Uncommon Photos from the Smokies

Okay, a photo of a brook trout and another of bears from the Smoky Mountains aren’t all that uncommon, but the circumstances around them are unusual.

Elkmont Brook trout

We take photos of brook trout all the time from April through October, but we don’t usually take photos of them where this one was caught. I guided Chris and Chase Howard who were looking to do some backcountry fly fishing. I’ve taken them before and that time we specifically targeted brookies, but this time just went out for some larger water with a high degree of privacy.

This fish was caught about three miles upstream of the Little River trailhead. That’s pretty far up, but I always tell folks you won’t have much chance of getting into specks until you’re more like six miles upstream of the trailhead. And that’s just starting to get where you might catch one.  Even more interesting was this post from Dave Knapp which sounds like he caught another brookie in the same general vicinity.

Black bears in Cades Cove

We probably see more black bears over the course of the year than most people see in a lifetime. In fact, we’ve already seen bears on four separate occasions this year. We’ve seen them near Elkmont, the Chimneys picnic area, and in Cades Cove. Most of the time it’s very difficult to get a good photo of a bear because they aren’t usually at close range and they don’t usually stick aorund very long. Furthermore, their black coats blend in so well with the forest cover they don’t usually show up well.

These bears were in Cades Cove and as you can see they were on a mission to get across the open ground and get into cover. There was a third cub trailing behind. These aren’t new cubs but yearlings that were born last year. They will likely leave their mother later this summer.
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  1. Ian, that explanation actually makes a lot of sense. I definitely agree with you on the browns. I think the overall numbers of browns are on the increase, especially up the trail. In sections I used to catch maybe 95% rainbows and 5% browns its much more like 80% and 20% and occasionally better. With the forest canopy continuing to grow and mature from the logging in the early 1900s, perhaps the environment is becoming better for the brookies again. I haven’t fished Cataloochee as much as I would like. But I do know some pools that are very low in the valley where it is possible to catch several brookies on any given trip. I see brookies more or less everywhere I fish there on the rare trips I do make… Personally, I’m glad to see a more well-rounded trout population throughout the Park!

  2. Ian, I’ll bet that fish was in the same general area where I caught mine for sure although possibly slightly higher. I caught one last spring as well that seemed lower than normal. Makes me wonder if the high water washed a few more down than normal or I just happened to get randomly lucky two years in a row. Guess the best way to find out is more research on the water!!!

    • David,
      I saw both of your posts, recent and last year, about catching brookies up there. In fact, I did a quick comparison between this one and the one you caught a couple of weeks ago and determined they weren’t the same one. (Yours was larger!)

      Both are too large to “wash” down stream. I’ve been wondering more if they are moving downstream naturally and exploiting gaps in the rainbow population created by the drought a few years back. This is pretty tough to prove, but it also seems like brown trout are more common upstream of Elkmont than they used to be. It’s no longer unusual to catch several in a day several miles above the trailhead. The drought saw a decrease in rainbow trout numbers but didn’t affect the browns as much and in a few instances there were population increases in brook trout streams.

      Don’t know how much you’ve ever fished Cataloochee, but it was unheard of to catch specks anywhere but pretty high up over there, but since 2008 they’re exceptionally common anywhere in the valley. There were a couple of restorations done over there, but neither would account for the drastic population increase specks have managed in the larger water. I’m wondering if this is happening on upper Little River as well. It’s not earth shaking or terribly important, but it’s fun to keep track!