Friday, November 14, 2014

Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains

School was cancelled for two days last week, so my family planned a four day weekend trip to Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The fishing (you knew this was coming) was spectacular, for both game fish and new species. 

The first day was beautiful, but was unable to accommodate any fishing. However, the amazing scenery and foliage covered that aspect. 

The second day, It was to my delight that our hotel in Gatlinburg was right over and provided access to the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. So I got up in the morning and fished! I tried fishing for trout, but with the lack of action, I took my cane pole and tiny hook to fish for micros. Surprisingly, the very first spot I tried yielded a new species- the mottled sculpin!

This specific mottled sculpin wasn't very mottled

The view from the hotel

I was very happy with this new catch, but another hour of attempts turned out to be fruitless.

After morning was over, we went driving to different places, hiking, viewing historical landmarks, and enjoying the atmosphere. For lunch, we stopped by a picnic area adjacent to the Little River. While my family munched on lunch, I took the rod out to fish. I happened to have a chartreuse panfish tube on, so I thought, what the heck? I might as well try it. To my surprise and delight, I got a strike on my very first cast! However, the fish popped off. The second cast delivered the same result but further casts didn't result. Thinking that the fish were spooked by the tube, I quickly tied on a black and gold Rooster Tail inline spinner. On my first cast, I got a strike and quickly brought to hand a small, but wild and beautiful, rainbow trout.

That was it fishing wise for the second day. However, much more was to be enjoyed. 

The third day was the highlight of my trip. We began with a seven mile hike to Abram's Falls on Abram's creek, a known rainbow trout producer. I brought my spinning rod along, to see what I could catch. As I arrived at the falls, I immediately began fishing, to not waste any time (I'm kinda obsessed). The water under the falls was very deep, probably around 30 feet at its deepest. On one of my first casts to to shallower part, I felt resistance and set the hook. The fish fought doggedly and splashed with much vigor, but I was able to coax the fish to shore and bring up what was a much larger, and much more deeply colored, rainbow trout!

absolutely beautiful

For another half hour while my family ate lunch, I explored the area. Just as we were about to leave, I got another hit, again on the shallow end of the pool. I speedily hoisted up another trout, this time smaller but equally beautiful.

Me fishing at the falls

2 trout in half an hour seemed like a great time for me, so I packed up my rod and journeyed back to the lot. Along the way, I gave a couple more casts, but nothing took. 

We happened to be driving on a scenic loop we had taken already, and I remembered a small creek full of logjams and deep pools right by the visitor center. So I decided to stop by while everyone else looked at historical landmarks and got info from the center. At the first nice pool, there was a huge log that went across the water. I thought it might be interesting to climb on this log and fish. So I climbed on the quite slippery log and fired a cast under the log, allowing my spinner to drift under the log. I felt a bite not long after I learned the technique, but almost fell in the water fighting the fish. Luckily, I avoided such a fate and was able to land the fish as well! It was another rainbow trout, and it had the deepest colors I have ever seen on one.


After that fish, I decided to move to another pool downstream. On the second cast, my spinner got slammed. I could immediately tell this was a good fish. The arc of my rod swayed as the fish peeled my moderately loose drag (remember, this is ultralight and 4 lb test, and I take all cautions). Suddenly, the fish was right there, thrashing violently in the shallows. Somehow, my line had become entangled in the bank-side long grass, so now I had to untangle the line and land the fish, still enraged at being tricked. Somehow, someway, I did it and landed what is my largest trout to date, a 12 inch rainbow. (keep in mind that this fish is a beast by Smoky Mountain standards) 

I have no idea how the spinner made this into a motion shot

just before release

At that point, the sun was setting and it was time to go back. The grin on my face couldn't have been wider as we headed back to the hotel.

On the last day, we checked out of our hotel, and drove back to Atlanta. Along the way, I got to fish a river we passed earlier but was unable to stop: The Oconaluftee River. At this particular water, I was able to pull off two new species with my cane pole, the river chub and the mirror shiner!

 The mirror shiner was especially frustrating. A group of these tiny, silvery fish were situated under this rock right next to shore in water that was free from current. The fish would nibble the worm, then spit it out. They attacked my split shot more than my bait. Furthermore, every time I hooked one, It would fall off the hook abruptly after leaving the water. It took we a while to finally catch my lifer mirror shiner.

Some scenery and wildlife photos:

On the plane ride back, I reflected on my trip. I had seen bears, turkeys, and elk, stunning east coast mountains, caught plenty of rainbow trout (including my new Personal Best), and caught three new species in a matter of four days. 

And thus concluded a one of my most memorable trips and one of the longest blog posts ever. 

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