A Beautiful Weekend on Hazel Creek

After last spring’s “Wet & Wild” Hazel Creek camp that featured torrential downpours for the second half of the weekend, it was a breath of fresh air to have nothing but blue skies and sunshine for all four days of our stay this past weekend.

Sunny Hazel Creek Nymphing

Jack Harrington nymphs a deep slot on Hazel Creek

Hazel Cascades Angler

Spencer Elrod fishes a dry fly in the guage pool late in the afternoon

Spencer Elrod fishes a dry fly in the guage pool late in the afternoon

In spite of nearly perfect conditions, the fishing was a bit tougher than we anticipated. Most of the fish caught throughout our stay came on nymphs. Typically we’ll fish nymphs or dry fly and nymph dropper rigs up to about lunch time and switch over to dries through the afternoon. There was some dry fly fishing, but not nearly so much as we’re accustomed to in the Smokies and many previous trips to Hazel Creek.

Charity nymphs the run right behind camp after guiding all day

Charity nymphs the run right behind camp after guiding all day…

Charity hooked up Hazel Creek

…with pretty good results

The water was a little bit high, although very fishable. That may have explained the lack of overall dry fly activity, even as caddis flies and Hendricksons were reasonably abundant. One thing that really struck me was how the bulk of strikes on dry flies came when our anglers were using a 12′ Tenkara rod we brought along.

Fishing a dry fly with Tenkara on Hazel Creek

Allen Gray fishes a dry fly with Tenkara on Hazel Creek

The extra length of the Tenkara rod along with the ultra light line allowed for drifts that can’t be achieved with standard fly rods. In spite of no reel and a fixed amount of line we were able to fish at a further distance more effectively. While we primarily fished heavy nymphs under a strike indicator most of the time we’d rig the Tenkara rod whenever we came across a suitable slot.

Hazel Creek Brown trout

Hazel Creek Brown trout

Our group was made up of a blend of anglers with different experience levels. Those who did the best had the most experience, and even as the fishing was tougher then expected, there were plenty of missed strikes to go around, so it wasn’t like the fish weren’t there.

Tourettes sufferer John Hedgepeth

Tourettes sufferer John Hedgepeth

One of our favorite anglers and campers was John Hedgepeth. Many go on a journey of self discovery when spending time in a wilderness setting like Hazel Creek. John discovered he suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome. This is a malady that causes the sufferer to curse uncontrollably in certain situations. John’s Tourette’s always acted up when he missed a fish, a trout came off the line, or worst of all, when he was surprised by a water snake.

I often tell anyone who will listen that Tourette’s is 10 times more common among fly fishers than any other demographic.

Bill Fox with one of many trout he picked up on nymphs last weekend

Bill Fox with one of many trout he picked up on nymphs last weekend

As always, the fishing is just part of the good time on Hazel Creek. Time around camp provides some of the most memorable conversations and laughter is always echoing through camp.

Hazel Creek Camp April 2014

Steve's BBQ ribs come off the grill in camp

Steve’s BBQ ribs come off the grill at dinner time in camp

Steve’s famous, made fresh in camp biscuits are always a big hit in the morning and are the perfect accompaniment to the bacon, eggs, hash browns, sausage, and home made jams and jellies that are unexpected in a wilderness camp.


We’re heading back over to Hazel Creek May 1-4 and we have an opening for a single, unguided angler. You can give us a call or book it via our online booking system.



  1. Josh, I have a group going to Sugar Fork and Calhoun that same weekend. Hope this helps. Good luck all!

    • Josh Cipar says:

      Thanks for the heads up. Looks like there will be a full house on Hazel that weekend. We may opt for another near by stream instead. I just hope we have nice weather and everyone catches plenty of fish..

  2. Josh Cipar says:

    Thanks. I hope you guys have a great trip and catch a bunch of fish.

  3. Josh Cipar says:

    Mr Rutter, I was just writing with regards to your upcoming trip to Hazel Creek. As a local and life long fisherman in the smokies it is nice to have something to read while not on the water. What I was trying to find out is where you will be stying and what section of river you will be mainly fishing. Two of my fishing partners and I will be up there the very same days and with all due respect, we would like to avoid the area with such a large group. With 12+ miles we can make that happen. I hope you guys have a great trip and if we cross paths I will be sure to say hello.

    Josh Cipar

    • Hi Josh,
      We do our camps down at campsite #86 because our camp is so elaborate with plenty of equipment. Our group of 8 anglers is typically pretty diverse with some folks staying pretty close to camp with a casual attitude. One or two may get as far as Sugar Fork on one day, but that’s really pushing it. About half of our crew is with a couple of miles of camp on any day and few if any are upstream of Sawdust Pile.

      Have a great trip!
      Ian & Charity