White Top Laurel

Several club members attended the recent trip led by our notorious Trip Leader JD Forrester.  Milton Sams, Ed Chamberlin, Phil Sehenuk, Dave Lash and I traveled to far southwest Virginia in search of good times, good fishing and good food.  Luckily, none were in short supply.  We planned on being there from April 22nd through the 28th.  While not all folks were able to be there the whole week, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  Time makes its demands on us all (some un-retired folks more than our retired brothers…) so we were fortunate to have as many as we did for as long as we did.  This is especially true given the distance by car.  It took most of us 5 ½ to 6 hours to get there.  Believe me when I say, it was worth the trip.

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The primary fishing location was White Top Laurel Creek in Virginia.  The creek flows into Tennessee and all areas fished well.  By fishing well, I mean that a 15 fish day was about as slow as it got.  There were certainly several folks that exceeded twice that.  Having said that, the river was not giving up her fish easily.  The mornings were generally cold (upper 30’s to low 40’s) and the afternoons would get into the 60’s and 70’s.  You all know what that means…  The mornings were spent either straight nymphing or using a dry dropper combination.  While you can’t call the catching active, everyone caught fish before lunch.  On several afternoon sessions, risers were seen and switching to dry flies proved effective.  As far as nymphs go, the Hare’s Ear, a BH prince, and a soft hackle seemed to work consistently well.  Light Cahill’s, Adam’s and March Browns were good flies for the afternoons.   Highlight fish of the trip were JD’s 18 inch Brown caught on a Hare’s Ear and my 15 inch Rainbow on a Light Cahill.  The majority of the fish in this creek were in the 9-12” range.  JD got the Smokey Mountain Slam on Friday with Brook/Brown/Bow.  That was the only Brookie I heard about being caught on the trip.  Other fishing opportunities awaited on the Beaver Dam, Laurel Creek and the Middle or South Fork of the Holsten.  There is so much un-crowded water that we never left the White Top Laurel.

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Let me take a minute to describe the river we fished.  By Blue Ridge/Smokey Mountain standards the White Top Laurel is big.  Many places were 30 to 40 feet across with lots of pocket water, long deep runs and lots of riffles.  The banks of both sides of the river are dense with Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel.  We were probably a couple of weeks away from full bloom, but I can imagine that would be quite a sight to see at the right time in the Spring.  Along one side of the river was the Virginia Creeper Trail which is a highly successful Rails to Trails project that coincidentally was land donated by my employer.  The trail is gorgeous and gave easy access to the river while making for comfortable hiking as well.  Dave brought his bike so he was covering a lot of ground in a short time.  While there is a lot of overhang that provided good shade to much of the river, it wasn’t so much that it made casting a nightmare.  I will say that JD was not unhappy that everyone was losing flies at a 6-8 per day rate.  I know he will get an order for replacements from me.  The Appalachian Trail came through much of the areas we fished so we ran into a lot of outdoorsmen.  The closest town, Damascus VA is known for its support of the trail and the hikers that walk it.  As a result, there were some decent places to eat, and good outfitters.  Despite anything JD may say, there is a well stocked fly shop close to Abingdon called the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop.  The proprietor, Bruce is both knowledgeable and a genuine pleasure to talk to.

I believe these trips are one of the major things that separates our club from so many others like it.  To say the least it can be difficult to throw together individuals with divergent backgrounds and tastes and expect then to get along well.  Without exception, every trip I have been fortunate enough to go on has been a real pleasure.  This trip was just like that.  Everyone pitched in on the cooking, cleaning and the most important part, stories and drinks around the campfire.

Special thanks to JD for pulling the trip together in the first place and ensuring we had more delicious breakfast than we could possibly eat.  No thanks to Seahunt for the hamburger he didn’t cook Ed and I just because of a little rain.  Nothing like processed ham on a piece of bread when your mouth is watering for a burger grilled in the woods…  Thanks to Ed for the scrumptious Red Beans and Rice with Keilbasa we had on Tuesday.  No thanks to Kubota for making me drag an extra tent all the way to Virginia on the chance that he might join us (we missed you dude!).  Dave, Thanks for the Thai Shrimp Stir Fry.  We ate like kings.

Do yourself a favor and get on one of these trips.  You will have a blast and possibly make some new friends, learn some new fishing tricks and store some long term good memories.

Michael W. Greene

First of all I want to thank Mike “MGD” Greene for the great write up. He was completely true in what he said except for the fly shop. I must warn you that if MGD or Ed Chamberlain go searching for a fly shop, it would be best for you to go another way!

We had a fantastic time together and White Top Laurel did nothing to change my mind as the best wild trout stream in the Southeast. In fact, I think we were 2 to 3 weeks too early or it would have been mostly a dry fly time. Still it was a great time on the stream. For example, you see a large rock in the middle of the stream and it looks like good holding water is on the right. If I can just put the fly above the rock and get a 12 inch drift beside the rock, then maybe something would give the fly a look. Luckily for me I got a good drift and bam, got a 14 inch brown. It doesn’t get any better than that!

The only thing wrong with the trip wrong with the trip is we did not have more people. (Kubota, where for art thou? Are you alive?) You are really missing out on fun by not going on one of these trips.