published Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Trout fishing training

Author says Smokies provide great experience


by Dan Cook
  • photo
    Dan Cook photo Fall color adds to experience of fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Yellow jackets and other insects deserve due precaution from anyone trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So do bears.

There’s a third concern, though, that Jim Casada points out: aging hemlock trees falling in the forest.

“To me it’s the biggest danger,” he said this fall from his home in Rock Hill, S.C. “I see them blocking paths. I don’t want to be around them when there’s high wind.”

But learning to be cautious in the Smokies can qualify someone to fish just about anywhere, said Casada, author of the book “Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An Insider’s Guide to a Pursuit of Passion.”

A native of Bryson City, N.C., he was a college history professor for 25 years before he took early retirement to write. A former president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, he has fished in New Zealand as well as all of the Canadian provinces.

An early trip to Montana brought anxiety.

“I was scared to death — this little ol’ hillbilly in Montana,” Casada recalled. “But 30 minutes into it, I wasn’t worried at all. Fishermen can get no better training than in the Smokies.”

His largest trout, taken years ago, came from Deep Creek in the park.

“It was a six-and-a-half-pounder,” he said, “which is just bigger than they’re supposed to be there. I don’t normally measure them, but it was 24 inches long.”

Brook trout, generally smaller, are the only species native to the Southern Appalachians. But as early loggers moved into the section, they stocked rainbow and brown trout, fish that would grow much larger and offer better table fare. Both have multiplied.

As Casada grew up, rainbows were common in the Smokies. But browns have since taken over many streams, he said.

Casada began fishing at the age of 6. His dad gave him a fly rod he had owned for a half-century, and Jim still uses it occasionally.

He has several rods, including a 91⁄2-foot L.L. Bean version that breaks down into nine pieces, condensing to 16 inches for better portability.

In his book he describes top trout streams in the national park and mentions two of the “forgotten” park species, smallmouth and rock bass. A number of photographs are included.

There are only two or three fishing areas in the Smokies he hasn’t visited, he said.

“There’s a gorge on Raven Fork that is the most remote in the entire park as far as fishing is concerned,” he explained. “There are rock falls leading to big, deep pools. You can’t wade through the pool. It’s steep.”

The left fork of Deep Creek is likewise remote.

Little River Outfitters of Townsend offers Casada’s book. More information is at www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com.

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