Camp For Trout Deep In The Smokies

By Nick Carter

When the boat dropped us off Friday morning, it was with an understanding someone would return for us Sunday afternoon. We debarked into two nights and three days of camping and trout fishing deep in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With no cell service or road access for miles in any direction, we were about as disconnected as you can get in this part of the world. It was a glorious feeling.

Actually, one of our guides, Jake Tallent, of Fish Tales Outfitters in Franklin, N.C., had a satellite phone/EPIRB “for emergencies.” Around the campfire one night, he admitted using it to text his girlfriend. Guess the whole out-of-touch and roughing-it fantasy is a little outdated these days. We weren’t really roughing it much at all.

Tallent and our other guide, Nick Potts, rolled cartloads of gear up the trail to our campsite near the mouth of Hazel Creek. Three other clients and I sat in camp chairs and got to know each other while the guides set up camp. That set the mood for the weekend. The camping was comfortable, everything was provided for. All we were expected to do was fish hard, enjoy ourselves and return to hot meals around a campfire each evening.

Hazel Creek flows through high mountains on the north shore of North Carolina’s Lake Fontana. Road access to the north shore was completely cut off in the 1940s, when TVA flooded this impoundment of the Little Tennessee River. Abandoned, the communities that existed there returned to the forest. In three-quarters of a century since, it has become one of the most beautiful and historically intriguing areas of the Smokies. The best access is by boat across the lake.

Proctor, N.C. is the ghost town on Hazel Creek. The town’s main drag, Calico Street, is now the gravel trail that parallels the creek for 15 miles up into the hills. Ruins of Proctor are hidden everywhere in the creek and up steep wooded hillsides. Tallent regaled us with history as we passed landmarks hiking upstream in search of good trout water each day.

The creek itself is on the large side of typical for the park. It is cold and clear with a relatively flat gradient that makes for easy streamside hiking. A mix of boulder-strewn stretches and bedrock shoals create interesting holding water. There are also some deep, dark pools. Hazel Creek is loaded with beautiful 7- to 12-inch stream-born rainbow trout. There are also some big browns lurking in the deep holes.

Over three days of fishing, we caught good numbers of fish with simple dry-dropper rigs on 3- and 4-weight fly rods. There’s nothing more fun than wading up a mountain stream to toy with wild trout that are eager to jump on a dry fly. Hazel Creek is a gorgeous place to do it.

For a guided backcountry trip into the Great Smoky Mountains, check out Fish Tales Outfitters at www.fishtaleswnc.com

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