Since Kris, Doug, Scott, and Brett are all away at Yellowstone, I figured it was incumbent on me to post an entry. While I won’t claim that I wouldn’t have joined them if I could have (I am 6 weeks from fatherhood right now), you don’t need to travel halfway across the country to find good fishing.
I spent this past weekend camping with Niki on Cataloochee Creek. This is without a doubt my favorite Smokies fishery. Cataloochee is less than a 2 hour drive from Knoxville, just over the NC line off I-40. However, once you make you way up the steep, winding gravel road you are in another world.
The Cataloochee Valley was once a thriving community in the days before the park. There are over a dozen historic homes and buildings still preserved for you to visit. There is a small National Park Campground (around 2 dozen sites) located right next to a section of the stream. It is also the epicenter of the elk restoration efforts in the Park, and these magnificent creatures frequently make an appearance in twighlight hours every evening for your viewing pleasure.
The stream is a true jewel. It is different than the typical Park stream in that it has a much lower gradient that you would find on the Little or Little Pigeon Rivers. It looks like an Adirondak stream in its quiet, vegetation canopied character.
All three species of wild trout can be found within its waters. Browns predominate, though there is a healthy population of rainbows as well. This is the first time I have failed to complete my slam with a brookie as well. (This brookie is from a previous trip)
Due to the predominance of foliage, and lack of large boulders to hide behind, you need to be comfortable with longer casts and stealty movement. However, your patience will often be rewarded as the fish here seem to be a little more gullible than your average park fish, likely as a result of the lower fishing pressure this creek sees.
There are an abundance of larger fish in this watershed as well. This past spring I caught my personal record for the park, a healthy 15″ brown. I have also caught a number of fish in the 10-12″ range, though the average fish is still about 7″.
What I like best about Cataloochee though is the fact that I feel like I am in another world when I camp there. There are nowhere near the crowds that you would find on the Tennesee side of the park. In fact, I did not see a single other fisherman while I was there this weekend. There are miles of water to fish, and the solitude and beauty are truly a thing to be treasured.
As I said, I would have loved to have been able to travel to Yellowstone with my fellow TN Trout Bums, I can hardly complain. Cataloochee Creek is a gem, and you don’t have to drive 3 days, or take an expensive airplaine trip to get there.