Fishing on top of the old Smokies
In an entry written not too awfully long ago, I confessed to one of my great passions and pleasures in life: fly fishing for trout here in my native North Carolina mountains. As you might guess, on my bookshelves reside books related to that passion. Some, like The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide, might reside on the shelves of any serious angler. But some are specific to the sort of trout angling I do here in NC.
Such a one is the book in this review, Don Kirk’s exhaustive look at trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (and nearby environs), Smoky Mountain Trout Fishing. Kirk does a fine job of offering suggestions to anglers about where to find trout, stream sizes, casting difficulties that might be faced by anglers (especially important to fly fishers), and the remoteness of streams as well as the strenuousness required of fishers for reaching them. This is all great info for any angler interested in pursuing that beautiful and elusive creature, the Southern Brook trout, affectionately known to mountain natives as the “speck.”
After an introduction that discusses the types of trout found in Smoky Mountain streams as well as where they predominate (not just the above named native fish but its imported cousins the rainbow and brown), Kirk’s book is a methodical examination of every drainage in the Great Smoky Mountains Park; its neighbor, the Eastern Band Cherokee reservation; and a few spots outside the park which are remote enough to have eluded over development and exploitation.
Kirk also offers interesting historical information, especially concerning the rape of the Southern Appalachians to provide lumber for the furniture industry during the late 19th and early 20th century which had such a terrible impact on native Southern trout habitat (yes, I know, they’re actually members of the char family). Kirk does an excellent job of addressing this important environmental issue without being either too strident or too apologetic. I admire his restraint – I could not be so reasonable.
Another element of the book that makes Kirk’s detailed descriptions of stream systems and their fishing quality (which he rates from poor to excellent) enjoyable are his occasional anecdotes such as his mention of making his way around a thick stand of mountain laurel while fishing a remote stream only to find himself face to face with a young male black bear. His understated “I have not fished that stream again” made me laugh out loud. Having read masterpieces such as Bill McKibben’s The Age of Missing Information with his descriptions of actual encounters with bears over a long career as a back country hiker and camper, as well as having had my own (very rare) experiences with ursus americancus I found Kirk’s calm exposition of his encounter both startling and charming in its tongue in cheek tone.
I have fished several of the streams Kirk discusses and can attest to the accuracy of his stream descriptions. In a few words, this is an excellent resource for any angler wishing to fish this area.
One complaint, however, before I close. I have a first edition of this book. The publisher did a poor job of editing (I mean, repeatedly allowing the use of “dominate” when “dominant” is meant? Please…). My hope is that newer editions of the work have addressed this kind of copy editing issue.
Overall, though, Smoky Mountain Trout Fishing is a useful and enjoyable guide. If you are at all interested in trout angling in this region, you’ll find it a valuable resource.