The confluence of Caldwell Fork and Palmer Creek forms the starting point of Cataloochee Creek. Caldwell Fork is the smaller of the two streams, flowing off the Cataloochee Divide. It contains rainbow and brown trout in its lower reaches, and a remnant population of specs in a few headwater areas. Over ten prongs of this stream begin at more than 4,400 feet; however, the rainbow trout, the most abundant gamefish in the watershed, are the dominant species the entire length of the main stream. McKee Branch, a small tributary, maintains a population of brookies.
Fishing Pressure: Moderate near the campground; farther upstream the pressure decreases
Fishing Quality: Fish are small, but plentiful
Access: Caldwell Fork Trail
Usgs Quads: Bunches Bald, NC; Dellwood, NC
Caldwell Fork receives a moderate amount of fishing pressure immediately upstream from the campground. The quality of the fishing is good, but most of the fish are under creel size (5 to 8 inches).
Fishable tributaries of Caldwell Fork include McKee Branch, Big Bald Branch, and during the spring, Warm Cove Branch.
Access to Caldwell Fork:
The Caldwell Fork Trail follows the main stream from its confluence with Palmer Creek. The trailhead is located off the New Cataloochee Road near the mouth of the stream. Upstream at .8 mile, Den Branch flows into the main stream, the starting point of the Booger Man Trail, a loop that rejoins the Caldwell Fork Trail at 2.5 miles near the confluence of Snake Branch.
McKee Branch is located at 3 miles, and at 3.5 miles the trail arrives at the Caldwell Fork backcountry campsite (#41, capacity 10), located near a large open field known as the Deadening Fields. Anglers will find this section of the stream particularly suited for the use of hopper flies during the summer.
The trail continues upstream alongside Caldwell Fork. At 4.4 miles, Double Gap Branch enters the main stream. The Double Gap Trail offers access to Double Gap Branch, a very small branch of questionable fishing merit. Shortly after passing over Double Gap Branch, the trail becomes known as the Big Poplar Trail. At 5 miles it leaves the stream for the last time, to climb a small ridge, later terminating on the Rough Fork Trail.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication