Headwaters
Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Raven Fork
by: Craig Lancaster
September 7, 2008

Many books have written about the rugged nature of Ravens Fork and  
every word is well deserved. From the hike in to the in stream wading,
Ravens Fork is one of the most rugged and hazardous places in the park.

The shortest and best way to access Ravens Fork is Hyatt Ridge Trail,  
which is off of Straight Fork Road. The trail starts out at an  
elevation of around 2000' before making the relatively short, but  
grueling ascend to the top of the ridge, which tops out at 4700'. This
1.9 mile hike offers you several stream crossings and a fairly wide  
trail that is littered with rocks, which can make footing troublesome  
at times. Once you are at the top of the ridge, you will join up with  
the Enloe Creek Trail to make the much easier 0.9 mile hike downhill  
to the river and campsite #47. This leg of the hike is much easier, at
least on the way in, although it is narrower and is not wide enough  
for two people.

Ravens Fork is unique in many aspects, one being that there is only  
one access point directly to the river: the trail crossing at campsite
#47. This campsite offers the perfect place to explore this watershed  
and give your legs a rest at night. The hike in and out can be done in
one day, however much time is needed to truly explore what this  
watershed has to offer. The campsite is rather small, although it is  
nice and flat and offers two fire rings. Although this area does not  
receive many visitors, reservations are required from the park service
to stay here.

The fishing in Ravens Fork is complicated by the rugged nature of the  
stream, however, it's also one of the better streams in the park. This
area was largely spared by logging operations in the early 1900's, so  
this offers an angler a glimpse into what fishing may have been like  
before that time. Right around the campsite, the stream is littered  
with giant boulders, deep plunge pools, and swift currents that an  
angler must navigate in order to fish upstream. Due to the steep  
gradient in this section, extreme care must be taken when wading.  
About 3/4 of a mile upstream from the campsite, the stream flattens  
out a bit until the confluence of Jones Creek at 1 mile upstream. From
here on out, the stream becomes a sampling of extremely rough water  
and sections that are easier to wade. Remember that all steps must be  
re-traced in stream so leave yourself ample time to get back to camp  
if you choose to do this trip.

The area below the campsite downstream to it's conjunction to Enloe  
Creek is almost impossible to fish seeing as how there are no access  
points and it is placed firmly in a gorge. I can not recommend fishing
this section as I see no safe point to access the stream down in this  
gorge.

Almost all of the fish you will catch while fishing this watershed  
will be native Southern Appalachian brook trout. There are a few  
rainbows left to surprise an angler from a stocking operation before  
the park service owned the land. During this time, it was estimated  
that 2,500 rainbows were stocked, however it appears that they were  
not able to sustain themselves and the brook trout did not lose any  
ground to them. The average size is good for a brook trout stream,  
with a 7" native being the average fish with enough bigger fish to  
keep an angler happy. The nature of this stream ensures that larger  
brook trout do exist and fish in the 8"-10" are caught fairly common,  
although there are most certainly fish larger than this in the stream.

Ravens Fork offers some of the finest Southern Appalachian brook trout
fishing in the park as well as in the Southeast. The hike in is not  
for the faint of heart and is only matched by the watershed's in  
stream wading, which more often than not can be described as one part  
wading and two parts rock climbing. This watershed demands that an  
angler be somewhat physically fit to properly enjoy it's wonders, but  
anglers that do make this journey will find a world that appears to be
untouched and is graced with unimaginable beauty and fishing to match.



                        Article Copyright 2008 Craig Lancaster
Copyright 2008 James Marsh
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