Beyond the Fish

Beyond the Fish

A trout dinner gifted to me by a friend visiting from coastal Alabama is to blame. This trout changed the course of my life. We sat on my front porch enjoying delicious fish from the Bistro in Bryson City after a nice walk at Deep Creek and chatted about life and women traveling and the sort of things middle-aged wild women talk about when they gather. But the trout, now a part of my body, began speaking to me. 

Around that same time my neighbors and I went to Forney Creek and hiked. They are fly fishers and have grand times on the many, many creeks and rivers here in the far western corner of the North Carolina mountains. The beauty of that creek was profound…one of those places that takes a while to allow the depth of its magnificence to sink in. As we sat on the boulders of the creek eating lunch, I observed her listening to the water but not so much with her ears as with her other senses. She was in tune with it, a part of it. There was a shift in her energy as she sat with that creek, a deepening. I wondered if her love of fly fishing didn’t have more to do with the connection to the water and beauty as much as to the fish.

After those two experiences something in me asked the question: why don’t you try fly fishing? That same ‘voice’ asked me that same sort of question many years ago about scuba diving. Following through with training led to amazing adventures with Nature and people that totally changed my life and led to me become an instructor and cave diver and underwater photographer. So when I hear that ‘voice’ I pay attention.

The stimulus money bankrolled the gear and I still had some cash left to pay for essentials…dog and cat food…for a few months. Then I started watching fly fishing videos and reading and did this for many weeks with one casting session in the driveway.

My springtime walks to Deep Creek and Smokemont and other places in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park became wildflower pilgrimages as well as something else. There was some sort of magic happening around the water. I would stop and watch everything…the water movement, the still pools, the insects flying over the water, the shade….everything began to merge into a beautiful whole as the many aspects of the creeks were observed. I found myself dropping into a deeper stillness and my focus was perfectly present. You don’t have to pick up a rod to begin. For me the beginning was learning to pay attention, to let the creeks teach me.

Only then was I ready to pick up a rod. I needed a class as videos and books only go so far; however, nobody was offering classes due to Covid. The shop in Townsend, Tennessee where I bought most of my gear, Little River Outfitters, suggested Trout Zone Anglers and they connected me with a guide who was willing to instruct. So we booked a six hour trip on Bradley Fork and the Oconoluftee River.

After Travis took me through the steps of setting up gear, he took the time to show me larvae on the rocks and explained the insects that lived part of their life cycle in the creek or around it and how their lives were intertwined with the fish. As we stood in the creek looking at insect larvae casings I realized that fly fishing was learning about the entire ecosystem. It wasn’t about catching fish…at least not for me. It was going to teach me how to truly learn the connections of life in a mountain creek…to learn more about Oneness. How life is truly interdependent.

We did catch and release rainbow trout, brown trout and I even caught myself with one of the hooks. But the biggest catch of all was to gain understanding in the interconnectedness of life. And to know that fly fishing goes way beyond the fish.

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