Showing posts with label Tennessee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tennessee. Show all posts

May 6, 2023

On the Tennessee Side of the Smokies

A few weekends ago I made the trip up to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to meet up with some friends for the 2023 TenkaraCamp at Elkmont Campground. While it wasn't my first time to the Smokies, it was my first time to that specific section and associated water. It ended up being a nice weekend, although the weather was a bit bi-polar. More on that in a bit...

I kind of associate the Smokies with rainbow trout...

I made the long trek from Florida to Tennessee early on Thursday morning. Fortunately, the drive was relatively uneventful, shooting up I-95, over into South Carolina on 26, and then up into Tennessee on 40. Traffic was light, and I was able to arrive at my destination at around 2:30 in the afternoon. I honestly think the biggest delay was caused by dodging pedestrian tourists while driving down the main strip in downtown Gatlinburg. Yikes. If you've never been, well, there are no words. And if you have, you know what I'm talking about.

In any event, once I got past that bit of chaos and down the road a couple of miles to check in at the Ranger station, it gave me just enough time to set up my campsite and then get a line wet for a few hours.

Little River runs right through the campground and made for some really easy access. I fished for maybe two or three hours and caught a little over a half dozen fish. Not a ton, but good enough to start the trip off on a good foot. I was actually surprised that the first three fish I caught were brown trout. I kind of associate the Smokies with rainbow trout (and in the far reaches brookies)... so that was also an interesting way to lead off.

That evening, about fifteen of us that had come in for the TenkaraCamp gathered at one campsite, telling stories by the fire. If I recall, I spent most of the time talking about Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and other things I can't (and probably shouldn't) remember with my friend Matt. After the early morning wake up, long drive, and afternoon of fishing, I was kind of on fumes at that point. Certainly made falling to sleep very easy that evening.

In my head it sounded fine...

Okay, Friday was glorious. It was also painfully exhausting. But really, it was glorious.

For some reason I thought it might be a good idea to go back and fish one of the tributaries of the Little River. Get away from some of the crowds that were in the campground and general vicinity and maybe bump into some brook trout. I had mapped out a plan to hike back about 5ish miles, fish all day, and then hike back to return around dinnertime. 10ish miles round-trip. In my head it sounded fine. By the end of the day my feet had a differing opinion.

Fortunately, I made new friend at camp the night before, and Paul was more than willing (he actually volunteered) to accompany me on this hike. In retrospect, I probably would have quit hiking long before I did if Paul wasn't there. But conversation was lively, and it made the time go a little bit faster. After about two and a half, maybe three hours of hiking, the two of us split up to cover different sections of water. I went upstream, Paul downstream, agreeing to meet back on the trail at around 4PM.

After a quick snack and drink of water, I popped into the stream and began to fish. And spoiler alert, while I didn't find a single brook trout that afternoon, I did find tons of rainbows. They were super eager too, bringing 3 to hand on maybe my first 5 or 6 casts. They took nymphs, they took wets, they even came up to smack a few dries.

Eventually a pretty steady wind started kicking up and I'm not sure if it was a coincidence, but the fish started shutting down. I was able to pick up a few more here and there, but defintiely not with the same frequency. In all, I think I brought a little under twenty to hand, and played with at least a half dozen more before finding a spot to climb through the brush and back on to the trail to meet up with Paul who I found beaming after catching himself what was essentially a "last cast" trout.

Pleasantries aside, I think we'd both admit that the walk back sucked. I mean it really suuuucked. It seemed at least three times as long as the hike out. Conversation was also a bit more sparse. I think we were both beat and focused on getting back so we could get our boots off and just relax.

Back at camp that evening there was another campfire get-together, this time with a larger turnout circling the fire pit. I sort of remember talking to my friends Bryan and Amanda for a bit, and getting introduced to her friends Rachael and Brock. Brock is a relative newcomer to tenkara fishing but quite versed with a fly rod and reel, so it was fun talking to him about both styles of fishing.

As for that evening... That bit of wind I felt while out fishing was the precursor to a stormfront rolling through the valley. It was a very windy and rainy overnight. While my campsite and tent survived the conditions just fine, I didn't sleep quite as well with that howling wind keeping me company.

It felt good to do nothing...

Not sleeping too well the night before, I decided I was going to take it easy on Saturday. The rain had stopped and it was moderately warm and sunny. It was actually the main day of the limited TenkaraCamp organized activities, with a gathtering in the morning at one of the campsites, a meet and greet, and some streamside clinics before everybody broke out to go fishing.

I basically just hung out at camp. I met and chatted up different people, recorded one of the educational sessions conducted by my friend Rob, and largely just watched people fish. I even took my folding camp chair streamside and just sat back with a cold drink and chilled out, dozing off briefly more than a few times. After running (and hiking) around the prior two days, it felt good to kind of do nothing. Fishing trips aren't just about the fishing.

Oh, then maybe around 2PM it got cold and increasingly dark and windy again. Uh oh.

The morning was sunny and warm enough to allow my tent to dry off... but that was suddenly under threat. Knowing I was going to leave first thing on Sunday morning anyway, I decided to break down camp a little bit early while things were dry. I just didn't want to risk everything getting soaked again. Nobody likes packing up a wet camp. 

Everything packed, and kinda dreading the 8.5 hour drive that awaited me the next day, I decided that I was going to forego the evening's campfire chats, and just head home, grabbing a hotel for the night somewhere along the way to split the trip in half. So I said goodbye to the folks that were at camp, and headed a few hours to Flat Rock, NC where I stayed the night.

A very good run up to the Smokies...

I'm a little bummed missing out on that evening's campfire, I always get a little case of the FoMOs, but I did hear it was a little on the cold side on Saturday night and Sunday morning, so I probably made the right decision. Plus, I was able to get back home to Florida with enough time to actually enjoy my Sunday at home, decompress a bit, and get myself mentally ready for the work week to come.

In all, it was a very good run up to the Smokies. I enjoyed Elkmont Campground quite a bit. In many ways it's a lot like Deep Creek on the North Carolina side that I really had fun at the year prior. I can see myself being back to both at some point in the future.

November 5, 2022

Off the Grid in the Tennessee Mountains

Last weekend was one of those fishing trips that just goes by way too fast.

Spent a few days with my friends at a campground in the Tennessee mountains. The weather was unseasonably warm during the day, and a bit chilly for this naturalized Floridian at night. We spent the better part of four days hitting many of the streams in the area, from larger, easy to access stocked water to off the beaten path bluelines full of wild fish.

A side note was that we were really off the grid, meaning no cell service (or even running water). While that may have interfered with me keeping up to speed on the World Series, that's not why I was there, and the evenings around the campfire more than made up for it. Oh, some of the stories that were told!

In looking back on this trip, I found I didn't take many photos. I guess that's okay with me... the memories remain vivid. This was my first time fishing this specific area of Tennessee, I look forward to getting back again at some point.

November 4, 2021

An Overdue Labor Day Weekend Post

Labor Day weekend was almost two months ago... so consider this an extremely delayed fishing report. Oh, with a little cowboy hi-jinks mixed in for good measure.

The past two years I've headed to the North Carolina Smokies for Labor Day weekend. Last year was to escape COVID, this year was just to regain some sanity through solitude. The Smokies are convenient, a nice little reset to end the summer, and oddly, most people also visiting the area seem to do everything EXCEPT fish inside the Park. Oh well, more water for me.

The campgrounds however were packed, and because of that I chose to stay in a little motel in Bryson City. Checking in Friday evening, it was my first time visiting and found it a nice little mountain town. Definitely touristy, but in a good way.

Saturday was quite busy, with fishing during the day, and a rodeo at night. Huh? Yeah, that wasn't a typo. Driving about a half hour from my room over to Cherokee, NC, I returned to a familiar stream within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While thoroughly enjoying the cool of the mountain air, I did encounter some mixed results. 

This was an hybrid outing, using a tenkara rod in the morning, and a fly rod and reel in the afternoon. Fish were caught during both sessions, although the catching was a little harder than usual since the water was up and flowing faster than ideal due to some recent rains.

Size 14-18 beadhead nymphs seemed to work best on both rods, and it was nice to see some wild rainbows up close once more. It was only the second time I had used my Orvis Superfine Carbon 3-weight; I'm finding that rod is a joy in hand. 

After bouncing back to the hotel for a quick shower, the Seven Clans Rodeo in Cherokee was next on the agenda. I had never been to a rodeo before, so when I happened to see the advertisements along the road that runs between Bryson City & Cherokee, I knew my evening plans were set.

I'm not going to lie, it was pretty damn fun and a cheap 3ish hours of entertainment. I'd definitely go to a rodeo again any day. Roping, barrel racing, bull riding... what's not to like? Well, maybe not the rodeo clown, but that's part of his shtick.

Sunday meant going back to the Park, but I'll admit to a little miscalculation. I thought I'd try a particular "new-to-me" stream across the state line in Tennessee I had read about, but when I got there, it was crazy busy. I guess I found all those anglers that weren't in North Carolina... they're in Tennessee! 

I tried fishing for a little bit, but after encountering angler after angler as I proceeded upstream, I finally gave up. This wasn't the solitude I was seeking, although I will admit that the scenery was quite nice.

So, back to North Carolina & uncrowded water (and elk).

After parking in a roadside pull-off and following a short hike in, I found myself back on a favorite stream and decided to make it a tenkara afternoon. This happens to be one of the more vertical streams I fish and it requires a bunch of boulder hopping and even a little bit of shower climbing. The technical water makes it ideal for a fixed line tenkara rod. 

Thankfully, the rainbows (and a random bonus brown) were quite interested in my Road Kone kebari, making the extra effort to reach them more than worth it.

Sunday evening was rather uneventful, no rodeo, rather some surprisingly good Mexican food and a stop at a supermarket to pick up some Cheerwine for the road. We used to have it in the Publix (supermarket) in Florida, but it strangely never returned post-COVID.

Speaking of the road, Monday morning led to the long drive home. This effectively ended the holiday weekend in the Smokies for me. A trip that was memorable for both the comfort of familiar waters and excitement of new experiences. Can't wait until next Labor Day weekend.