I had Wednesday off, so I headed to South Mountains to try to mark Henry Fork off of the bucket list. I had fished the hatchery supported stretch twice before with no luck, both times in the winter. The section on South Mountains State Park was Bobby Kilby's creek #1,000, so it has been on my radar since 2008, but access is a little tricky. Let's just say there is no official park entrance on that side, and lots of posted signs and purple paint. I have been swapping emails with Jason Jefferies from Belmont about streams in that area, and he figured out a way in. He was gracious enough to take me in Wednesday, so Jason, I owe you a guided fishing trip in the Smokies!
Henry Fork is a decent-sized stream inside the park, with clear water and wild browns, and on this day blue skies and bright sunshine straight overhead - not the best conditions! I started fishing downstream with a bugger, and turned one but that was it. I then switched to my usual hare's ear nymph fished under a pinch-on foam indicator. I covered a lot of water with no success, so I switched to a latex stonefly nymph and immediately caught a nine-inch brown that was camera-shy. A couple of runs later, I hooked his twin, making Henry Fork #1026. Both runs had the following things in common - great cover with big rocks at the head, strong current, and water about waist deep. I told Jason I would like to at least get a look at He Creek, a tributary that probably contains wild browns, so we walked the trail past some really good-looking water to that point.
I saw several fish in the 7-9 inch range holding near the bottom. At this point, I had tied the hare's ear back on, so I flipped it into the current beside the orange rock. The fly never made it downstream to the fish I could still see, because a bigger fish had come out from under the rock to take the fly. Full disclosure - I was watching the fish I could see and missed seeing the take, so I foul-hooked him . . . thought I had a real monster for s few seconds!
I did fish up He Creek a short distance and caught four minnows, but I'm willing to bet there are browns in there. Jason and I made tentative plans to go back to try He Creek again and fish Henry Fork above the reservoir.
On the way home, I felt the urge to catch some on top, so I swung by Curtis Creek in Old Fort. The road was still gated (opened March 31) so I walked up to the campground (also closed) and fished that section. I caught twelve small wild rainbows on flies to top off a great day on the water.