By Jake Pugh, Catoma Director of Sales and Marketing
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a magical place. If you’ve been, you know it’s true. The hospitality and dumbfounding beauty of the surrounding area is undeniable, and the park itself is one of our country’s best. Spanning 816 square miles (over 500,000 acres) across east Tennessee and western North Carolina, GSMNP is a wonderland of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, winding scenic roads, and abundant wildlife. Factor in the near endless opportunities for quality wild-stock fly fishing and it becomes a mecca for the adventurous fly fisherman.
For about 3 decades now, I have been chasing gamefish with my father and grandfather. I grew up in South Alabama near Mobile Bay, my grandparents living across the state line on the Mississippi Coast. Over the years, we caught Speckled Trout, Redfish, and Flounder by just about every method conceivable, from live bait to soft plastics and topwaters, even gigging. Wade fishing, trolling, sight casting, deep water bottom fishing, you name it. We have made some awesome memories on the water.
Later in life, always looking for a new challenge, my father began to pick up fly-fishing and - as most fly fishermen do – got hooked. His experience and natural abilities as an outdoorsman are evident in this sport, where technicality, patience, and knowledge of the quarry are paramount. He introduced me to fly-fishing with a couple of unsuccessful saltwater trips hunting for redfish in the backwaters. That’s hard fishing. My interest in fly fishing was limited until we walked a quiet trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few years ago and caught the flow, the hatch, and the bite just right. My first trip out, we caught about a dozen vigorous wild rainbows and browns on nymphs, and I too was hooked. I’ve only been a couple times since, and my skills are very limited, but I “get it” now.
My position at Catoma naturally led my outdoor adventures into the world of backpacking, camping, and backcountry kayaking. Over the years, I’ve hiked the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, made the Outer Loop at Big Bend National Park, mountain-biked the coastal trails of Puerto Rico, pursued public-land elk on an archery hunt, wandered around Mojave National Preserve, and paddled numerous backwater creeks and rivers in my home state of Alabama, always packing light and refining my gear. I am extremely comfortable in the backcountry.
I am a fly fishing novice, however, and my dad has never spent much time in a tent. So this fall, he and I are joining forces to go on a backcountry fly fishing trip to GSMNP. He’s bringing the fly fishing equipment and expertise, and I’m bringing the camping equipment and backcountry experience. Together, we’ll show you the gear we chose, and tell you the story so that you might learn a little something and be inspired to plan a backcountry fishing trip of your own.
Planning a trip like this is not necessarily difficult, per so. Anyone can do it with a little research and effort. However, the barrier to entry can be a little daunting. There’s the research to find and book the place you want to go. There’s the research on what gear you need (and don’t!). There’s buying the gear and packing it in a way that won’t break the bank or have you worn out before you get there. And finally, there’s the trip itself. This series of Field Notes will take you through each step the way we did it.
Follow us on Social Media and bookmark this page to follow along over the next month as this trip becomes a reality.