From out of the clouds of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park flows the water that forms Raven's Fork, a tributary of the Oconaluftee River.† For 2 ½ miles of this pristine trout water it is fly-fishing catch-and-release only.† The Oconuluftee continues through the town of Cherokee and down to the Tuckasegee River near Bryson City, North Carolina.
Northwest from Atlanta, Georgia (3†hours driving time).†West from Charlotte, North Carolina (2†hours driving time).
Raven's Fork is a medium-sized creek that flows from the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The gradient for the† 2 ½ mile portion of the Trophy Water is 70 feet per minute. In summer, the time of low water, the flow is slower, but rain up in the higher elevations can cause a rapid increase in flow and water level.†This is freestone water, which means there are areas of shallow, rapidly tumbling water and slower, deeper pools.† A wading staff is good to have. Since the streamside is heavily forested, it is often necessary to wade out into the stream to cast.
After stopping at Smokey Mountain Fly Fishing shop (35., Cherokee, NC) to purchase the daily fishing permit and the annual Trophy Water license, follow Big Cove road a couple miles to the Cherokee School Complex. A bridge across from the school is a good place to view the large trout. Park at the bridge and fish downstream or drive up to one of the auto pull-offs, park, and go to the water. All Trophy Water is marked by white signs.
This is Cherokee Indian land, which means a North Carolina State fishing license is not necessary, but Cherokee Indian Reservation permits are required.† Remember, Indian reservations are self-governing and, though Cherokee is very amiable to fly fishers, respecting the land and water is quite important. Cherokee Indian game wardens check the area frequently.
The Tribal Fish Hatchery stocks large rainbow trout. Often wild brook trout will come down from the national park and large brown trout will swim up from the Oconaluftee River to spawn.
Fish can range from wild brook trout no more than 6 inches to huge rainbows land browns 24 inches or larger.
There are many morning and late evening hatches (mayflies, stoneflies) in the warmer months and the dry fly fishing can be enjoyable. Caddis and blue-winged olive flies are often productive.† Sizes can be from 8 to 14.
For constant action, however, nymph fish. The problem in freestone water of this type can often be getting the fly to the bottom. Try†to use as much as 2 AAA splitshots to get the fly down when the river is running fast. Nymphs such as: gold-ribbed hares ears, copper Johns, and stone-fly imitations are often successful.† This is also good water for the streamer fisherman. Olive, brown, or black wooly buggers or often effective, as are minnow imitations.
Because there is always the chance of hooking a very large fish, a 5 weight, fairly stiff rod is useful. Anything smaller than 3x tippet is asking for a break off. A reel with a good drag is suggested.† Since the pools will be no more than 6-1 feet, floating lines and 7 ½ foot leaders are all that are needed.
Cooler weather dictates chest waders, but the summer months allow "wet-wading" where a pair of shorts and wading boots are all that's necessary. Rocks can be slippery, so felt soles and a wading staff are important. After a hard rain in the higher mountains, watch for submerged tree branches while wading.† And check the tippet often for nicks. Large trout can break a weakened tippet easily.
This is Cherokee Indian land, which means a North Carolina State fishing license is not necessary, but Cherokee Indian Reservation permits are required.† Remember, Indian reservations are self-governing and, though Cherokee is very amiable to fly fishers, respecting the land and water is quite important.† Cherokee Indian game wardens check the area frequently.
Bring your camera. Author of this text photographed: bull elk fighting, white tail deer gliding between huge tree trunks, and mink and raccoons worrying rocks along the riverbank. And there's always the chance of seeing a roaming black bear, though there's little danger unless it's a mother with cubs (during spring and summer). The Cherokee wildlife officers keep tabs on bears, so they will warn fishermen if one is spotted in the area. Like all wildlife, the animals want only to be left alone and are rarely aggressive.
There are many cultural activities to visit on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.† A couple of the most interesting are the outdoor drama, "Unto these Hills" which re-enacts the history of the Cherokees' contact with Europeans; and a visit to the working village of "Oconaluftee" where you can see native dancing, pottery making, weaponry, and more.
Official site of the Native American Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolinawww.cherokee-nc.comAccommodation Best Westernwww.greatsmokiesinn.comGuide: Eugene Schulerteshuler@yahoo.comCherokee musicSongs of Appalachia: Cherokee flutist, singer
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