With my summer in the Smokies drawing to a close, my chance for a weekend backcountry trip was quickly vanishing. I decided to take advantage of the last weekend that I had free to hike into Deep Creek. After work last Friday, I drove over the hill and hit the trail around 6:30. Two hours later I was far down the trail at campsite #54. After setting up the tent I crawled in and fell asleep, tired from the fast trip down from the ridge.
The next morning was perfect and I had a leisurely breakfast in camp before wandering down the trail to see what was in the creek. I was surprised by the condition the trail was in. Apparently it doesn’t get much traffic because the upper 6-7 miles of the Deep Creek Trail had places where it was overgrown by the surrounding vegetation. Sometimes the trail almost disappeared but if you pressed on it would always open back up. After walking downstream awhile I finally hit the water with no idea what to expect.
Things started out okay but not great with several small rainbows and browns coming to hand. One pool in particular was puzzling. The best water seemed devoid of fish. It was one of those spots where I expected a better than average fish but instead got nothing. Things made more sense as soon as I hit the pocket water above the pool. Apparently the best fish had moved up into the faster water to feed. I hooked 3-4 fish and landed a couple before reaching a nice plunge pocket a good hundred feet upstream from the pool. My first couple of casts didn’t produce anything so I maneuvered across the creek to get into a better casting position. My first cast from this new spot produced a hard hit and clean hookup. My heart leaped into my throat as what appeared to be a decent fish torpedoed past back down towards the pool.
The next few minutes were undoubtedly the toughest battle I’ve ever had with a fish. At first glance I figured it was probably a 15 inch or so fish but it seemed awfully heavy. First it ran behind a rock as I stumbled along in pursuit. I soon brought it out before it ran downstream again with my reel singing. Soon it took up residence under another rock and this time I was sure I had lost it. The occasional shake on the end of my line assured me I still had a chance and after some serious prodding in which I almost jumped in and reached under the rock, the fish bolted again. This time it ran all the way down into the deeper water of the pool where I was sure it would break me off on some of the ledges. It must have been my day though and my equipment and nerves stood up to every challenge the fish offered up. Soon I had it corralled in the shallows for a couple quick pictures before I watched it swim back into the pool. This was most likely the fish of the summer in the Smokies for me. I estimated it at quite close to 20 inches and later found it was between 19” and 20” based on the pictures. Still not a legitimate 20 incher but still one of the best fish I’ve caught in the Smokies and definitely a high point of the summer.
Further fishing provided steady action on more average fish but no more monsters. This trip was definitely a blast and allowed me to make another visit to one of my favorite streams in the park. I hope to head back again sometime in the upcoming months, but school has a way of ruining the best of intentions so I can only keep my fingers crossed.
Besides the nice fish, this trip was worth the effort because of the great scenery. I found a lot of beautiful flowers streamside including rhododendron among other things. The stream itself was in great shape. That particular drainage doesn’t seem to be suffering as much from the drought as compared to the Tennessee side of the park. The one surprise was the lack of insect activity. There were lots of midges and other tiny bugs on the water but not much else. The fish didn’t seem to care though and were feeding well. Softhackles dropped behind a Tellico produced the best action although fish were eating dries willingly as well.
This trip was the perfect last blast of my summer in the Smokies. Next weekend will be my last one here and I have visitors coming that will curtail most fishing. I’ll still be fishing in the evenings at least some this week though so check back for more. Also, did I mention Colorado? Stay tuned for more on that as well…