So sometimes it rains, right? After driving six hours to the Smokies, stopping along the way to pick up a buddy from Lexington (KY), and driving through the Pigeon Forge wasteland, we arrived just after sunrise at the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Beautiful morning, sunshine, but with a forecast for rain that we knew was coming. The picture above of a nice brown trout from the Little River that looks just about how the day looked throughout - misty, foggy, and frequently just downright pouring. I'm sure better pictures can be taken in the rain. Just none that I took. The brown actually came from the lower stretches of the Little, well below Elkmont. That morning, we headed upstream from the campground and hiked quite a ways to get to the higher, brookie elevations. We caught several small brookies, and really, no complaints - we were standing in a beautiful Smokies stream, catching small brooks, testing out our ponchos. Columbia and Kelty kept us mostly dry, but damn did we get alot of rain. Not sideways thank God, just coming straight down hard and fast. The bite tapered off for us when it rained hard, but we ran into another fisherman who claimed the green weenie produced like magic for him once the rain began. It didn't work for us.
So we threw parachutes and yellow sallies, adding droppers when it rained and retying without when it eased up. Not much success, but enough to keep us fishing most of the day. Originally, we had intended to camp 2-4 miles up from Elkmont, but it turns out they closed #21 and #24 - the only two campsites in that distance, and 2 of the 3 remote sites - because of bear activity. Now bear activity doesn't really put me off much, but it's just as well that we couldn't camp there - my buddy Jason is a 4th or 5th degree black belt, in MUCH better shape, and much faster on foot. The 6-mile hike with gear in the pouring rain to the remote site, an open for camping, was only an option for a moment, and then only because we brought a bottle of 12-year old Pappy Van Winkle. We conceded. Rolled our shit up and headed to Townsend, which is a much better choice than Gatlinburg or the godforsaken Pigeon Forge. Stayed at the Tolly Ho or some such place right on the edge of the forest, drank the entire bottle of Pappy while watching the rain from the front step, swapping BS stories as the size of the brookies we caught kept getting bigger. The next day was absolutely beautiful - sunshine, soft clouds, and mid-70s! But with good weather in the Smokies, the crowds come out of the woodwork. About 10 minutes after catching the brown in the photo above, an emergency dive team from the Sheriff's department joined us in the hole we were fishing, replete with scuba gear, tanks, etc. Next hole, a family of four trudges down the hillside decked out in swimsuits with lawn chairs and picnic basket in tow, and parked it right next to us (they were from GA, which I feel needs to be said). Before heading down to the Smokies, I connected with Ian Rutter (of R & R Fly Fishing, and author of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Angler's Companion) and he said the crowds had thinned now, with school and the cooler weather. I don't have anything to compare it to, but...well, it wasn't ideal with a half day left for fishing and not enough time to hike in. So with a few browns and smallies under our belt, we packed up and headed home. And it was a good trip. Maybe not a great trip in the grand scheme, but I got to catch up with an old friend, get outside, catch some wild brookies, and finally crack open that bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. When the fires die down, I'll head out West and search for some bigger fish, or maybe head farther south and put some salt on my line. For now, the Smokies getaway took the stink off and I can at least get some work done now.