10/07/10
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2.    Mahogany Duns
3.    Little Yellow Stoneflies
4.    Slate Drakes
5.    Needle Stoneflies
6.    Little Yellow Quills
7.    Ants
8.    Inchworms
9.    Beetles
10.  Grasshoppers
11.  Hellgrammite
12.  Craneflies
13.  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)

Fly Fishing Hazel Creek
I'm really angry with Hazel Creek. I finished an article about it a few days ago and
then proceeded to erase it. Anglers blame the streams on everything, so I'll blame it
for getting erased. This down and quick rendition will probably cause the English
teachers that read it to get indigestion. Well, okay, maybe even my best would
cause that.

If you asked anyone from North Carolina what the best stream in Great Smoky
Mountains National Park is, they would most likely answer Hazel Creek. If you ask
anyone form Tennessee, they would most likely answer Little River. If you ask me, I
would ask you what you meant by the best stream. What should you use for judging
a stream - quantity of fish, species of fish, size of fish, ease of access, lack of
pressure from others? The criteria could go and on and on. I often think some of
the Nation's best streams are the most difficult ones to fish. I probably wouldn't be a
good judge. I will say this about Hazel Creek. I don't think there's a stream in the
park any better than Hazel Creek.

The only way to get to Hazel Creek is by hiking a very long way or crossing Fontana
Lake. Cable Cove Launch is the closest boat ramp. Fontana Marina has shuttle
service to Hazel Creek via pontoon boat. They will drop you off and pick you up
when requested. Of course, there's a charge for this. It does prevent having to
leave your boat at the lake while you're fishing.

Once you get to the mouth of Hazel Creek, you can follow the stream via the Hazel
Creek four lane highway. Just kidding, but it is a rather large dirt road. In fact you
will often see park vehicles using it. You can take a buggy or cart to move your
camping gear if you plan on staying a while. There are lots of anglers and hikers
that do just that. Most anglers fish the lower portion of the stream. The headwaters
see very little pressure.

You may be surprised to know that this stream often gets crowded. You wouldn't
tend to think so due to the trouble required to access it, but it does. That should tell
you something about its fishing quality. The stream has a good population of both
rainbow and brown trout. Brook trout are found in its headwaters and some tributary
streams. Smallmouth bass are also present in the lower part of the stream. Hazel
Creek is known for its large brown trout of which it has more than a fair share.

The size of Hazel Creek is large if you compare it to other Smoky Mountain streams.
The lower part of the creek falls at a rather low decline. The low gradient dictates
longer riffles and runs as well as some large pools. It's more like a small western
river. The farther you go upstream, the more pocket water, typical of the Smoky
Mountains, you will see. The stream isn't a difficult stream to fish from a casting
standpoint. It offers plenty of room in its lower reaches.

The Hazel Creek Valley and Bone Valley were the homes of several families of
mountain people before the park was formed. It also had a huge lumber operation
at one time. This fact seemed to have had an effect on the aquatic insect
population. You will find more crawler mayfly nymphs than you will in many other
streams in the park. Hendricksons, Sulphurs and Eastern BWOs are present, for
example.  It has more net-spinning caddisflies than most other streams with a few
exceptions. There are plenty of Spotted and Cinnamon Sedges. All in all, it has a
very diverse and higher than normal (for the Smokies) population of aquatic insects.

Angie and I have fished Hazel Creek ten times according to our video logs. We
have not fished it when we didn't catch quite a few trout. Our largest brown trout
was only 15 inches but there are plenty there much larger. That's only because we
fished a dry fly ninety-five percent of the time. I am not suggesting you do that. In
fact you will probably catch a lot more trout and larger trout if you fish a nymph or
larva imitation.

Hazel Creek has several tributary streams. The first one of any size headed
upstream from the mouth of the creek is Sugar Fork. It has two small tributaries -
Haw Gap Branch and Little Sugar Fork. The stream is located about five miles
upstream from Fontana Lake. It has mostly rainbow trout. It's accessible from the
Sugar Fork Trail. Campsite number 84 is near its mouth. Site number 83 is the first
one upstream of the lake which is just over a mile below Sugar Fork. Number 82 is
the farthest upstream site.

Bone Valley Creek is the next major tributary headed upstream. It's a small to
medium size stream with rainbow trout in its lower section and brook trout in its
headwaters. Bone Valley Creek is about five and one-half miles upstream of
Fontana Lake. It has several small tributaries - Defeat Branch, Wooly Branch,
Desolation Branch and Roaring Fork. These small tributaries have populations of
brook trout. It's accessed from the Bone Valley Trail. This is a large valley and the
largest tributary stream.

Walker Creek is another small tributary of Hazel Creek. It's only accessible by an
unimproved path or by fishing upstream. Most of the trout below its falls are
rainbow trout. Walker Creek is about nine miles upstream of Fontana Lake.

Proctor Creek is yet another small stream that flows into Hazel Creek about ten
miles upstream of Fontana Lake. It too can be accessed from an unimproved trail.
The small tributary streams of  James Creek Branch and Long Creek Cove also
offer anglers a chance at its brook trout.

If you haven't already done so, and you ever have an opportunity to fish Hazel
Creek, you certainly should. It is one of the few "destination" streams in the park.

Copyright 2010