Category: Bradley Fork

Bradley Fork And a Leaking Fresh Water Tank

Saturday, September 25, 2021

50 deg at 3:00 AM

Batteries at 79%, 82% last night (There are no hookups in GSMNP)

It’s been sunny every day, but sun only hits the panels from 2:30-4:00. The rest of the day I’m getting 1.5A. Takes 10A to run the furnace in the morning set at 58 deg. I’m getting 300WH/ day with a max of 13.7 and min of 13.1. All charging is on bulk.

Since I had seen so many fishermen yesterday, I decided to walk further upstream on Bradley Fork. I would walk an hour and start. I debated about taking the big or small rod, but opted for the big one. It will cast further, casts streamers better and is long enough to flip or dab a fly. 

I started walking at 7:30 in waist waders, felt-soled boots, two shirts, a fleece and a fishing vest that weighed too much. At 8:00 I removed the fleece as I was beginning to sweat. I didn’t see anyone along the way. With plenty of time to think, I realized there are two backcountry campgrounds up here. fishermen could be camped up here and already be on the stream.

At 8:30 I got in the stream and started fishing. By 9:30 I had changed flies 5 times with no action. Maybe it was too cold for them. The sun was just now getting into this hollow. This part of the stream is steeper and smaller, but the pools are deep – really deep. It’s like the Hughes River in Virginia, but on steroids. This is bigger and more powerful. Sometimes it sounds like an airplane. Cicadas added to the sounds, which can be eerie in the relative darkness. Once the sun lit everything up, the mood of the hollow changed. Pretty in dim light, it is gorgeous in sunlight. Plunging down the mountain into deep, clear pools that were sometimes blue, framed by bright, white 3-foot waterfalls. 

Looking up the stream, I recalled a quote from Fly-Fishing The Great Smoky Mountains, “ I could look up the stream and see where I would be in an hour.” I was fishing from the right side of the stream, which means I had to cast back-handed. I am not as accurate that way, and it’s tiring, but I was doing OK. I used a hopper, blue wing olive, a mayfly, a something-or-other and a Wulff and caught one 10-inch rainbow on the first cast with the Wulff.

I was surprised to see so many hikers walking up the mountain. It looked like half the campground were hiking this morning, and why not? It is a spectacular fall day. Several waved as they passed. One group took a picture of me casting into a beautiful pool. I didn’t notice any fishermen walk past, although you can’t be looking around while fishing this stream. I fell one time, but fortunately didn’t hurt myself or the rod. By 1:30 I was spent. If I was catching fish, I would have continued. It took me about an hour to get back to camp.

After some rest, I thought I should replace that drain cock since I was at 6% in the water tank. I removed two screws and pulled, twisted and pried, but it would not come out of the hose. Finally I broke it off and drilled out the rest. There was a hose inside the tank and it had a tightened metal ring around it. There was also a spring inside! Now how the heck did they do that, and why? I managed to remove the ring, but I should have slid it back on the hose. I put the new drain cock on, but would it hold without the tightening ring. If I had internet, I would have looked up how to replace this thing and learned how this tank works. 

I patched two leaks that I could see, hooked up and went to the dump station to dump and fill up with water. Maybe at least I would just have a slow leak. Two wet tracks followed me back to my campsite – not a good sign. I poured a glass of wine, took a shower and shaved. I had already lost half of the water, although I hadn’t filled the tank completely. I filled a few bottles of water and the coffee pot, sure I wouldn’t have water in the morning. My guess is the hose, under pressure, popped off the drain cock, so all these leaks I have might be intentionally placed drain holes. There must be something else inside holding the water.

Errands in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Friday,  September 24, 2021

47° at 3:00AM

As I lay in bed, slowly waking up, I thought it unlikely the fresh water tank was leaking in two places, although possible with all the bumps and jolts I give it driving rough highways at 70 mph. At Highland Haven, I had trouble closing the drain cock after draining the tank so I could fill with fresh water. I had to use a screw driver to leverage it. Maybe I cracked it, or maybe it was just worn out. At any rate, it appears to be a simple thing to replace. If it still leaks and is the tank that’s leaking, I may have to go to Charlotte to get it replaced.

I went into Cherokee with a list. Call Martha was first. I wasn’t sure she was getting the InReach satellite messages, as reception here is spotty. It’s an easy 15 minute drive into Cherokee. Martha was doing fine, playing tennis and going to the UVA football game tonight. I told her about the leaking fresh water tank.

I went to an auto parts store in Cherokee. The plug for my forward-facing video camera had come apart, so I was looking for the parts that screw into the end of a plug that goes in the cigarette lighter. I consider this an essential piece of equipment. If I am in an accident pulling an expensive trailer with an expensive truck, I want evidence to show what happened. Since I have already had one expensive issue, the insurance would probably drop me if I had another.

A very nice gentleman said he didn’t have anything like that, but if I was going that way, there is a Walmart in Sylva, with several auto parts stores near it. I was going that way anyway, to Fallin’s RV Repair for a water tank drain cock, wishfully thinking the leak was coming from a faulty drain cock. This was a busy, little place with RVs in every available place to park. There was one man inside the small store. He was serving one customer while he talked on the phone to another. I wandered up and down the isles looking for a drain cock. I turned to a voice asking, “Can I help you find something?” He went right to it. There were two designs, so I bought both and thanked him. As he checked me out, he answered the phone, while another man came in. How he kept his pleasant demeanor through all this, I don’t know. 

Now on to Sylva, about 17 miles away. I thought my GPS was taking me a crazy route, winding my way around this old railroad town, but that’s just the way it is. As I headed to Walmart, I envisioned walking around there for an hour looking for something they probably didn’t have. I spotted an auto parts store…… and turned left across busy traffic. 

Three service people were helping customers, so I started wandering around when a kind female voice said, “Can I help you?” I showed her the screw and cap, telling her what they went to. She went right to the electrical isle and scanned plugs, selecting one, asking, “Will this do it?” Staring at it while rearranging my mind, I thought all I needed was the button. Then I looked at the price tag – $6. I smiled and answered, “Yes, thank you very much.”

Walking to the truck, I looked at the plug with two wires coming out of it. OK, I would have to cut my wire and connect these. I can do that, I thought. Staring at it in the truck, I realized I could just unscrew the end, take the button and put it into mine. I headed back to camp, optimistic I was going to solve both problems. Just out of Cherokee, I stopped at a pullover beside the Oconaliftee River. There is a well-traveled foot path beside the river. Across the river I saw three fishermen beside a huge pool. In the reservation, they stock the river with trout. Entering the park, cars were pulled over next to a big field where elk grazed.

After eating some lunch, I decided to go fishing for a couple of hours. I didn’t have time to go far, so I started at the end of the campground where Bradley Fork comes into the campground. I got in at a beautiful pool. Fishing a hopper, nothing was interested, so I started for the next pool. Someone was standing in the middle of it. 

I walked up the road, heading up the mountain. I gave him what I thought was enough room to fish the next two hours and got in at another beautiful pool. Having no luck, I changed to a Royal Wulff. No luck. After fishing a gorgeous pool without moving a fish, I changed to a nymph. No luck, so I changed to a big streamer. No luck. I was changing again when the young fisherman who I thought I had given enough room, camp tromping past asking if I had any luck. I shook my head. I think he said he was doing well, but I couldn’t hear over the roaring river.

Bradley Fork is a beautiful trout stream – big, powerful, crystal clear water still flowing hard after the rains. Sometimes I heard airplanes flying over. Sometimes it was the river making a similar sound. Cicadas were also singing their mating song. Frustrated after a few more pools, I decided to head back. It was Friday afternoon, and two more fishermen passed me, going up the mountain. Then I saw two fishing their way up. What’s it going to be like on Saturday?

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!

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