At Native Angler we love to do guided trips at our home away from home, the Greater Smoky Mountain National Park or the GSMNP for the rest of this article. The GSMNP is one of the most incredible places in the world. We all owe a great deal of gratitude to the sacrifice that was made by its one time residents and the founders and creators of the park for bequeathing it to us for our enjoyment.
I found myself mesmerized by its beauty many moons ago and have read almost everything ever written on the park, totally immersing myself in its history. When you hike it’s trails most people miss all the history you are walking by while staring at the beauty of the forest and streams. I love to explain to everyone what they are looking at when you look past the obvious. It is truly amazing to realize that people actually farmed this land at one point and raised their families here. These truly had to be some of the toughest people around. If you ever have the privilege of visiting the park do yourself a favor and read a trail guide and blogs about an area you want to visit before going. You will be amazed at what a little insight will point out to you as you hike a trail, tombstones, stone walls, maybe even an old chimney from a home long since gone hidden in the woods.
While we love the history, that’s just talk to make your hike seem less lengthy and strenuous. When it comes to the park you can make a trip with us as extreme or pampered as you would like. You can camp and fish in areas that trails have long since disappeared or stay in a cottage having steaks cooked for you every night and fish all day. It’s all in how adventurous you want to be. Regardless of which you choose we know the park and will work very hard to make sure you have a good time.
On our most recent trip we had the pleasure of having Andrew, Patrick, and Robert (all brothers) as well as their good friend Matt. I was met by my fellow guide, and brother in law, Max, from Knoxville, at the trailhead to our campsite Thursday afternoon. Max and I then hiked up a goodly, old mountain term, portion of our equipment for the trip and set up camp for the evening. After setting up camp we decided to do a little leisurely fishing to get a feel for the mood of the fish. The stream seemed to be pretty healthy and had a great flow for mid summer in the park. We caught a few decent rainbows and kept one to go with the steaks I had brought with me for that night. If you freeze them they will stay good and thaw that first day of the trip till your ready to eat that night. Nothing better than a little mountain surf and turf. After a few hours of camp fire chat between brother in laws that have known each other for damn near 20 years it was time to call it a day so we could get up early the next the next morning and hike down to bring the fellas up to camp.
The next morning we emptied our packs the rest of the way and hiked down to meet the guys at 9am. I must say downhill sans 65 pounds in your pack is much easier on the body. After reaching the trailhead we poked around for a few until the brothers Weaver and Matt arrived. I could see in there eyes they were all excited, all a little tired, and that the passengers who were experiencing the dragons tail for the first time were a little car sick. You are lucky to hit 20 on the tail as it winds for mile after curvy mile. We talked for a few about the hike into camp, only 2.4 miles but straight up with no level spots and not easy going by any means, and I loaded Max and my packs with the food for the next few days.
Fortunately there is a nice little detour spot on the way up to camp for those cool group photos and just the spot to shoot the obligatory for the wives and family photo shot. Other than that its just a walk uphill loaded down wondering how anyone ever lived out here. Then you realize why, you just look and listen. You hear the sounds and sights of pure nature; streams, cascades, frogs, birds, grasshoppers and even the wind blowing. The only sound you will hear that doesn’t belong is the sound of the feet and voices of your party. It is in one word, incredible!
Reaching our campsite after a solid hour of uphill climb, everyone jubilantly dropped their packs to the ground. We scouted out the tent sites for the guys and set up the rest of camp. After getting everything ready for the weekends stay it was time for a little debriefing, if you will, about water filtration, camp etiquette ( bathroom etiquette ), and a little refresher on what to do on the stream; we hold a intro to fly class with the group before we go but nothing is better than on stream instruction. Now it was time to fish. Generally it is better to strike out in different directions broken down into two man groups with a guide for each group for better fishing success, but this was a group of old friends and brothers, they wanted to experience it all together. Besides you can’t rib your brother or lifelong friend when your miles apart on a mountain stream, so off we went.
That first day we actually had a some success. Not a lot of fish were caught, but the GSMNP truly is an area where the old saying “if you can catch fish here you can catch them anywhere,” actually is the gods honest truth. I’ve always said you hear of plenty of people from this area heading out west to Montana or the like to chase trout, but you never hear of someone out west heading to the park to fish. A fish caught here on a little 3 or 4 weight fly rod, whilst jumping around from boulder to boulder, fishing small pockets of water that you can barely dabble a fly in due to the thick rhododendron canopy is quite the accomplishment for beginners to fly fishing. It is an even more impressive feet when your brother decides to tromp through the spot you ever so sneakily crawled into just to be a wise guy.
Fishing these small streams is also quite taxing. It is honestly the most fun you can have while physically exhausting yourself. So after four or five hours of fishing it was time to head back to camp and get some dinner. For meals on our trips I like to prepare good food that is high in carbs, no Atkins going on in these hills, and flavor. I will gladly weigh my self down with unimaginable hiking weight, I am a mountain goat, in order to not feed my guests and friends disgusting high sodium backpacker meals. So we had homemade chili mac for dinner that night, followed by a little ribbing around a camp fire and bed.
Even in August it gets cool enough in the mountains to slide in your sleeping bag at night, so to warm our chilled bones I prepared hot pancakes for breakfast Saturday morning to get our bodies fueled for the days fishing. I am glad we did fuel up cause the fellas really charged it this day. We worked into some impossible pockets and slid down the side of mountains to reach perfect little pools at the base of a small fall or cascade and it paid off with everybody getting into fish but Robert. I typically wouldn’t call out the name of anyone who didn’t bring a fish to hand but I can honestly say Robert was the best fisherman of the group, yeah I said it, deal with it you guys. Robert put in tons of effort and made great casts and presentations with a great positive attitude but it just didn’t happen. Damn you trout! I really think he took it with the best attitude though and truly understood that it really isn’t about the catching up here. Catching is a bonus, getting out of you comfort zone and truly immersing yourself in the experience is the part you’ll never forget.
After a successful days fishing we went back to camp and munched on a late lunch and packed up for the hike down. In true Florida boy style I put on my flops, hoisted on my every bit of an 80 + pound pack,
and started the glorious down hill march to the cars. I truly enjoyed myself on this trip, as the company was perfect. You really can’t ask for a better group of guys to share in this experience in one of Gods true wonders, the GSMNP. Thank you!
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