Monday, August 13, 2012

Cades Cove and Little River Fishing Report

Riding around Cades Cove with the A/C on low is nothing like a ride around the Cove in the "old days" when this mountain community was in full swing. What makes people climb the mountains, dragging their belongings, and kids and livestock, look around and say "this is home"? Then clear some trees to make some fields, grow crops and hunt game. Did they think about the Winter? The hardships of building a cabin by sawing down trees, making logs fit each other to keep out most of the breeze and splitting shingles to keep out the rain? These were a special breed of people who apparently weren't afraid of anything. 
Church Steeples Made by Tough People
They turned their cattle and pigs loose and took them up to the balds for the Summer to fatten up before slaughter. And what about the game they hunted and the fish the caught? Catch and release wasn't in their vocabulary, although they were reported to be deadly with a cane pole (insert Tenkara 1G) and the worm. They bartered for what was needed with the things they had in excess, if there was such a thing. Making a meal was not as tough in the Summer when one could go out and harvest the things needed. For flavor; salt, wild spices and ramps were added. There were no restaurants to go to in the evening before retiring to their rental cabin and no tours on horseback to see how people lived "back in the day". They couldn't stop at the burger joint, at the entrance to the park, for an ice cream after fishing all day. 
The Loop Road
Nope their life wasn't about stopping to talk to the volunteers before riding the loop on bicycle and they probably couldn't make it around the entire cove in an hour or two either. It is doubtful the people of the Cove had the opportunity to see a Touron try to get a close up photo of a bear cub only to see the mother chase the guy all the way back to the car with a few well placed snorts. It would be interesting to hear what the pioneers of the Cove had to say about that guy though. 
The Best Darned Sign in the Park
Early transportation was by foot, horse or a crude sled like box pulled behind the family horse.  Sundays were a day of worship for most, or at least that's what we like to think, as people traveled to one of the churches by the means they had. From what we can tell times were tough. If anyone is not convinced, take some time to explore the local cemeteries. There were some that lived as long as 90 years, but there are also a number of gravestones that the dash only totals a day or so.  
A View From Above Cades Cove
What does this have to do with a fishing report? Not much other than the cane pole comment. As you can tell by now we spent some time in the Park a week or so ago. Although I did not spend a bunch of time fishing, I did float dry flies over likely looking water for rainbows and managed to trick some fish on my newest second favorite dry fly. While headed to the Cove and up toward Elkmont it is obvious the July 6, 2012 storms did significant damage to the Park. Large paths of downed trees were cleared up and down Little River Road and toward Cades Cove as well. It was a nasty sight and it is difficult to understand what it looks like (and smells like) by reading a report and seeing a photo. Anyone who has been up these roads understands what I am talking about.
What Remains of a Blow Down on Little River Road
Another One of the Park's Residents
Back to that second favorite dry fly... Anyone who has fished with me or discussed fishing the Park probably knows that a #10 Thunderhead is my favorite fly, ever. First, it is big enough to see, the eye on the hook is easy to slip the tippet through and it floats high. Did I mention it is really easy to see and the fly catches fish. As of late and the last few times I have been to the Park I have added a large #10 and sometimes a #12 Parachute Adams to the end of my tippet.  The fish responded with some hard-scrabble takes. It's the kind of take that leaves no doubt in an angler's mind the fish meant to kill it and eat it! The fish were not in the deep holes this time and the slow pools were not the hot spot either. The fish were sitting in the runs. The best runs did not have to be the fastest moving run on the river, but the water did have to be moving at a good pace. Keeping the line off the water, while trying to balance the fly on the tail and hackle, as much as possible, is the ticket for the least drag. I am not as good at it as I was when I lived close and got into the Park at least once and sometimes 3 or 4 times a week. But, it is a fun game while I am back there now.  Anyway a good drift seemed to be even more critical than usual. 
The Slow Pool
Push the Button I Dare You!
One morning I got up early and drank some coffee while loading the truck, then started toward Little River. The guard shack cat was daring anyone who was leaving to press the button that opens the gate. He was somewhat intimidating but there were fish to catch and the cat obviously did not know, if you pull up close enough that gate will open automatically. Score one for the angler and zero for the cat. I made it up to a likely spot on Little River and tied on the trusty Adams that worked the day before. Laced up the wading boots for the morning's wet wade and hit the river. The fish were responding and the water felt good. After fishing a while I came to what looked like a good run. There was a caddis hatch coming off on the bank. Those little bugs were jumping up and down like all good caddis do. If they were depositing eggs they were missing the water by several feet.  I watched them for a while and even took some photos. The photos look like all the other river photos I took and the bugs did not show up, but I know they were there. I fished that run and then the fishing was complete. A short climb up the bank followed by a quick walk down the road to the truck and then a quiet drive back down the mountain and the fishing was over for this trip.  I stopped in to see the folks at LRO and was back at the cabin before the family was ready to go search for bears (from the comfort of the air conditioned truck).
What's a Fishing Report Without Dessert?
Mountain Made Music
This trip was a success in many ways. Fish were caught and sights were seen. There was also some killer blackberry cobbler but that story is best told on another day. All in all the Park fished good even on the low water. Since we have been home there have been several heavy rains and the water level is up a bit at the moment. The fish are responding to dry flies even in the early morning. Anglers don't have to be deadly with a cane pole (insert Tenkara 1G) and the fly. Just keep the line off the water, while trying to balance it on the tail and hackle, as much as possible. It is the ticket for the least drag. Don't forget to take a look around while you are there, just not while the fly is on the water because "if the fly is on the water - you are fishing".

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