OUTDOOR CORNER: ‘There’s gold in them thar hills’

Lyle Johnson
The biggest rainbow caught by Deborah; much to the delight of Jeff Cagle of Smoky Mountain Anglers.

As I shut the lid on my laptop last week in our cabin, Deborah and I loaded up in the car and headed down the mountain into Gatlinburg. We were looking for The Smoky Mountain Angler tackle shop to meet up with a guide for some stream fly fishing and hopefully some rainbow trout catching.

The great thing about this location for vacation and just downright amazing scenery is the fact that you don’t have to travel far to find the stuff; you’re in it. So while we’re in route, the ride is part of the fun.

After a thirty minute drive, we arrive at the tackle shop where we’re fitted for waders and felt lined boots. The waders are to keep dry and the felt boots keep one from slipping on the wet rocks and boy do they work. The staff at Smoky Mountain Angler is top notch and just about the time we had all our gear ready, our guide pulls up, and we’re off.

Jeff Cagle from nearby Cocke County is our guide for the morning. He’s fished these mountain streams for nearly all of his 48 years and has been guiding for the last 11 of them. We only have a short time to fish, so he chooses Roaring Forks creek and off we go again, driving on a one way mountain road in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Roaring Forks is what I’d call a small stream, probably overlooked as a fishing stream not only because of its small size but the difficulty of getting around as well. The streams in the national park hold brown and brook trout, but this one is home to only rainbows.

The style of fishing we’d be doing was quite different than Deborah and I had experienced in the past. A lot of the streams are small and lined with trees and bushes so our fly rods were shorter than normal. There was no room for a back cast, so a flick of the wrist was about all the casting we’d be doing.

Like most fish, the trout face into the current so you have to fish for them from behind, casting the fly upstream and letting it float naturally down into the view of the fish. That makes for some interesting logistics as we had to hike uphill through the water, over boulders and through the underbrush with our fly rods.

The food of choice at this time of the year is the caddis fly, so naturally Cagle has both of our fly rods equipped with a very good look-a-like on our leaders as the floating fly. Under the tan caddis is a flashback pheasant tail on Deborah’s rig and mine has one that’s a little different. I certainly couldn’t tell; but the fish could!

After a couple of minutes of very thorough instruction from our new friend and guide, Jeff had Deborah casting like a pro and the action started. The floating fly is not only a lure but a strike detector for the trailing fly as well. So you have to get the hang of spotting the light colored fly floating on the top of that clear water.

Deborah had most of the action, and nearly all of it was coming on the flashback pheasant trailer. That meant Cagle had to make a bait change on my rig and that was quite interesting as well.

His fly vest had all kinds of compartments that were full of small cans, bottles and pouches filled with these small flies. The process was quite interesting to watch as he finally found the container that had what seemed like a hundred of the flies that all looked the same color to me.

He gently fingered through the maze of tiny flies, “Ah, here it is” he said with a big smile on his face. “For some reason they are liking this color.” They all looked the same to me and I don’t know how he pulled it off without dropping all of them in the water.

Using only his two hands and his mouth, in a matter of a few minutes he tied a new caddis fly to my line, added a 12” leader, tied the 2nd fly to it, put some liquid and brushed some powder (sort of like make-up) to make the top fly float and had me back in business.

The action increased for me and after missing a few opportunities, I landed my first Tennessee rainbow trout. The action never slowed down for Deborah though, so not only did she land the first fish, she also caught the most and the biggest.

For a couple of anglers from south Louisiana, hiking a mountain stream in pursuit of rainbow trout is a bit different from what we’re used to, but this ranks near the top of the list for unique and enjoyable experiences. I’ll do it again!

The guys at Smoky Mountain Anglers are easy to get a hold of and very easy to find in Gatlinburg. Check out their website, www.smokymountainangler.com for all the details you might need. Their rates are very reasonable, and they’ll supply you with the proper gear for the trip. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you.