Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fly-fishing Whitetop Laurel Creek

After we packed our backpacks up, we began the two-mile descent down Straight Mountain.  I believe it was this long downhill trek that ruined my toes.  By the time we got down that day, my toes hurt so bad, I never put my hiking boots back on.  Those Keen sandals felt soooo much better!  It was also during this part of the hike that we decided that we definitely wanted to purchase two more hiking sticks before doing another long hike like this.  Having one in each hand would help balance the weight of the pack and I would be more comfortable when the path edges against an long embankment like it did on that day.  At the end of each switchback, I stopped long enough to switch my stick into the hand that would be next to the embankment.  I felt more secure that way in case I should stumble.  My stick would be in my downhill hand for support and security.

At about 2 miles into today's hike we came across the side trail that took out to Taylor's Valley.  We had decided we wanted to go to eat lunch at the Virginia Creeper Trail Cafe where we had eaten on the day we rode our bikes.  That little trail isn't as well maintained as the AT, but we did make it down to where it intersected with the Virginia Creeper.  We first headed down the Creeper, but then I asked a biker if he had already passed Taylor's Valley and he had, so we hiked back up the Creeper probably almost a mile to our restaurant.
Fly-fishing on Whitetop Laurel Creek

We had a fantastic lunch there, changed from our hiking boots into our fishing sandals, tied on a fly, and began what would be two days of fishing Whitetop Laurel Creek.  We began fishing right there at the restaurant just under the bridge and caught several small trout, both brook and rainbow.  We fished that hole for probably an hour until some kids came down and started to play in the water.  At that point, we shouldered our packs again and set off down the trail.  We stopped numerous times that day where it looked like there should be fish and had a relaxing, wonderful day fishing.  Many people would stop when they'd see us and watch and chit-chat some before going on their way. 

We used caddis flies mostly on this trip.  Russell Sloan had given Bunk a few flies that he thought should work well on this water.  Most of them were these dry caddis flies, but there were also a few nymphs.  We used both throughout our time, but all of our hits and catches were on dry flies.

Our campsite that second night was right above where I had the flat tire on my bike that last trip.  It was near the Straight Branch Parking area.  We chose that area because it would be within walking distance of a privy.  Never a bad thing!  I pitched the tent this night on a deep bed of leaf litter and that proved to be much softer sleeping than the previous night spent on pine needles.  But that was one of the differences in the altitudes--there were NO deciduous trees on the top of Straight Mountain, but there were plenty down at the base of that same mountain.  In fact, it was very interesting that day as we hiked down the mountain to watch as the vegetation changed due to changes in the altitude.  We commented on it as we were hiking down, but it was pleasantly obvious when we crawled into our sleeping bags that night.  It almost felt like a mattress--well, almost!
Hubba Hubba Two-person Tent

Here's a picture of our little home-away-from home that night.  For dinner on the evening of Day Two, we had Beef Stroganoff and again, it was fabulous!  We did miss that picnic table though!  Preparing dinner without a table increased the challenge, but it all worked out fine.
Getting ready for dinner with our Jet-Boil

But at least this tree provided a place to sit other than the ground and even offered a backrest if you could stand it for at least a short period of time.  We sure did miss that picnic table.

On the morning of Day Three, we again packed up our stuff and began fishing that beautiful stream again.  I must say, I haven't seen as many young fish in a river since I was a kid!  The river must be pretty healthy to provide such a prolific nursery for all those fingerling trout.  We fished a couple of hours that morning, then when it began to rain, we decided to just hike the remaining three miles down the Creeper Trail to return us to Damascus where our truck awaited our return.  Between Bunk's heel issue and my sore toes, we were pretty glad to see that truck and I was sure glad I didn't have to put my hiking boots back on.

I feel pretty good about what we were able to accomplish on this trip--overcoming some pretty stiff challenges and really reaching inside and pulling on what you're made of.  We will, hopefully, return again soon to hike the part of the AT that we shortcut in order to fish on Day Three.  I did enjoy the relaxation and the rush of the fishing, though.  It was worth it!

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