Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not This Time....Smoky Mountain Revenge

If you look back to my Easter weekend adventure in the Smokies, my son and I were shut out due to high flows.

Fast-forward to November and forecasts of unseasonably high 70-degree temperatures. I also wanted to see how long the drive would be from my new location, due south on I-75, to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As with my Easter trip, I was threatened by high flows when Tropical Storm Ida blew through the area. The original plan was to fish Saturday and Sunday but high flows pushed it back by a day.

The forecast held up and the waters receded and I made the trip. I left the (current) house at 4:30 AM and I was on the Chimney Tops trailhead by 11:00 AM. A short mile hike, straight up, and I was rigging up to jump into the upper stretches of Road Prong. I was also without waders in mid-November!

I started out with the rig that I finished up with the last time I was on the water, a large stimulator with a large tungsten hare's ear nymph. I immediately moved fish but I was unable hook up. When I finally did hook up, I sent the first brookie into the pool below me.

I moved multiple fish without bringing one to hand as I slowly moved upstream in some of the most extreme fishing I have done in a long while. I was flying solo and I was very careful on foot placement and securing my footing before moving on.

This is the bridge where I "jumped in" and you can see that traversing this stream was difficult at best.

I tried multiple patterns as I moved upstream and moved a few fish, but landed none. When I finally arrived at a set of cascades I would choose not to attempt (solo), I stopped for lunch.

As I finished my lunch I noticed a few small mayflies flying about so before I put my pack back on I tied on an 18 parachute BWO. Tight against a rock in the first pool, fishing back downstream, I picked up this amazing specimen.
Dry flies and wet wading in November! Does it get any better than this?

Now I knew what they wanted and where they were on!

Eventually the BWO pattern slowed, so I switched to a black EHC - I saw a few little black stones flying around too. The little black stones typically don't produce good dry fly fishing, so it may have been the caddis profile.

Regardless, they liked it!

It's also a good sign to see a few of these little guys:

After a long car ride, a few hours of scrambling, and the sun setting out of the deep canyon I decided to call it a day. After all I still had to find a hotel room, not that difficult in the off-season of Gatlinburg. I found a room with cable TV and wi-fi for $28 (including tax) - we paid that for a tent site earlier in the year.

The next morning I took my time getting moving, there was still frost on my vehicle front glass at 9:00 AM. My plan was to head to the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River above Ramsey Prong. This section of stream was closed until 2005 as part of the 25-year brook trout population study.

I made the short uphill, 1.5-mile trek to the mouth of Ramsey. Again, with forecasts of 70 degrees I would be wet wading again.

This section of stream is not as rugged as the prior day, but the boulders are much larger and the pools are much deeper.
I had to wade across Ramsey to get on upstream on the Middle Prong, so as I did I dapped this little guy from a nice plunge pool on Ramsey. I always like to begin my prospecting with a small, olive woolybugger.
I will keep Ramsey on my list to revisit as it had several nice plunge pools I could see as I crossed the lower end.

I eventually made it above Ramsey on MPLP, but those rhododendron thickets were a bear to weave through with a fly rod!

I continued to dredge the bottom with the small, olive woolybugger and it continued to produce.

I could feel the air temperature increasing and, in my mind, that means only one thing: dry flies.

I switched over to the black EHC that produced so well the day before, with an 18 BHPT dropper. The fish didn't immediately take notice of the dry, but they sure noticed the little dropper - my first rainbow of the trip.

As with the day before, it's always good to see these guys!

When they started keying on the dry, I removed the dropper and it was pure dry fly action - in November! Pitching that little black caddis up tight against the rocks produced some very nice fish - both rainbows and brookies.

I continued to pick up a good mix of bows and brookies, but as it neared 1:00 I made the difficult decision to call it a day. I had a downstream scramble, a short hike, and a long drive ahead of me.
As I made it to the mouth of Ramsey, I made a few more casts at the wonderful pool at the mouth of Ramsey. It produced a fish, the largest of the trip, and a great fish to end the day.

When I finally stepped back on the trail, there was not much left of that little, black caddis. The Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon produced several more fish than Road Prong, but that didn't matter - revenge on the Smokies had been served.

Also, I found it to be a little over four hours from the Ramsey Cascade trailhead to my "new" home in Florence, Kentucky. I can see more Smoky Mountain searching for native salmonids in the future, and....
You gotta love wet wading and dry flies in mid-November!

1 comment:

Bill said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile now and just had to say that I always enjoy your posts. I especially look forward to seeing some of the most beautiful trout pics I've seen anywhere! Good stuff!