Collins Creek and Bradley Fork

Thursday, September 23, 2021

47 degrees at 6:00

Batteries at 85%

After the heavy rains Bradley Fork was up, running hard and brown. My guide is The Ultimate Guide to Fly-Fishing The Great Smoky Mountains by Don Kirk and Greg Ward. It’s a good book, woven with stories to keep it interesting. In this watershed (the Oconaluftee River) they discuss many streams, but have had good luck on Collins Creek. It’s a small stream, so my pick of the day. I was in the Smokies a few weeks ago with Martha, Karen and the kids, staying in Cades Cove. We so many gorgeous trout streams, I came back to fish some of them. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the number one most visited national park in 2020, and the third most visited park, the Blue Ridge Parkway being #1.

I drove up to the Collins Creek Picnic area and walked down to look at the creek. Small is right, and it has lots of trees across it and mountain laurel hanging over the edges. I went back to the parking area where a guy was getting out of his truck. Somehow he looked like a fisherman, so I went over to ask if he was going to fish. This stream is not big enough for two. He said he was not fishing. He and his friend Charlie were over the mountain at Big Creek, but since the temperatures were dropping, they were going into town to get propane. He suggested I talk to Charlie, who was in the bathroom.

Quiet Walk Trail

Charlie Roberts introduced himself and began talking about the creek. He said he usually walks down to the road and starts, fishing back up to the car. He sometimes fishes up from here, but it has a lot of timber down and the laurels are thick. He said it opens up after a while. He is commercial fly tyer. There was a long conversation about what flies to use, but in the end said he usually fishes a Royal Wulff. 

I put hip waders on and set up my small rod with a Yellow Sally. There were two beautiful pools to start with, but I didn’t move a fish. From there, the going got tough, and tougher the further upstream I went. I hit a few more pools without any luck, then decided to get on the trail and walk up. The path had been rerouted due to fallen trees, and the going was rough, especially after all the rains made the going slippery. I heard a ghostly voice behind me saying, “The Hell with this!” I turned around and walked back to the truck, drank some water and ate some peanuts. It was only 10:30, so I decided to walk down to the road and fish up. 

The pools were bigger, the first two being beautiful. Didn’t move a fish, so I switched to a Royal Wulff.  As I fished my way upstream, the going got tougher until again I heard that voice. I got out and beat the bushes back up the mountain, luckily ending up at my truck. There are a lot of streams in this area, so I am moving this one to the bottom of my list. Now maybe if I had put on a different fly the results might have been different. When you are catching fish, it’s a lot easier to put up with the impediments.

I went back and had lunch and a cup of coffee. I read my book and relaxed for a while. At 3:00 I drove to the the north end of the campground, geared up with the bigger rod and walked up the well-traveled gravel road for a half hour before walking down a path to Bradley Fork. It was completely opposite from this morning. This is a pretty big stream and I was standing in front of a gorgeous pool with more upstream. Amazingly, the water was clear, still running a bit hard, but very fishable. I had been hearing cicadas all day. I know I have cicada flies, but couldn’t find them. I opted for a hopper (grasshopper). 

This 9’ 5wt rod with a 9’ leader might be a problem. I got hung up five times before I ever got the fly in the water! On the third cast I caught a 10-inch rainbow. Two casts later a smaller one. It’s amazing how that energizes you. Now to move. This was bigger water and I had on hip waders, but it wasn’t particularly slippery. Finally I made my way the other side so I could cast to the next three pools. Two fish missed it. Maybe the water is moving too fast for the fly to sit long enough. A few more chased it, so I wasn’t going to change flies. It’s a beautiful stream with lots of pools and room to cast, although with this big rod I managed to get caught on limbs several times. 

I had only fished an hour and a half, but decided not to push my luck. Now, where to get back across the stream. Finally I found a reasonable place to cross without filling my waders, but there was no path on the other side. Again, I beat my way through the mangled laurels until I came to the road. My legs were tired now. I know I’m out of shape. 10 days of this should help.

When I got back to camp, I noticed it was wet under the trailer, so I peeked underneath. The fresh water tank was dripping in two places. GEEZ! All those thoughts went quickly through my head. New water tank? Where would I get that done? There’s an excellent Airstream place in Charlotte. Could I make it through the trip with this problem? Could I fix it myself? Always something!

  1 comment for “Collins Creek and Bradley Fork

  1. Karen
    October 12, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    Can’t wait for your visit to Charlotte but truly hope it’s not to replace a water tank 😔

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