Photo of the Month: Golden Explosion

Photo of the Month: Golden Explosion

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Annual Fall Backpacking Trip 2022: Day 2

After a soggy but good start to my backpacking trip, I was excited for a couple of dry days. There are so many great places to fish in the Smokies, and I was ready to sample a few. The main target species on this trip is native brook trout. Wild rainbows are abundant as well. There would be no shortage of fish to catch. 

On this first full day of fishing, Buddy was heading for his favorite section of water. Another friend, Russell, was hiking in for the day with plans to fish my favorite section with me. In many ways, this is a better way to do some of my favorite backcountry trips. You don't have the 40 pounds of gear on your back which makes hiking in and out much easier. However, it is a long day to fish some of the water we like to hit and still have time to hike out. 

Russell has been known to hike out in the dark on occasion. Personally, I am a little nervous about hiking in the dark during the warm months. There are too many rattlesnakes and copperheads roaming the trails for comfort. In the cold months, I love night hiking and have done it on a few different occasions. There is something about being in the woods at night. This is especially true for night hiking without extra light during a full moon. Talk about an amazing experience! 

Anyway, to get back on track, Russell showed up a little earlier than expected after making good time on the way in. I was getting close to finishing breakfast. Russell and Buddy spent some time catching up while I ate, cleaned my breakfast dishes, and packed my waist pack for the day. This includes fishing gear, lunch, a water bottle, water filter, knife, and lighter and matches plus fire starter. In other words, I wouldn't want to, but I could probably spend the night semi comfortably with this small pack's contents. 

None of this took long as most of my gear was already packed. I just needed to add my lunch/snacks and we were ready to roll. A short walk later, we were standing at the edge of my favorite stream just above a fairly good sized waterfall. This whole area has numerous falls and plunges. In other words, it is exactly the type of water you think of when you think about brook trout fishing. Russell and I started a fast paced leap frog style of fishing, and we were soon catching some beautiful fish. 

Russell fishing up a small brook trout stream
©2022 David Knapp Photography

Native southern Appalachian brook trout
©2022 David Knapp Photography


This stream is incredibly beautiful. Sometimes it is hard to focus on the fishing. I have been known to carry a DSLR camera with me on stream. I've largely gotten away from that for weight considerations, but I still spend a lot of time with my camera out. On this trip, in addition to scenic stream shots, I also found some interesting wildflowers. This black cohosh was blooming a little late in the year, but definitely not outside the realm of possibility. 

black cohosh in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Black Cohosh. ©2022 David Knapp Photography


While I looked for wildflowers, Russell was busy catching some fish. In fact, he found our largest brook trout for the day. Here is a closeup of his special fish. 

Trophy native southern Appalachian brook trout
©2022 David Knapp Photography


Interestingly, while we both caught plenty of good fish, the average size seemed down slightly from years past. If anything, numbers were higher than ever which would make sense if the size is down a little. These fish have a very limited amount of food in their small ecosystem, so an increase in numbers usually corresponds to a decrease in size across the board. Still, the fish were nice sized. We are talking differences of an inch or so, nothing more. The colors were also subtly less then on past trips. That is likely because this trip was 2-3 weeks earlier than I normally go. When you hit it right before the spawn starts, they are all dressed up in their fall best. We were there during the transition season between summer and fall outfits. 

Colorful southern Appalachian brook trout
©2022 David Knapp Photography


The day seemed to go on and on while the number of fish we caught approached the absurd. This section of stream is fairly lengthy. You can't rush either. The rugged terrain would make quick work of anyone in a hurry. Slow and steady definitely wins the race here and gets you back to camp in one piece. We were keeping a general eye on the time, however. As it started to get late and Russell needed to make the long walk out, we eventually picked up our pace. 

David Knapp fishing for brook trout
Photo courtesy Russell Duncan. ©2022


One last beautiful southern Appalachian brook trout
©2022 David Knapp Photography


I was starting to think about supper by the time we got out on the trail to walk back to camp. Buddy was already there and busy with his evening meal preparations and I soon joined him. After a relaxing evening, I went to bed early to rest up for another big day of fishing on day three...

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