigger than anything we would land the entire trip, happily feed. The next day, although I gave it my best shot, I could not catch a trout that would not fit between the fingers of one of my hands. Eventually, I gave in and just targeted the little guys. I put a heavy little bead head nymph tied on a 90-degree bend “jig” hook on a long tippet of 6X and reverted to my childhood of catching chubs in my backyard river. If you let the nymph settle to the bottom in the protected water behind a big boulder, next to the shore not out in the stream, and then lightly jigged it up toward the surface, the little guys would shoot out of their hiding spot and nail it.

Like I said, they were beautiful little fish, and they looked just like trout – only smaller.