Fly Fishing Hazel Creek
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park boasts one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States. Millions of Americans visit this natural wonderland every year, but thankfully, the number of them that fish numbers in the thousands. But most of these anglers lack the necessary information and are often confused and overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of streams teeming with trout. The following excerpt steers you to some of the best spots on some of the best waters in this remarkable park.
Hazel Creek has been termed the crown jewel of trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and touted by most major outdoor publications in past years. Hazel Creek has all the needed qualifications to claim being the finest freestone stream in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
One of the secrets of this stream's excellent fishing is the abundant insect life. Caddis flies dominate, although you will find that prolific hatches of Stenonema mayflies get the attention of trout during the summer.
The lower portion, dominated by rainbow and brown trout, is highly productive for large terrestrial imitations such as the grasshopper and jassid. Here, the stream rushes past old homesteads and fragrant orchards, forming many long, slow pools, perfect for floating a cinnamon ant pattern. Nothing will put the adrenaline in your system faster than a lightning-fast strike from a trout coaxed from one of these beautiful pools.
Brookies can be found in the main stream beyond an elevation of 3,040 feet, one of the lowest elevations for brookies in a major streamshed in the Smokies. Hazel Creek has one of the loftiest tributary systems in the park. These headwater streams provide some of the finest brook trout habitat in the Smokies.
The lower reaches of Hazel Creek not only hold trout, but healthy populations of largemouth, smallmouth, and rock bass. This is one of the very few places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where largemouth bass can be caught by fly fishermen.
Devastation and Rebirth
Hazel Creek is located in the southeast section of the Smokies. It is bound by Welch Ridge and Jenkins Ridge. Its headwaters are located beneath the slopes of Stateline Ridge, and from there the stream Fontana Lake. Primary tributaries of Hazel Creek are Sugar Fork, Bone Valley Creek, Walker Creek, and Proctor Creek.
The Hazel Creek watershed was one of the most heavily devastated in the Smokies. The Ritter Logging Company removed virtually every stand of virgin timber from the valley, in an operation that took nearly 20 years. The loggers laid rail lines almost 13 miles up Hazel Creek to enable them to haul the fallen giants to the sawmills. Proctor was a booming sawmill town of more then 1,000 people, and the center of the valley's life.
Upon receiving stewardship of the Smokies, the National Park Service found many residents reluctant to abandon their mountain homesteads. Even today, you may encounter groups of mountain folk on the trail, carrying floral arrangements to be placed on the graves of loved ones buried in the park, an annual event for the people who still feel a part of these mountains of their birth.
The forest has regrown nicely under the protection of the National Park Service. The area has an abundance of plant life and, not too surprisingly, many varieties of domestic plants. Hazel Creek can boast of one of the park's few beaver colonies. There are no beaver dams on the stream, but the busy beaver have downed a large number of trees alongside the stream, which provide badly needed cover for trout.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication