West Prong of Little Pigeon River Journal:

Happy July Brook Trout on the Walkers Camp Prong (7/20/07):
On July the 19th and 20th, 2007, we finally got some rain in the Smoky
Mountains. It has been raining here and there for the last two days, so Angie
and I decided to see if the Little River was up and colored. We were going after
a big brown if it was.
When we arrived, about 1:00 PM, Little River was rising and too off colored to
suit us. We had rather wait until the rise subsided, so we moved back over to the
West Prong of the Little Pigeon River to see if the headwaters had received any
rain. It was needed there to help a very bad situation.
We had been fishing almost every day since returning from Yellowstone National
Park (because of the drought situation there) on the North Carolina side of the
park. This was our first time to fish the Smokies in the month of July because we  
have always been at Yellowstone the entire month. This year, we were working
on a project in the Yellowstone Park and not fishing the other waters - Madison,
Henry's Fork, etc., so we left the bad water situation there and returned home
until September.
Back home we found the water levels were not much better than they were at
Yellowstone, except for the North Carolina side of the park. There the water
levels were much better and the water temperatures were in the mid sixties. We
were traveling back and forth from Gatlinburg each day, to Cherokee and then
deciding which stream we were going to fish.
On our way back across the mountains, on two different days we stopped to fish
the Walker Camp Prong of the Little Pigeon River. The water was extremely low.
We wanted to see if we could catch a brook trout under those conditions. We
would use long leaders, 7x tippets and make long cast. Selecting the widest
open areas we could find in order to make longer than normal cast, we were
able to catch a couple of brook trout but the action was very, very slow. The tiny
pocket looked void of fish.
By the way, the water temperature was in the mid sixties which is okay to catch
trout without hurting them provided they are released quickly. So you don't need
to worry about our stressing or killing the fish. We would never do that. Anyway,
we were only able to catch a couple of brook trout and were very concerned as
to the effects of the low water.
Back to July 20, we found that Walkers Camp was up and rolling and it was still
raining off and on. It was now about 2:00 PM. We started fishing about a mile
above the Alum Cave trailhead parking lot. Within the next 2 hours, Angie and I
managed to catch well over twenty brook trout and about a half dozen rainbows.
That is with only one of us fishing at a time. A couple of the brook trout were nice
ones, better than seven inches. We were very happy because we thought they
may have been hurt by the last month of extremely low water. It appears they
were not hurt much, if any.
By the way, the mayflies and stoneflies were also happy. A oddball species of
blue-winged olives (probably not baetis) was hatching in the mist of rain along
with some beautiful Cream Cahills. We would often see two or three of these big
mayflies in the air at the same time on the little stream. There were also two
different species of stoneflies around. A Little Brown species (about a hook size
18) and one of the small needle flies which is another species of Little Brown
We were using one of our "Perfect Fly" blue-winged olive dry pattern - a size 18
but I doubt the fly mattered much. The little brook trout were very active and
appeared to be hungry.
This is of course a very non scientific opinion, but it appears to us that the brook
trout hide from everything during the extremely low water conditions. When the
water is extremely low, they must be afraid of all the predators - bird, animals,
the rainbows and humans because we were not able to catch but two fish even
making certain they did not see us or our leaders. We think they stay hidden
under the rocks and expend little or no energy in order to cope with these
severe conditions. The stream appeared to be void of any fish during the
drought conditions and then magically come alive with the rain. We were
shocked at the numbers of fish that existed where only a few days before there
appeared to be none. This was a very satisfying finding for us. The brook trout
can handle much more adverse conditions than we would have ever expected
they possibly could.

Copyright 2007 James Marsh