Brook trout in the remote backcountry of the Smokies

Yesterday set a record high of 101 in Knoxville but it was still cool in the highest elevations of the Smoky Mountains. While water temperatures along the most accessible stretches of Little River are spiking at or above 70 degrees, I’m happy to report that most backcountry and higher elevation waters are still in the 60’s in spite of record low water levels.

August is always a relatively slow month for guiding. Dog day heat combined with back to school chores turn folks’ mind from fishing to other things. This gives us a chance to do some other things. Charity is working on a couple of design projects, one for a fly fishing lodge and another for a fly fishing guide service. While Charity was breaking a sweat in front of a blazing computer monitor, Tim and I fished a piece of water we’ve talked about for years.

Fly fisher in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Something we don’t often see: new water in the Smokies.

The recent opening of previously closed brook trout streams in the Great Smoky Mountains has created more water available for us to fish. It’s been over a year since these streams were opened, but it’s quite a bit of water and most of it is pretty hard to reach.

We’ve been meaning to get to this particular piece of water for some time, but the remote nature has kept us out until now. I’m only keeping the name under wraps because I feel like there is an element of danger. The stream is at least 1 1/2 miles from the nearest trail and the trail isn’t exactly close to civilization.

Snake skin
What backcountry fishing story is complete without a snake?

After walking a good way up the trail from the car Tim and I embarked up the stream, not fishing until we arrived at the headwater forks which were closed until last year. This was about a mile of moving up the stream bed.

We’ve always caught plenty of brook trout in the water we were passing, but the objective of the day was to see a new place. The stream was infested with brookies and the 62 degree water temperatures had them active.

Quick strike from a brook trout
Strikes were just as fast as ever…

The stream remained larger than we anticipated, in spite of the fact that it went into several forks. We fished a good way up the largest fork and a decent way up a smaller fork.

Backcountry brook trout from the Smokies in Tennessee

There were some nice ones. And some more nices ones. And a fishing story isn’t complete without one that got away…. I think I missed one that at least tied my personal record for a Smoky Mountain brookie, 11 1/2″.

Smoky Mountain brook trout
One of the best we landed. I think we saw one or two better that eluded us. This one was 9 1/2″ long.

While the fishing was spectacular, I can’t over emphasize the quality of the whole experience. The fish were certainly green, rarely if ever seeing fishermen. The streams were set in old growth forest. Several poplars and hemlocks were 6′ or larger in diameter. It was probably the closest thing a fly fisher can come to in time travel in the Eastern United States, a place where the trees were already mature when the Declaration of Independence was written. It’s nice to know you don’t have to travel half way around the world to find places like this.