Graham County

Santeetlah & Snowbird Creeks

Here's a nice trip report from the winter of 1998, written by Wayne Clodfelter, author of the newsletter Trout, NC.
On Thursday and Friday, Feb 26,27, Donald Yelton and I visited the Robbinsville, NC area. I picked up Donald at his house in Hendersonville and we drove to Santeetlah Creek near Robbinsville. If I were looking to disappear off the face of the earth and Timbuktu was a bit out of my budget, I believe Robbinsville would do just fine. Santeetlah Creek is a gorgeous stream that feeds into Lake Santeetlah, and is rumored to host a spawning run of steelhead and lake-run rainbows out of the lake in October.

Just as we began fishing, we both noticed some gray caddisflies ovipositing on the surface of some of the larger pools; and the larger pools were B-I-G pools. I saw one small trout slash the surface two or three times in the pool I was fishing, but could not get him to take the beadhead Tellico I had on.

Farther up in the head of the pool, I did get a faint take of the deep sunk nymph, but did not get a hook in the trout.

By the time we had worked our way back down the road to the concrete bridge where FR 81 first crosses the creek, I had managed five trout, one of them a brown; the others, rainbows. The largest was only about 10 inches, and the smallest..., well, was a bit smaller than that. Donald caught two; a rainbow and a brown, both of a Thunderhead, I believe. They were both eight to ten inch fish. The water where we fished is managed as hatchery supported water, but it had not been stocked since July or August, and the fish we caught were almost certainly wild fish, being a bit smaller than the typical stocker.

We retired to Robbinsville for the night. We ate at what may very well be the only restaurant in town; the Dungeon. Donald, for some reason-it must have been that he is just so nice-treated me to a steak dinner. I don't know if it was THAT good, of if I was just that hungry (and tired), but the dinner was wonderful.

Back at the motel, Donald broke out the Cuban Bolivar cigars, and I proffered a little bit of Knob Creek and Bookers Bourbon. Somehow, after having been up since 2 a.m. that morning, I lasted long enough to smoke the Cuban, which was outstanding, by the way, and imbibe a few drinks. If I dreamed, they were sweet, indeed.

The next morning, after a saugage biscuit at Popeye's (right next to the motel), we drove to Big Snowbird Creek. We had seen it where it joined the lake and followed along Hwy 143 for several miles, during our travels the day before. We turned on Snowbird Rd and after following along the creek for several miles, crossed a bridge over Little Snowbird Creek, right where the two streams join. From that point, Snowbird Rd followed along Big Snowbird for about five miles, to where the road ends at a place, shown on the Nantahala National Forest map as Junction. Forest Trail 64 takes off from the end of the road at Junction and follows pretty closely along the creek for something like twelve miles. We started fishing just past the end of the road, and made our way upstream for about 1/2 mile, fishing some of the biggest, deepest pools I have seen in a similarly sized stream. Snowbird is relatively large, being approximately twenty to thirty feet wide. Some of the pools must be ten or twelve feet deep.

Aside from scooting up the very steep bank for 20 to 80 yards to the trail along the left hand bank, there is no egress along the edge of the stream. Several times, Donald and I had to cross the stream to get around an impassible pool. We always managed to do it, but a couple of times, the speed and depth of the water I crossed through, exceeded my comfort zone. Donald caught 3 brown trout of 8 to 10 inches, while LDRing another, all on the Thunderhead. As for me, I barely avoided a skunking with one 10 inch rainbow brought to hand on a beadhead Tellico fished through a deep hole. My only other interaction with a fish had been a brief encounter with another 10 incher on the same fly swung around in two feet of water below another deep hole.

We stopped along the hatchery supported section a couple of times as we drove back out. Neither of us connected, but we left Snowbird, even more convinced, that this is one absolutely beautiful stream that ought to really show what it's made of, come the more fisher-friendly months of April and May.

These two days were about friends getting together to fish. Donald and I have done it, outside of claves, for each of the past 3 years. It's been a bunch of fun each time, fishing streams that were new to one of us, or as in this case, both of us. It was nice to catch a few fish, and to be sure, we would not have minded catching a few more. The good times shared, however, were far more important. They are what we will remember long after our recollections of who caught what, and how many, have faded away. Long after Donald gets over his thrill at besting me on Snowbird .

Thanks, Donald, for a great trip.

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Last updated 25-March-1998