2019-10-13 It's Laurel River!
I know what USGS calls it - let's just agree to disagree. You will not find the name "Laurel River" anywhere on a USGS map of Madison County. According to USGS, from it's mouth on the French Broad about a quarter-mile downstream from Stackhouse to it's headwaters near Wolf Laurel, it is Big Laurel Creek. The big stream that enters from the left near "The Lodge at Bear River" (even they got the name wrong!) and follows 208 up to the junction with 212 at Belva is Shelton Laurel Creek. From there, turn right to follow Shelton Laurel up to it's headwaters or turn left to follow Little Laurel Creek and eventually enter Tennessee and the Paint Creek watershed. I have been catching big trout in these waters since high school, long before there was delayed harvest water anywhere, and anyone from this area can tell you that USGS is wrong! Here is the gospel - Laurel River begins at Belva, the junction of 208 and 212 (where Shelton Laurel Creek and Little Laurel Creek end at a "T" junction) and runs all the way through the gorge to the French Broad River. Big Laurel Creek ends where it runs into Laurel River under 208. When USGS finally gets it right, I will be able to claim one more new creek! Griping aside, I fished it for a couple of hours on October 13 and caught a bunch. I wasn't counting fish, just relaxing, enjoying a few Swisher Sweets, and meditating on timeless truths - like Laurel River! It had been stocked the week before, and the fish were still chasing buggers, so I enjoyed that for a while. I then switched to nymphs and caught several more, including the nice rainbow below. Finally, I found a big pod of brook trout sipping midges on top, and I caught several on a downstream drift with a size 22 midge dry fly. I also met a new friend in Tony McDonald, who I saw hook and lose a football-sized rainbow just downstream from me. How many did I catch? Don't know, don't care. Sometimes it's more relaxing if you don't count fish - let's just call it a good day.