Showing posts with label Great Smoky Mountains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Great Smoky Mountains. Show all posts

January 18, 2021

Labor Day Weekend in Cherokee

Note: This post was originally a longwinded Facebook post from September 7th, 2020, but since I went trout fishing so infrequently in 2020, I figured that I should re-post it here. If nothing more than to be able to find it again in the future, as Facebook isn't so good for things like that.

Labor Day Weekend in Cherokee

Heading into the long weekend I was sort of nudged by KC to head for the hills. To go back to the mountains, enjoy the outdoors, and take advantage of that last moment of summer freedom before everything gets crazy on the work front. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I headed to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Now it being a holiday weekend, I knew going in the park was going to be crawling with people. I tried to find a last minute campsite to no avail, so instead stayed at a motel. I suppose with COVID, people are less keen to stay in hotels. It was probably the right choice anyway as in passing the KOA, it looked like the infield of a NASCAR race. RVs everywhere and no social distancing going on whatsoever. No shortage of Confederate flags either... 

Mountain towns are great. I stayed in Cherokee, which is probably on the medium to larger side of a southeast mountain town, but nowhere near the over the topness of say Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. For those that live on the coasts, equate them to a kitschy beach town. (For my Philly friends, Wildwood). Same flavor, different location.

You get a lot of tourist trap roadside attractions, (such as Santa's Land Fun Park & Zoo, where you can pet grizzly cubs - did we learn nothing from the Tiger King?). Most of them in Cherokee are Native American themed (for obvious reasons). Let me tell you there were no shortages of places to buy "real Indian moccasins"... The mini golf looked fun though, I was tempted to grab a putter.

Finding food was a bit of a challenge since most of the local eateries are dine-in establishments like pancake houses and "country kitchen" restaurants. As such, for those that wanted to remain distanced, the drive-thrus at the local Wendy's & Burger King were overwhelmed. 

I tried the BK drive thru on Saturday night. The poor kid at the window had to explain to everyone that their soda and ice cream machines were both down. You could only order like Coke, Dr. Pepper, and Sprite. Wondering how those flavors worked, I ordered a Dr. Pepper and rolled up to the window only to see another kid coming out of the back clutching 6 2-liter bottles of soda in his arms and cracking into one of them to pour my drink. I felt so bad, but couldn't help but laugh. It was probably funnier in person. The ice machine worked though!

Fishing was pretty fun. While most people crammed the banks of the Onconoluftee & Raven Fork Rivers outside the park to catch recently stocked fish (for real, it was bonkers, it looked like opening day crowds back home in PA), I went more off the grid and pursued a bunch of small, wild rainbow trout in three different streams inside the park. 

Fishing in those places is pretty fun, it's a full body workout as you have to hop over rocks and boulders to make your way up the creek. Successfully leaping from rock to rock I kept shouting "PARKOUR" in my head. Although I'm sure from afar I looked nothing like those cool viral YouTube videos... Maybe more like Michael, Dwight, & Andy in The Office...

Oh, and there were elk! All the times I've been to GSMNP I've never seen the elk. They were everywhere this time. That was cool. 

After elk viewing I stopped at a picnic area to make a PB&J lunch and a tour bus full of Amish people showed up. Suddenly I was surrounded by bonnets and suspenders. It was very surreal. I would have taken a picture, but I don't think they go for that. But then again, I wouldn't have thought they'd ride around in a tour bus either.

Anyway, after an eight hour drive last night I'm back home now. Hope everyone is enjoying a well deserved Labor Day wherever you're at! Eat an extra burger or dog and drink an extra beer tonight. You deserve it! 🍔🌭🍺

August 19, 2019

Stompin' Around The Park

Seven hours in the car can be a long time. But it's time well spent if you have something to look forward to.

With K.C. & Lilly choosing to go do Walt Disney World for the weekend, and me opting to stand pat on my stance to not visit the mouse in the summer heat (remember, we live two hours away, so we go frequently, and it's not a big deal), I was looking at a "bachelor" weekend. Not keen on staying put in Jacksonville, I packed up the car and headed north to the mountains, where it was at least ten degrees cooler and home to some trout.

Making the time pass on such a long drive can be a difficult chore. I had already listened to most of the regular podcasts in my queue over the course of the work week, so an audiobook kept me locked in and time moving at least a little faster. The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie Jr. transported me West, even though geographically, I was pointing North. Yes, I've still got that case of wanderlust.

Arriving at my accommodations around 11 PM, it was time to get some sleep. I was intending on an early morning.

The alarm on my phone went off far too soon, but the sun was coming up and I was eager to get on the water. I hopped in the car and headed over to a favorite stream on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One might have called it chilly that morning. It probably wasn't, but coming from Florida, your internal thermometer can be a bit "off." Donning a light jacket, I descended down into the shade of the stream. The water looked great, moving swiftly, but not too fast nor high to be problematic.

It only took a few casts to find one of its residents.

This continued on repeat for several hours. Plunge pool after pocket after calm run. There were so many areas that were the likely home of a brown, rainbow, or brook trout, although I only found two of the three species.


It felt good. Really good.

Not realizing the time, I glanced at my phone and was surprised to see it was approaching 4 PM. I had been fishing for more than seven hours, but it didn't seem nearly as long as the drive up from Florida. I suppose focusing on reading water, casting to, and landing fish makes the time melt much faster than an audiobook.

A few quick notes about some of the gear at hand. I used the Oni Type III tenkara rod for much of the day, although I did switch over to the Nissin Royal Stage 320 for a bit, just because I enjoy that rod as well. Both cast a 3.0 Dragontail level line beautifully. Much like swapping rods, I also swapped flies, just to see if it mattered, (it didn't). Most of the fish were caught on a beadhead Road Kone kebari, but I also caught some on a Creekside Peacock & Hen Pheasant, some Three Rivers Coulee Killer nymphs, as well as a buggy black wet fly that Graham Moran gave me at the recent Tenkara Summit. I don't recall what he called it but it was a simple black thread bodied fly with some black, swept back rooster hackle. It seemed to be a rainbow trout magnet, particularly when twitched out of the white foam of a plunge pool.

Out of the water and now late in the afternoon, my stomach wasn't happy. I had gotten up so early I didn't grab any breakfast, and in the haste to get out the door, forgot to stop to grab any snacks for an on-stream lunch. Now in the car and headed to the hotel for a quick shower, a fortunate Google Search pointed me in the right direction.

Sure, I probably should have moved the knife for the photo (it was how they presented/served the platter), but damn if Haywood Smokehouse in Waynesville, NC doesn't make some of the best BBQ I've ever had... The ribs in particular were phenomenal.

It was a wonderful way to end a enjoyable day on the water. The full belly also ensured I'd sleep well that night, something I desperately needed, especially considering I had that equally long drive back to Jacksonville awaiting the next morning.

So you might be asking, fourteen total hours in the car (round trip) for a single day of mountain trout fishing and first class BBQ?

Absolutely! And it was definitely worth every minute behind the wheel.

February 27, 2019

Restoring Brookies: An Appalachian Brook Trout Story

A cool little documentary project recently popped up on my social feeds, and I'm all about helping them get the word out. It's an upcoming film focusing on the story of the Southern Appalachian Brook trout, the native char of the Southeastern United States.

The synopsis for the film as provided by their website and press release is as follows:

Restoring Brookies, it’s exactly what it sounds like. This is a feature length environmental documentary film about the restoration process of the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout with a fly fishing aspect. In this documentary we will be taking our viewers through the history of these trout, the process of their restoration in their native environment, and what all of us can do to help further conserve these beautiful little fish. 
Along the way we will be working with agencies like the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Tennessee Aquarium, National Parks Service, Department of Agriculture, and many more. While learning from the agencies who have boots on the ground daily to help conserve this species we will also be visiting with locals and fly fishermen and women. 
We plan to learn more about the history of the brook trout in these areas, why restoration is needed, and how successful the restoration efforts have been. This film is not only going to show us how the restoration works but also why it’s there through the eyes of fly fishermen/women and the locals who see this fish as a part of their culture in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

See... sounds like something we can all get behind, whether it's from a fly fishing angle, a historical interest, a conservation perspective, or a combination of the three.

If you'd like to learn more about the project, and possibly support it, (10% of all money raised will be donated back to restoration efforts in Tennessee, North Carolina, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), check out their website HERE, or if so inclined, their Facebook and/or Instagram.

December 10, 2018

A Blog Update & A Brook Trout Video

Hey, I apologize for not posting in a while. I just haven't been particularly "fishy" in some time. The biggest reason for this is most likely because I came down with the flu, which developed into pneumonia over Thanksgiving as I foolishly tried to continue to work through the illness despite my symptoms.

This was me at work on "Black Friday"... trying to fight off a fever, chills, and lightheadedness.
I looked and felt like shit.

Pneumonia in Florida, who knew that was even possible?

So a good two weeks of fever, chills, night sweats, aches & pains, and coughing absolutely kicked my butt. I missed a week and a half of work (during "Cyber Week" our busiest time of the year) and was pretty much a mess spending my days in bed.

I lost almost ten pounds in the process, so while I was giving "fishing fitness updates" on the blog over the past few months, I don't think this unhealthy weight loss will (or should) be permanent. I weigh like 190 pounds at the moment, which is the lightest I've been in probably a decade.

Well, the good news is I'm finally feeling better and now I've got the itch to fish again. I didn't get out over this past weekend, but I received a new rod to play around with (a Dragontail/Nirvana 400 tenkara rod), so I'm hoping to at least hit a neighborhood pond or something in the not too distant future.

As for social media, blogs, and such, I haven't really been that active, but I'm looking forward to diving back in. So if you happen to see a flurry of comments on your recent posts from me, that's probably what's up, just catching up on what I've missed.

I've saved a few videos to watch, this one being one of the first. If you haven't seen it already, I hope you take a few minutes to check it out too. I mean it hardly gets better than Smoky Mountain brook trout... I can't wait to see a few in person again.

September 4, 2018

Mountain Medicine

An escape to the mountains will cure what ails you.

Tree-lined trails

Rocks to hop

Cool, shady pools

Misting waterfalls

Bridges; both man-made...

and natural

The tools of a rod, line, & fly

And just enough trout

The perfect reset to close out summer.

Last weekend's trip to North Carolina was welcomed. There's just something soothing about returning to the cool of high gradient trout streams and spending some quality time with no agenda.

Solitude can be your best friend. A friend you don't get to visit that often, but once reunited, your familiar conversation picks up just where it left off.