Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold
Showing posts with label Oconaluftee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oconaluftee. Show all posts

Sunday, March 14, 2021

A Quick Getaway

Fishing trips are few and far between these days, at least the kind where I get to hold the fly rod and do the catching. One amazing perk of life as a fly fishing guide is getting to be on the water every day. However, your own personal fishing time usually suffers. This year, I'll fish even less than usual since we have a little one on the way. Last week, I enjoyed what will probably be the last overnight fishing trip until fall at the earliest. It was a much needed getaway to get me excited about the guide season that is now in full swing. 

Spring Hatches

The first hatches of spring have commenced. Quill gordon and blue quill mayflies are hatching well most days and provided excellent dry fly fishing on the Oconaluftee River. On the first day, in particular, my friend and fellow guide Pat Tully and I took our time seeking out risers in the afternoon. The hatch was a bit slow to get started with very cool overnight temperatures. Once it started though, we found rising trout the rest of the day until quitting for the evening. 

Blue quills have the edge in numbers, but where quill gordon mayflies hatch in enough numbers, the trout get excited about them. That said, we caught a lot more rising trout that we targeted with smaller patterns instead of larger. In addition to the mayflies, we are seeing good numbers of early brown stoneflies, little black stoneflies, and little black caddis. Midges hatch prolifically every day as well.

Fishing the Oconaluftee

I enjoyed this river all three days, but really focused on it the first and last day of my trip. The surprising part of the trip was how poorly certain sections fished. That is typical of early season fishing, however, and probably has a lot to do with the fact that the wild rainbows are largely busy spawning right now. Thankfully, the brown trout were looking up by afternoon every day and we caught enough to keep busy. Here are a couple of pictures from my time on the Oconaluftee. 



Fishing Noland Creek

One thing I have become much more intentional about the last few years is trying new and different things. That is how I stay interested and enjoy fly fishing even while my career means I'm on the water every day. This has been a huge benefit to me over the last few years. I've got to explore more and further, and fishing new water is always a blast. 

On this trip, I was debating fishing Deep Creek which is a long time personal favorite. When it came time to head over there, I even stopped by the parking area at the trailhead. However, I decided to continue my policy of trying new places to fish at least once per trip. This led me on a short drive down the Road to Nowhere to fish Noland Creek. 


Now, this wasn't the first time I've fished Noland Creek. I had fished there before, but always down towards Fontana Lake. I've caught some nice fish down that way as well as seeing some big bear tracks along the lake shore. Anyway, this trip would be my first time venturing upstream from the Road to Nowhere.

When I got to the parking lot, I took my time rigging up. No one else was there, so I didn't need to rush to find that perfect place to fish. After checking and double checking to make sure I had packed my light lunch, I headed down the trail. It really didn't take too long before I just couldn't help it anymore and had to duck in and start fishing. This is one of the prettiest streams and was just the perfect size to fish. The fish were not large, but they were willing for the most part. Here is one of the larger rainbows. Notice all the spots. 


Over the next few hours, I caught and released 30 or more wild rainbow trout. Supposedly there are some brown trout in Noland Creek as well, but I never found any. The rainbows were absolutely stunning. Since we are right around the spawn, they are colored up about as well as you'll ever find them. This one had fewer spots but a stunning red stripe.


One rainbow even had some "cutthroat" markings that suggested something other than pure rainbow trout in its lineage. You see that on most Smokies streams from time to time. Way back in the day, hatcheries were sending all types of trout all over the place. Official stocking records don't ever show cutthroat being stocked in the Smokies, but some of the fish certainly appear to have a few cutthroat trout genes. This fish looked a lot like cutthroat and had almost no spotting but had the red slash under the jaw like a cuttbow.



The fishing was fairly simple, with a Parachute Adams or Pheasant Tail nymph doing most of the damage. While I caught good numbers overall, I still had to work just a little. By the time I fished, ate some lunch, and caught a few more fish, I was getting tired. I decided to walk out before it got too late. Surprisingly, there were several cars in the parking area with at least a few people now fishing close to the road. Still, this seems to be a generally underutilized stream overall. 

A Good Trip

Overall, this was an excellent trip and a nice quick escape before I'm slammed with guide trips. I'll probably end up with one or two more days to fish if I choose to do so this spring, otherwise I'll be busy for a good long while before I get out to fish again. 

Instead of fishing, I'll be thinking about past and future fishing trips. Coming up soon, I'll try to share the next installment from our Glacier trip. The last full day in Glacier is next, then it is on to the fishing part of the trip!






Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smokemont

While it requires a bit more of a drive then the Tennessee side of the Smokies, I always enjoy my trips over to places like Smokemont and Deep Creek.  Perhaps this is because the vast majority of my trips to the North Carolina side of the Park have happened with friends.  Outdoor adventures are almost always better when you can share them with someone else.

Some of my friends who are still in the education field were on Spring Break.  After a few phone calls and text messages, everyone agreed that a camping trip would be nice for a couple of nights.  It's not the same epic type of trip as our Spring Break trips of old, such as to the Everglades or Grand Canyon, but sometimes a couple of days to relax are better for the soul.

Naturally I took along my two favorite toys, a camera and a fly rod.  The fishing was just starting to heat up over on that side of the Park.  I did not exactly catch a ton of fish, but all were nice healthy brown trout so I wasn't complaining.  The hatches were still nonexistent there the first week of March other than the Little Black Caddis.  Things should be much different by now with the fish starting to respond to the increase in available food.



While I did enjoy the fishing, the trip was mostly about time with friends.  We went on a short hike up the trail above Smokemont along the Bradley Fork which was the first time I've walked up above the campground.  The water is beautiful up there! I'll definitely have to return later in the year for another adventure over there to fish the Bradley Fork a bit more.  I've fished the majority of the major streams on the North Carolina side as well as some smaller tributaries at least a few times each, but for some reason I keep ignoring this stream.  Doesn't this water just beg to be fished though?


All in all it was a great chance to catch up with friends, spend a bunch of time nursing a campfire, and even take a few pictures.



Interested in learning to fish in the Smokies and looking for a guide?  Contact me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com to discuss setting up a trip.  

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Too Busy Fishing

Fishing and other outdoor adventures have been front and center for the last few days.  Last week I did a trip to the Smokies, a hike, a local trip for winter stocked trout, and a trip to a local pond to check out the panfish population.  This week I spent the last few days with friends camping at Smokemont.  I'm happy to report that the local brown trout population on the North Carolina side of the Park is healthy.

Over on the Tennessee side, the spring mayfly, caddis, and stoneflies have all started.  The hatch will continue to increase in intensity over the next several days so this is a good time to start thinking about a fly fishing trip in the Smokies!

I will try to get some specific trip reports and stories up over the next few days so check back for more soon!