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Day Three – Oconaluftee River and Bradley Fork

Bradley Fork - Tributary of the Oconaluftee River in the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkThe day started out on a rough note.  We had to stop by several different locations before finding a shop that could sell a one day non-resident licenses in a timely fashion.   Our last hope was to find a fly fishing shop and head there. We ended up going to the Smoky Mountain Angler in downtown Gatlinburg where they got their licenses, some flies, and John got a sticker for his fly rod case and a t-shirt/hat combo. After getting a bit of a late start we made our way over Newfound Gap and into North Carolina to fish the Oconaluftee River (the Smoky Mountains National Park portion). We parked on the Southern portion of the Smokemont Campground and began fishing. After a brief introduction, Mike, Cole, Jason, and Brian caught on very quickly to fly fishing in the Smokies and adapted to their surroundings well.

I was using a dry fly, as was Cole. Everyone else was using nymphs. There were several sections that looked to be ideal for a dry fly, but we couldn’t get anything to rise. John caught two nice sized Brook Trout (called spec, specs, or speckled by locals).

Bradley Fork - Great Smoky Mountains National Park - tributary of the Oconaluftee RiverJohn slipped on a rock and got the tip of his fly rod caught between two rocks, snapping the end of it off. Needless to say, John was discouraged, as it was a Scott fly rod (which definitely isn’t cheap) and he had planned to use it on his upcoming trip to Montana.  Fishing was a little slow on this narrower portion of the Oconaluftee so we decided to go into Cherokee so that everyone could (hopefully) catch a fish in the stocked waters.

 After paying our $7 each license to fish in the Cherokee Indian Reservation, we got out and explored the wide Oconaluftee. The fishing was decent, as all of us caught at least one fish except John (who was a little down after breaking his rod and acted as more of a “guide” spotting out the best waters and helping all of us). There was one deep hole we found and fished for a long time, with Cole pulling out a nice sized rainbow as did Jason. We fished to some stocked golden trout for a while, but couldn’t get them to take anything.

The river was full of tubers. It seemed like every 3 to 4 minutes we would have to stop fishing and wait for the tubers to make their way through. Probably not making for the best fishing conditions! Mike and the gang had decided they would call it a day and left Cherokee to head back to their cabin. John and I decided since we were already there, we should drive back up to the Smokemont Campground and fish Bradley Fork.

Jay Fradd catching a small rainbow trout on Bradley Fork in the Smoky Mountains - Fly fishing in the SmokiesNeither of us had ever fished the stream before, so we just went by the book written by Don Kirk named Smoky Mountains Trout Fishing Guide. We fished a couple spots fairly close to the campground, but didn’t catch anything although it is some beautiful scenery. We decided to hike upstream a while to get away from where the campers may have been tromping around recently. We hiked upstream about 1.2 miles to where Chasteen Creek flows into Bradley Fork. From there we took several pictures and fished a couple places here and there. I caught a small rainbow trout on a prince nymph and then we headed back downstream some more to where we met another fly fisherman. He had been fishing upstream and said he caught three rainbows; one a pretty decent sized one he showed us in his creel. After we saw him we got back on the trail and headed back to our vehicle, calling it a day.

Walker Camp Prong in the Smoky Mountains National Park - photograph copyright John Hudson Smith VAfter that, John had wanted to see Clingman’s Dome (the tallest point in Tennessee). When we reached the top the views were decent, but not perfectly clear (which it very rarely is on top).  Being near Newfound Gap and heading back to Tennessee, we decided to stop at a pull off and get some photos of Walker Camp Prong – a gorgeous stream that has large boulders and dramatic plunge pools. This is a “hidden treasure” if you ask me – many people driving up to Newfound Gap don’t even realize it is there. Most places, it is steep getting down to the river, but it is well worth the short walk. It was getting near dark, and the light was perfect for some photos. We left our fishing poles (and waders) in the vehicle as we went down to the stream. John got some great photos of the boulders and cascading water. Just as he was finishing up and getting ready to rock hop from one boulder to the next, he slipped on the wet rock and went sliding off the boulder into the rushing water. In desperation he reached up with his camera and tripod to give it to me before it got soaked. I jumped from a rock and snatched up the camera. John had managed to wedge himself between the boulders and get his footing, keeping him from being rushed away by the water. Luckily, there weren’t any casualties – other than the brand spanking new hat that John had bought earlier in the day from Smoky Mountain Angler and he banged his hip on the rock. John quickly shook it off and we went back to the vehicle to head home for the night.

Overall, it was a great trip. It wasn’t the most productive in terms of fishing, but the scenery was amazing and it was great to go fishing with everyone! I think our next trip will be to the famous “horseshoe” on Abrams Creek.

Please click the link below for more photos of Bradley Fork, Clingman’s Dome, and Walker Camp Prong:

Fly fishing on Bradley Fork in the Smoky Mountains, views from Clingman’s Dome, and scenery on Walker Camp Prong

John Hudson Smith V - Relaxing on a boulder shaped like a chair on Walker Camp Prong - Smoky Mountains National Park