Finding Magic in Cataloochee Valley
Fresh off a couple solid days on the Oconoluftee River near Cherokee, NC, the team (comprised of Shady Creek Expeditions Guide Ben Deal and No Kype Editor Larkin Wilson) was ready to journey off the beaten path in search of some backcountry trout. With both the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway AND the Blue Ridge Parkway closed for the recent snow and ice, our options became a little more limited.
We opted to head for Cataloochee Valley near Waynesville, NC. After doing a little research, we knew the route would take us into some rugged country. After making it to the rim of the valley, we knew our chances for finding trout were bleak - it was 17 degrees, the wind was whipping, and there was still snow and ice in a lot of places. But what we found upon making it into the bottom of the valley made the ride worthwhile.
While we had heard good things, it was fantastic to discover the beauty of Cataloochee Creek and its tributaries for ourselves. The water is crystal clear and the entire area is a small stream angler’s paradise. That said, Cataloochee Creek is more of a river than a creek; another pleasant surprise, as we assumed it would be another obscure little flow in the backwoods. Obviously the temperature falling way below freezing cooled off the bite, but as far as scouting trips go, it was uber successful.
But what really helped make up for the bitter conditions was getting to see the herds of elk. These majestic creatures were reintroduced to the valley back in 2001. Since then, they have made the Cataloochee area their own. We must have seen 50+ grazing in the acres of open fields, deliberately hanging out in the open for food and the warming rays of sunshine.
We’re not really sure when we’ll have another chance to revisit this valley. Maybe that’s part of why this particular leg of the trip is so special. But really, it’s the quality of the experience that stands out. Trout fishing, to us, is about the ups and downs of the adventure. Having an ass kicking by the river and the weather be offset by witnessing herds of elk roaming wild in one of the most scenic places in the Tarheel State is one hell of an experience.