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Endurance

Started by Yallerhammer, May 22, 2021, 18:02:01 PM

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Yallerhammer

( Being a long, rambling treatise that is short on actual fish, and long on musings and observations, purporting to be about fishing but actually very much isn't....)

It's been a rough week. Up at 4AM every morning. Drive forty miles, work ten hours. Drive forty miles back through grinding traffic and chaos. Try to regenerate during the brief periods of down time. I'm still nursing a messed-up knee on one leg and a bone-bruised shin on the other leg from a nasty fall on a slick rock in a trout stream a few weeks ago. And to put the icing on the cake, waiting for likely bad news from a certain procedure endured this week by someone very close and dear to me. Not whining or looking for sympathy, just explaining why I really needed to go to the mountains yesterday and immerse myself in green shaded dampness for awhile and feel cold flowing water and just decompress. I decided to head to a place I haven't been in a long time and see how things are going there.

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Daybreak found me on the road with a gas-station sausage biscuit in hand, heading out of the mountains to circle around and re-enter them from the other side. After an hour and a half of traffic and frustration, I arrived in my target valley. The sun was just cresting the ridge behind me as I rigged up and stepped into the creek.

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The creek was still there, flowing as it has for millennia, a little low from the recent dry weather, but flowing steadily- timeless through monumental change as centuries, peoples, tragedies, disasters, and joys came and went in the valley it flows through. I sometimes stop and think just how amazing this thing is that we too often take for granted-trickles of clear water always emerging from the dry ground, seeking each other out, and coalescing as they move always downhill; gathering into permanent steams that flow year after year, century after century, seeking the oceans that their waters were evaporated from maybe years ago, before the clouds deposited them back on the mountaintops to once again complete their never-ending cycle. As I wade into the water, I wonder how many times these particular gallons flowing by me at the moment have made this long, circular journey over the years.

And I reflect that it seems as though much of my fishing these days is really an effort to catch the secret of the water instead of the fish that live in it. But, the water doesn't hold a hook too well, so that leaves me with the fish. The fish seem to be just a part of the water manifested in solid form. The trout are solid, but also seemingly liquid at the same time. Thicker water covered with shiny scales and iridescent colors. In the water, they flow fluidly and effortlessly. But, take them out of the water and they move awkwardly, and soon cease to live and move at all. Their bright colors fade quickly as their life force fades, along with their liquidity.

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The trout are here aplenty in this water, and I am soon catching them. Every good run or holes yields one or two. The lower end of this watershed holds some good, sizeable browns. In the upper reaches are native mountain speckled trout. In this middle stretch are mostly cookie-cutter 7"-10" wild rainbows that descended from Great Basin redband trout brought here a hundred years ago, shipped from northern California in barrels on train cars and stocked by enterprising locals to replace the native mountain trout that the era of industrial logging killed out. They soon found that the mountain streams on this side of the continent suited them just as well as the small streams trickling down their native southern Cascades. The redbands in several areas of the Smokies that were only stocked once with California trout still maintain a distinctness from the generic hybrid stocked and naturalized rainbows found in most areas. They are densely spotted, usually carry parr marks into adulthood, and often have orange stripes under their chins like cutthroat trout. They aren't native here, but they sure have managed to fit in and find a home in these waters. They are reliable, and easy to find. They don't require the technical work to catch that it often takes to entice the bigger browns, nor do they require a hike into remote headwaters that it often takes to catch the native specks. I guess you could say that wild rainbows are the low-hanging fruit of Smokies trout fishing. Today, low-hanging fruit is fine with me. They are here, and they are hitting my fly eagerly and coming to hand frequently. The little rainbows are enough to satisfy me today, in plenty.

...​

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After a couple hours of fishing the main stem, I drive up to the trailhead at the end of the gravel road and head up one of the small forks that come together to form the main stream. The gradient is much steeper here, and the creek speaks and whispers as it rushes and spills over huge mossy boulders and piles up in deep, mysterious plunge pools where light and shadows flicker and swirl in the depths. In a place like this, you can begin to understand why the Cherokee thought that these mountain streams were the pathways to the spirit world. As I climb over the massive smooth rocks separating the pools, I can feel the gentle wind generated by the falling water, and feel the smoothness of the solid rock, worn and polished by eons of flowing water. It is a timeless place now, a riot of water and lush greenery, saturated with chlorophyll and life.

But, less than a century ago, this same place was desecrated, denuded-a bare, used-up wasteland of stumps, eroded soil, silted, dead streams and industrial greed. At the forks of the creek stood a huge logging camp and company town. Narrow-gauge railroad lines snaked up into the valleys to haul in the workers and haul out the logs. Hundreds of families of loggers and workers lived in tiny huts moved from one place to another on railroad cars as the forests steadily receded before the wave. As the forest today takes up water and carbon from the soil and harnesses sunlight and converts it to green, flowing life; so the logging companies took the trees from the land by harnessing the local people and immigrants, and converted the logs to green, flowing cash. Most folks coming here today and seeing this green, living, breathing wilderness would never believe how it was less than a century ago. There are reminders if you look, though. The trail I hiked in on is the bed of one of the railroad lines. Rusty cables and other detritus still lie here and there in the woods and streams, slowly rusting away and disappearing.

Most of this valley was once owned by a giant of a man with a giant reputation. He came here just before the Civil War, and laid claim to this valley. He farmed and had various other enterprises, but his true love was hunting and roaming in the mountains. He had a hand-built rifle named "Old Death" that was said to have been six feet long, weighed nearly twenty pounds, and shot a two-ounce lead ball. He had a long black beard and piercing eyes, and was known far and wide as a hunter and a character. He is said to have fathered somewhere between thirty and forty children by his wife and various other local women. When the northern logging companies came sniffing around at the turn of the century, he refused to sell and held them out of his valley. But, change is inevitable. When he finally died from old age in 1919, the companies swarmed in, and the cutting started.

...​

Little yellow sally stoneflies are fluttering in the air. I tie on an old traditional mountain dry fly pattern with a yellow and red body, white wings, and ginger hackle- a Jim Charley. It works now just as well as it did long before I was born. When I cast it right and control the drift so that it doesn't drag on the water, the invisible trout dart from under rocks or seemingly materialize from the clear water itself and eagerly grab it with a splash and a flash. I fish on until I have fished enough, and begin the walk back out, tired, but recharged.

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...​

Just as the big cutting was commencing, Sam Hunnicutt and the famed Stinnett brothers made a couple of last hurrah expeditions up to the headwaters of this small creek that I am fishing now. They camped, fished, hunted, and dug a legendary enormous patch of ginseng that Sam found, thought to be the same patch that the legendary Quill Rose had found once while bear hunting, but could never relocate. They too, were liquidating assets while they could. I'm sure they never came back afterwards, preferring to remember it as it was, and hoping that it would one day be what it now is.

It is amazing how much power the land has to heal itself. Today, this valley is once again a healthy, thriving forest with pristine flowing water. The loggers are long gone, and will never be back as long as the national park remains. It is not without its problems, though. For, I didn't tell the whole story.

People. God, there are a lot of them nowadays. Individually, they are not a problem. Collectively, they are loving this place to death. A gravel road runs up this valley. All day long, it was covered with a steady stream of traffic. Hikers, fishermen, swimmers, picnickers, joy riders in jeeps and the loud, obnoxious side-by-side four-wheeler things that they rent in Gatlinburg and other local tourist traps. Almost every pulloff held a truck or SUV, and fishermen by the dozens were strung up and down the stream. Half the big holes in the creek were filled wih families swimming and wading. The trailhead at the end of the road held probably 75 cars. They were packed into every available space for a half-mile. The trails are covered with hikers. And this was a weekday, before Memorial Day and the official start of tourist season. It took a lot of cropping to tune them all out and find space and peace for myself. Almost every stretch I fished had already been fished by someone else. Our local wild lands, particularly the Tennessee side of the GSMNP, are being absolutely smothered with people. The roads are all bumper to bumper, and the trails and creeks are full of people, always. It has only gotten worse since the pandemic started. What is the solution? I have no idea.

...

As I drove home, I had to pass through Gatlinburg- one of the epicenter sources of this wave of people who cover the land throughout the park. Sitting in gridlock between red lights and crosswalks, in awe and stupefied at the tens of thousands of restaurants, gift shops, gaudy tourist traps, and the sheer incomprehensible number of people thronging the streets and sidewalks; I thought of a tree I encountered on the creek bank today. It was an old, ancient beech, several feet thick at the base. Its trunk was half hollow and decayed, but its crown was still green and vibrant, and its roots were still firmly gripping the creek bank at the stream's edge, fastened securely among the rocks and thin soil. This old tree has seen a lot of things and people come and go over the years-good, bad, death and destruction, renewal and rebirth. I feel a kinship with it. I am getting older, and am no longer all I used to be. Like the old tree's trunk, my body is beginning to feel and show the scars of a half-century of life. But, I hope that I have gained some wisdom as I have used up my body. I don't know what the future holds, but the old tree and the valley where it grows gives me faith that I can endure. For although my trunk is scarred and my bark is flaking, my roots are firmly embedded in this rocky mountain soil, and my feet are still in the water.

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Fin. ​

Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff

Phil

 'c; Downright beautiful.


greg

Beautiful indeed. Glad you got a day on the stream. And ain't that gatlinburg traffic fun?


Al

Great report and excellent commentary on what the future seems to hold for our ever increasing population.


Dougfish

"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change? " -Oddball, 1970

"I don't wanna go to hell,
But if I do,
It'll be 'cause of you..."
Strange Desire, The Black Keys, 2006

itieuglyflies

a very good read pics too


The Dude

Your writing evoked a lot of thoughts that live in the recesses of my mind, but that I seem to struggle to find. Thank you for that.

I was born by the river in a little tent,<br />And just like the river I've been running ever since,<br />It's been a long, long time coming,<br />But I know change is gonna come.

Grannyknot

Quote from: Yallerhammer on May 22, 2021, 18:02:01 PM

People. God, there are a lot of them nowadays. Individually, they are not a problem. Collectively, they are loving this place to death. A gravel road runs up this valley. All day long, it was covered with a steady stream of traffic. Hikers, fishermen, swimmers, picnickers, joy riders in jeeps and the loud, obnoxious side-by-side four-wheeler things that they rent in Gatlinburg and other local tourist traps. Almost every pulloff held a truck or SUV, and fishermen by the dozens were strung up and down the stream. Half the big holes in the creek were filled wih families swimming and wading. The trailhead at the end of the road held probably 75 cars. They were packed into every available space for a half-mile. The trails are covered with hikers. And this was a weekday, before Memorial Day and the official start of tourist season. It took a lot of cropping to tune them all out and find space and peace for myself. Almost every stretch I fished had already been fished by someone else. Our local wild lands, particularly the Tennessee side of the GSMNP, are being absolutely smothered with people. The roads are all bumper to bumper, and the trails and creeks are full of people, always. It has only gotten worse since the pandemic started. What is the solution? I have no idea.

This is the reason I never go to the park anymore.  Its absolutely ruined.

Flea is not the best bassist of all time.

Phil

Quote from: Grannyknot on May 24, 2021, 15:41:59 PM

Quote from: Yallerhammer on May 22, 2021, 18:02:01 PM

People. God, there are a lot of them nowadays. Individually, they are not a problem. Collectively, they are loving this place to death. A gravel road runs up this valley. All day long, it was covered with a steady stream of traffic. Hikers, fishermen, swimmers, picnickers, joy riders in jeeps and the loud, obnoxious side-by-side four-wheeler things that they rent in Gatlinburg and other local tourist traps. Almost every pulloff held a truck or SUV, and fishermen by the dozens were strung up and down the stream. Half the big holes in the creek were filled wih families swimming and wading. The trailhead at the end of the road held probably 75 cars. They were packed into every available space for a half-mile. The trails are covered with hikers. And this was a weekday, before Memorial Day and the official start of tourist season. It took a lot of cropping to tune them all out and find space and peace for myself. Almost every stretch I fished had already been fished by someone else. Our local wild lands, particularly the Tennessee side of the GSMNP, are being absolutely smothered with people. The roads are all bumper to bumper, and the trails and creeks are full of people, always. It has only gotten worse since the pandemic started. What is the solution? I have no idea.

This is the reason I never go to the park anymore.  Its absolutely ruined.

Agreed. There are only a VERY few spots in the Park I'm willing to go to anymore, and they're getting almost as bad as the rest of it.


Woolly Bugger

May 24, 2021, 16:19:06 PM #9 Last Edit: May 24, 2021, 16:22:47 PM by Woolly Bugger

thanks for that  :cheers

agree with the too many damn people... but even on the SoHo on a Sunday we didn't run into another fisherman, except for two drift boats that floated by.

on a side nots:

World Population:

has reached 7 billion on October 31, 2011.

is projected to reach 8 billion in 2023, 9 billion in 2037, and 10 billion people in the year 2055.

has doubled in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion).

is currently (2020) growing at a rate of around 1.05 % per year, adding 81 million people per year to the total.

growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2.09%.

growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years (reaching below 0.50% by 2050, and 0.03% in 2100) .

a tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history up to the year 1800 for world population to reach 1 billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in 30 years (1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), the fifth billion in 13 years (1987), the sixth billion in 12 years (1999) and the seventh billion in 12 years (2011). During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion

ex - I'm not going to live with you through one more fishing season!

me -There's a season?

Pastor explains icons to my son: you know like the fish symbol on the back of cars.

My son: My dad has two fish on his car and they're both trout!

Yallerhammer

Quote from: Grannyknot on May 24, 2021, 15:41:59 PM

Quote from: Yallerhammer on May 22, 2021, 18:02:01 PM

People. God, there are a lot of them nowadays. Individually, they are not a problem. Collectively, they are loving this place to death. A gravel road runs up this valley. All day long, it was covered with a steady stream of traffic. Hikers, fishermen, swimmers, picnickers, joy riders in jeeps and the loud, obnoxious side-by-side four-wheeler things that they rent in Gatlinburg and other local tourist traps. Almost every pulloff held a truck or SUV, and fishermen by the dozens were strung up and down the stream. Half the big holes in the creek were filled wih families swimming and wading. The trailhead at the end of the road held probably 75 cars. They were packed into every available space for a half-mile. The trails are covered with hikers. And this was a weekday, before Memorial Day and the official start of tourist season. It took a lot of cropping to tune them all out and find space and peace for myself. Almost every stretch I fished had already been fished by someone else. Our local wild lands, particularly the Tennessee side of the GSMNP, are being absolutely smothered with people. The roads are all bumper to bumper, and the trails and creeks are full of people, always. It has only gotten worse since the pandemic started. What is the solution? I have no idea.

This is the reason I never go to the park anymore.  Its absolutely ruined.

God, I absolutely hate to say this, but come to the NC side. A few crowded spots, but the worst here is nowhere near like the best on the TN side. And the fishing is better.

Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff

Grannyknot

Quote from: Yallerhammer on May 24, 2021, 18:20:45 PM

God, I absolutely hate to say this, but come to the NC side. A few crowded spots, but the worst here is nowhere near like the best on the TN side. And the fishing is better.

I used to fish the NC side quite a bit.  Deep Creek was one of my favorites, but the last time I was on it, it was nearly as bad as anything on the TN side as far as the number of people you see fishing.

Side note: how in the hell did they ever approve the use of side by sides in the park?

Flea is not the best bassist of all time.

Yallerhammer

Quote from: Grannyknot on May 25, 2021, 08:14:03 AM

Quote from: Yallerhammer on May 24, 2021, 18:20:45 PM

God, I absolutely hate to say this, but come to the NC side. A few crowded spots, but the worst here is nowhere near like the best on the TN side. And the fishing is better.

I used to fish the NC side quite a bit.  Deep Creek was one of my favorites, but the last time I was on it, it was nearly as bad as anything on the TN side as far as the number of people you see fishing.

Side note: how in the hell did they ever approve the use of side by sides in the park?

The lower end of Deep and Hazel get a good bit of pressure, but nothing like most of the creeks on the TN side. There are a lot of streams over here you can fish all day and never see another person. As for the side-by-sides, I don't know, but they're been everywhere the last few years. The Little River Road between park headquarters and the Townsend Y is often a solid parade of them.

Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff


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