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St. Brookie

By Tom Chandler 5/7/2006

With the most sleep I've had in two weeks behind me (six hours, woo-hoo!), today's expedition was a 30 minute drive away and a hike down a steep hill to a small, overgrown stream that was rumored to hold brookies. I was fishing the North Carolina side of the park, and drove over Newfound Gap, which was completely socked in by fog. It was like driving back in time, and I wouldn't have been surprised if a pterodactyl had swooped in out of the clouds.

At the stream, it was occasionally spitting rain, which only made the trees and rhododendron look even greener. The overall effect was one of a potentially fish-filled tunnel, or – if you take your brookies with a religious slant – a chapel. (St. Brookie, the patron saint of Royal Wulffs and hopeless romantics.)

Brookie cathedral
Our Lady of the Brookies Cathedral...


I was fishing Raine's 7.5' hollowbuilt 4wt, which was the perfect tool for the job (and how often can you say you've got the right tool for anything). Right off the bat I caught a bunch of rainbows, though none exceeded 9". The fish were easy but spooky, and obstructions littered most of the backcast lanes. This wasn't the kind of fishing where you'd fish a good stretch and walk up the bank until you found another; the rhododendron thickets were pretty much nonstop, so your ticket up and down the stream was good only for the streambed itself.

After a half hour of slow progress up the stream, I rolled a fish that flashed golden brown. Normally, on a small stream I don't spend much time on any one fish; they're either eating or they're spooked, so if they miss, I'll make another cast or two and move on. This time the fish's color intrigued me, so I sat for a few minutes and changed flies, made another cast, and caught surprise brown trout.

I got an even bigger surprise a few minutes later when the day's heftiest fish rolled on the fly and ran me all over the bathtub-sized pool it called home. He was a fat, 11" brown living in a tiny stream, and I was pretty happy about the fish size to creek ratio – at least until Ian told me he'd seen 16" browns on the same stretch of water (note to self: find friends who know when to keep their mouths shut).

I did finally get a couple of small brook trout, completing the Great Smoky Mountain Grand Slam. Clearly, as I get healthy, my superpowers are returning. (I must remember to use them for good instead of evil.)

Tomorrow is a hike up a trail to a part of the Little River I fished last year. It's pretty pocket water, and I did well just popping a dry fly into all the usual places. And there's still a chance the fabled Tennessee slaw dog will be photographed and consumed. Sunny weather is forecast, so I'll see you in the sun.


Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

Stephen; Apparently I needed to be a bit higher up the stream to get into the brookies in numbers. Still, I'll settle for the slam... 8-)
I fished that section a few weeks ago. I'm glad you managed to pick up some brookies. I usually get mostly rainbows and browns and the rare brookie. Enjoy TN while you here!

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