I spent the day yesterday up in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park volunteering with their tremendous fisheries team. The GSMNP is a model nationwide for it’s impressive, science based management of it’s cold-water fisheries. Yesterday we were doing a stream survey using electro-shocking technology. Fish are momentarily stunned, identified and logged to monitor the biodiversity of each stream. Yesterday we found Brown and Rainbow trout, as well as Central Stone Rollers, Mottled Sculpins, Long- Nosed Dace, Black Nosed Dace, Crayfish and we kicked up some pretty impressive Stone Fly Nymphs as well. Next time you’re out trout fishing, don’t forget to pause and appreciate the many other wonderful creatures that make up a healthy stream. If you have a chance to volunteer with local conservation efforts, do it! You’ll find it an incredible learning experience, as well as a chance to help take care of our precious outdoor resources.
If you’re a reasonably sane person you might wonder why I seem to get so excited about fishing for native Brook Trout. After all, they’re tiny when you compare them to some of the fish we catch fall through spring. You don’t catch as many and it seems like a lot of effort by comparison. For me the appeal comes from three things:
- You have put in the effort. Unlike some of our Delayed Harvest streams, you can’t just drive to the river and throw your line in. You’ve got to lace up your boots and keep walking until you’re in the wild. That can be a long walk.
- It’s said that trout live in beautiful places. If that’s true, then native Brook Trout live in unbelievably beautiful places. Simply being in those places is a joy.
- In order to catch a wild Brookie you have to do everything right. Be in the right place, have the right fly, make the right cast with the right presentation and be ready when the lighting fast take comes. One mistake and you’ve missed them. Zero margin for error.
I was always taught that things that easily are often undervalued, unappreciated or taken for granted. The things you prize are the things you have to earn. That is the ultimate appeal of angling for Brook Trout…every one is earned.
I suspect Emily Dickenson wasn’t talking about Brook trout fishing when she wrote about luck…but maybe she was! It certainly is applicable and the photos above and below are ample evidence of the value of effort in determining an outcome. These gorgeous, native Appalachian Brook Trout were some of our reward for 5 miles of tough hiking, a day of rock scrambling and hours of patient fly casting. In Brookie fishing fortune’s smile must always be earned, and when it is…it’s contagious.
On Saturday we spent the whole day up in Brook trout water and had a blast. I was with a great guy and excellent tenkara angler who shared my passion for taking long walks for small fish. It was in the high eighties in town but mid seventies on the stream. The water was cool and the Brookies were as spooky and beautiful as ever. We caught fish, lost fish, missed fish and generally had a wonderful day of drifting dry flies through anywhere that looked promising. I describe these trips as 60% fishing, 30% hiking and 10% just enjoying nature. The proportions are flexible based on individual preference!
Memorial Day has come and gone. This means I’m changing gears into “summer fishing” mode. Starting the first of June I’ll be leaving the lower, hatchery-supported water behind and commencing hike-in wild trout fishing. These trips are typically a full day and involve 3-4 miles of hiking along with some moderately athletic fishing up our local mountain streams. The target is wild trout, especially native Appalachian Brook Trout. They are small in size but big in challenge, requiring effort, stealth and accuracy to catch. If a vigorous day along a beautiful, wild, Appalachian stream sounds appealing, drop me a line or give me a call. I’m ready!
…not like the other ones! The River Red Horse (bottom picture) is a wonderful fish that loves clean, clear streams just like trout. Unlike the beautiful Rainbow Trout pictured, the Redhorse is actually native to our WNC streams. Given its size and strength, it can be quite a challenge when hooked on a tenkara rod. This fine specimen took us for a bit of a ride before we could net and release it. It’s always fun to be surprised by a fish you didn’t expect. Always try to appreciate them, learn about them and of course, release them!
As bad as the weather was last week, today it was that good. It may be a brief window but the rain has stayed off us long enough to let the higher elevation rivers settle and fish. We caught this beauty along with a bunch of her brothers, sisters, cousins and friends. I’m out again tomorrow, just for the morning. The rain isn’t forecast to come in until after lunch…we’ll keep out fingers crossed!