Category: Fly Fishing

Grand Slam…Thank You Ma’am!

Grand Slam…Thank You Ma’am!

I had to break out the waders. Fifty-two degree air temps and 59 water temps…and wading in the shady gorge of the creek. While I missed the water-to-skin contact I so enjoy wet-wading, today was a day for wading pants.

A little doe, a white-tailed deer, walked along with me in the morning fog and light. (sigh) It was a little over a mile so I was sufficiently warmed up by the time I made it up the elevation of the trail to the place I wanted to access the creek. That was under 30 minutes. It would be another hour and a half before my dance partners were ready to begin our waltzes.

But first, upon entering the water, the first touch. Hands to clear water in deep gratitude. Heart open to the connections…water, rocks, trees, moss, fish, insects, human. Oneness.

Wading, casting, wading, stopping and looking with awe. Wading, casting…more awe, more smiling. And then, my dance partners were ready. But would only respond to one specific kind of dry fly. Not a stimulator. Not a caddis. Nope. Nope. Nope. Small parachutes, please. Purple dubbing…yes! Olive dubbing…yes! But only small parachute adams flies.

Okay. Whatever makes you all happy. When the dancing started, boy did we dance!

There had been 7 rainbow dances. Then a brookie danced. And I was like….I have another half mile or more of creek before I exit….COME ON BROWNIE!!! My mantra became, Come on Brownie! Two more dances with rainbows….the first time I’ve EVER said… Oh, another rainbow. I had my heart set on a slam…the three trout in the national park: rainbow, brown, and brook. The audacity of me to be disappointed when a wild trout decided to dance with me. I caught that snobbery immediately and made apologies.

And then….from right under a big stump, a flash of energy took the dry fly and I set the hook and Mr. Brown Trout erupted from the deep pool to grant me my wish: A GSMNP Grand Slam! The honey-colored belly flew through the air and I erupted in a loud WHOOP!!!

I was so psyched that I ended the day in a long, large pool–free of overhanging anything–and just worked on long casts. The creeks I fish are small and have so much growth overhanging or pushing in on the sides, it’s rare to be able to stretch out that beautiful loop. But I did and the rock where I was standing had a trout hiding there that eventually tired of my big boot being so close and slowly swam away. Ah, my pet rainbow.

There are always moments that remain frozen in my mind after such a perfect day. I reflected on them as I hiked down the trail: the light filtering through dense leaves and fog as I wade upstream; a trout rises a few feet from my boot to wait for the fly floating down the run…as it surfaces, it rolls its eyes toward me and at the last minute refuses (smart trout!); a rainbow I release as I kneel down on the rocks–I do this to keep the fish in the water as I remove the barbless hook–and the trout just stays in the shadow of my knee…so I continue to kneel and observe the trout just inches from me but nearly invisible…so perfect is their camouflage…I finally touch its tail suggesting it move on so I could stand up; the monster trout that swirls at the bottom of a big pool that rises to my fly and then dives back down and continues swimming around, totally ignoring my fly (another very smart fish).

Walking down the trail in the return to ‘reality,’ amidst all these beautiful reflections, I nearly stepped in a big pile of bear poo. Back to reality, Simone!

If you’d like to join me in an alternate reality of the fly fishing kind, I offer holistic fly fishing guide service. Most of my clients are women, new to fly fishing; but, anyone is welcome. We focus on the connection of life within the creek ecosystem, rather than how many fish are caught. Hone your skills, learn as a brand new beginner or just come along for the woo-woo…I create a safe space to learn and practice being a wading woman.

It’s in My DNA

It’s in My DNA

Been thinking about my dad a lot lately. He died when I was in college after a long battle with an undiagnosed ‘something’ that took his life in a very slow, painful way. A recent Orvis podcast on neonic pesticides brought it up in a deeper way.

My dad loved to fish and hunt. He was a strong, vital man…a farmer. My mom remembers him coming home drenched in pesticides from either filling the sprayer on the tractor or from flagging for the crop-duster airplane. The doctor’s never gave him a real diagnosis, but I did some searching on micro-fiche (rememberer that???) while at Auburn. I was in a Public Relations class and was doing a paper on environmental disasters and how the media covered them. I was actually working on a Three Mile Island paper, but while at the library searched for chemical disasters.

What I found was a chemical plant where workers were exposed to a chemical spill in the plant and they all got very sick, very quick. Their symptoms were the exact same as my dad, but they happened much quicker because of the massive exposure.

I’ve always linked my father’s illness and death to chemical exposure. But that’s not what’s in my DNA…at least I hope it isn’t. He’s been gone 41 years now, but his love of fishing is what I find deep within myself.

As a kid, we fished from the time we were toddlers. My first fish was a flounder on a cane pole when I was probably three or four years old. Then there was a deep sea fishing trip with my dad, when I was 12, when I hooked a king mackerel and it was big! I didn’t think I could land it, but my dad stood beside me and encouraged me and refused to let me give up. It was a lesson that stuck with me. I’ve never given up on life, even though at times it’s been tempting to forget the dreams and just become a robot like so many humans.

The podcast…it was about neonic pesticides and how they are so deadly to insects….good insects…that we need. Like bees and mayflies and caddis flies….basically without insects we are completely done for. We can just bend over and kiss ourselves goodbye. And of course, many fish species eat insects…so you know where this is going. This is a group of pesticides outlawed in Europe and other countries, including Canada. And I just heard, New York state outlawed them (yippie). The rest of our country needs to wake the heck up! These are more dangerous than DDT…remember that one?

I write this to honor my dad…how he passed along his love of fishing to me. As I wade the creeks and rivers here in the Smokies I think of him. He’d be in his 80’s now. Sometimes I think he’s wading alongside me, probably smiling as much as me when I land a fish.

As I begin to offer holistic fly fishing to folks, it’s my hope that it helps them heal as much as it does me. And that I can pass along good stewardship of our planet to all who wade with me or read these words. It’s not just about catching fish, but caring for fish and all life on this magnificent planet.

By the way…I’ve eaten organically as much as possible since my dad’s death. I figure if I support organic farmers, that’s one less conventional farmer spraying with these chemicals or using seeds treated with them, that’s getting my money. Forty years ago you had to be in an organic food buying co-op to secure organic food. Now, you can walk into almost any grocery store and buy organic. So, I do that and I write my representatives in Congress and let them know this is unacceptable. And I remember my dad and the legacy he left me: don’t give up, stand up for what’s right, protect the Earth. Thank you dad!

My brother and me enjoying dirty feet and freshly caught fish.
I Let Go of Cave Diving

I Let Go of Cave Diving

It took a while. In fact, it took several years. But this week, I finally let go of cave diving. 

I hadn’t been cave diving in a while, after enjoying it for nearly 100 cave dives. But diving in an overhead environment requires honed skills, not occasional dips into underwater caves. Unless you do it often, it’s really not safe. So, I finally listed a set of double steel tanks on a social media scuba page and sold them within an hour or so which led to selling my regulators, deco regulator and my reels. They went quickly after so many years of pondering the question: Should I let go?

Today, after dropping off the set of tanks to a buyer in Hickory, I drove on to Winston-Salem to see my friends Van and Patti. Van was my Intro, Apprentice, and Full Cave instructor as well as a dear friend through the years…but I hadn’t seen either of them in a while. He had contacted me about someone giving him fly rods that he was bringing to me to donate to Wading Women, a fly fishing program I’m planning for women that want to be empowered through wading and fly fishing. It’s rather odd that my friend, my instructor, was there in person after I released my last piece of cave diving gear, waiting with fly fishing gear for the program. 

And on the way home, I stopped in Asheville to visit my friends Laleah and Bill. Bill had already gifted me with some really nice fly fishing gear he was no longer using. Today, he passed along salt water fly fishing gear, as I’m starting to plan some trips to salt flats, back bays, and other coastal places. The gear is amazing. And I am so grateful.

Today felt like such a powerful day of letting go and opening to whatever is coming next. And it must involve fly fishing. I was gifted with 9 older model fiberglass fly rods and reels that are epically retro as well as 7 very nice salt water rods and more reels that I can sort in my travel-fatigued brain tonight. So I’m in a place of ‘what just happened?’  I’m almost in shock that the act of letting go of something I loved so much opens the door to new adventures in teaching fly fishing and deepening my experience by playing in salt water with fly rods. 

Here’s the other thing….every single time my mind starts coming up with doubts or negative self-talk about the idea of Wading Women, I get signs that I’m on the right path. Today, it feels as if Wading Women reached out and grabbed my shirt collar and said, “Hey, do you still doubt that this is the right direction? Do you? Are you paying attention?” 

Yes!! I’m paying attention. I won’t fear letting go and letting doors close. New doors are opening and they are opening in a BIG way! 

Van was there at the beginning of my cave diving journey and today, he was there at the end of it. But, he came confirming the next step. How cool is that? It’s probably been 15 years since I’ve seen Van and Patti, but it was so sweet to connect with them again. And to visit with Bill and Laleah on my way home to my mountain paradise. 

What an amazing day of friends, closing doors, opening doors, and the way forward being shown to me so very clearly. I am deeply grateful.

Sometimes it takes letting go to clear the way for something new and wonderful to be birthed.

Counting Days, Not Fish

Counting Days, Not Fish

Today was a special anniversary. Another year has passed since I started fly fishing. I spent 67 days fishing during this time period and each one filled me with profound beauty. Each day deepened my friendship with the creeks, rivers, rocks, trees, trout…and insects. 

The beautiful insects trout feed on have captured my heart. Their life stories are incredible with some staying in a nymph stage underwater over a year before emerging into their final form. A few days as a graceful, winged creature and then they mate and die. Such profound symbolism. 

I had a lovely mayfly hang out on my sweater for a while as I waded upstream today. Yellow sallies were everywhere, their tiny yellow bodies fluttering like fairies. There were so many insects hatching I had to keep my mouth closed, which was difficult as I kept laughing out loud at the multitudes of flying beauties. Many times my dry fly was floating alongside just-hatched mayflies as they dried their wings before launching into flight.

My heaven. Every part of the ecosystem in harmony with each other. Bliss-in-action. And while it’s fun catching and releasing trout, it’s the place they live in that keeps me coming back. Water. Wild, wonderful, clear, cold water.

Today I hiked and waded nearly 5 miles. Two very fat and sassy fish danced with me—a rainbow and a brown trout. The brown surprised and delighted me as this particular creek is typically a rainbow and brook trout stream…or  maybe the browns just don’t show themselves that much for me.

What a thrill to invest my days in such beautiful places. With an open heart, I say THANK YOU! I don’t care how many fish I catch, but I do care how many days I get to spend in this magical place observing the seasons and cycles of Nature as an active part of it.

Green Drake Heaven

Green Drake Heaven

Starting the day at LRO

All week the forecast grew more and more ominous for Friday. Rain, over an inch, was called for when we made the decision to go for it. It was a guided trip I scheduled months ago to celebrate my birthday. That much rain is no joke in a mountain stream, but sometimes forecasts aren’t right. And sometimes the desire to wade is so strong, it’s difficult to think of anything else to properly celebrate one’s birthday.

When I awakened early on my birthday morning, it was pouring rain. I had packed all my gear the night before as well as a set of dry clothes. Even with wading pants and a decent rain jacket, the chances of getting wet were pretty high. By the time I finished breakfast and fed the dogs and cats, it was time to load the car and ask the dogs to assume their porch beds. 

The drive through the national park was very rainy until I crested the gap. After leaving North Carolina and entering Tennessee, the rain lightened. By the time I reached Little River Outfitters, where I was meeting David Knapp of Troutzone Anglers, it was only sprinkling. 

We used the large front porch at LRO to put on our waders and wading boots as the parking lot where we were headed would be muddy and more rain was forecast. Better to stay dry as long as possible in 55 degree weather.

The creek we were headed for is in my favorite place on the planet. Sadly, I rarely go there any more because traffic, on the 11 mile one-way loop road, is so insane and slow it’s just not worth the stress. But the rain helped us and kept the tourists to a minimum early in the day. Only one truck stopped in the middle of the road and parked to watch some unknown something. Finally, a tooted horn persuaded them to get out of the way and let the line of traffic behind him progress (sigh).

We made it to the parking lot just as it began to rain heavier. A few flashes of lightning delayed our hiking for about 20 minutes but we sat in the car and talked about guiding and casting instruction and my way forward as a women’s guide.

The sky lightened so we exited the car and got our gear. It was still sprinkling but sometimes the best fly fishing is with overcast skies and a bit of rain.

The creek bottom was difficult to wade. It’s a series of rock shelves, all very slick….snot slick… with small patches of sandy gravel in between with some areas of small, snot-slick rocks. Added to that equation was water discoloration from rain runoff. With a gray sky and no sunlight, the milky glare added to the challenge of seeing the bottom. It was definitely a see-with-your-feet sort of day. 

The rainbow trout were incredibly open to dancing with me as David pointed out areas to cast to the creek. He said because it’s a spring creek the nutrient level is high for fish so there is plenty of food for them to thrive. 

It was so satisfying to be in my favorite place in Nature on my birthday, in a new-to-me creek, catching and releasing beautiful fish with a guide who is as respectful and appreciative of Nature as I am. I was soaking in the beauty, lost for a moment in gratitude, when a huge mayfly flew past. Huge as in massive. 

David captured this image of a Green Drake

It’s not unusual for mayflies to hatch in the spring. But for this species to do it on this particular creek on my birthday was quite a treat. David’s an accomplished guide with many years experience and he’d never seen the green drake show on this creek that began to unfold all around us.

I captured this image of a Green Drake drying those brand new wings on a mossy rock…safer than the water’s surface.

I became so distracted by the hatching and flying mayflies, I lost fish and didn’t care. We exclaimed in awe about this natural wonder many times and when five of these huge insects were fluttering around us at once it was like green drake heaven.

I don’t know if people who aren’t fly fishers get excited about beautiful insects. We’re not only fish nerds, we’re insect nerds…and happy about it. These flying creatures spend up to two years of their lives under water as nymphs. Then they hatch, when conditions are perfect, and emerge from the water. If they are lucky to escape trout, birds, and bats, they mate, lay eggs and die in a few days. 

David took this image of a Green Drake nymph casing on my finger…they were floating past us.

The Eastern Green Drake (Ephemera guttulata) nymphs are large and live in the sandy mud of still or flowing waters. They have moveable gills on the abdomen. They spend up to two years in this stage of life. When they began emerging, gases and air collect under their exoskeleton and they are pulled to the water’s surface. When they start molting their exoskeleton splits along the back and they work to pull themselves out. Their wings can finally spread as they float on the water’s surface, allowing their wings to dry and the veins on their wings to fill with fluid. They have no mouth in this stage of life, so they don’t eat.

Another shot by David of the casing

The green drake will molt once more and emerge smaller, more slender with transparent wings and it is during this stage that they mate. After mating during flight, the females lay eggs on the water’s surface and die. Males fly off to the shore where they also die.

Nice shot by David of a newly hatched Green Drake. It looks like it’s lifting up gratitude for surviving a float in trout-infested waters

When I think of this one, small part of Nature and how so much goes on in the lives of these beautiful insects that are food for trout, birds, and bats, I’m rather awe-struck. To witness this event is very meaningful and hopeful as we live in a time where humans have greatly upset the balance of Nature with use of chemicals and toxins that interfere with insects natural reproduction…and without insects, that basic foundation of food for so many lives, humans wouldn’t survive. I’m thinking of bees and other pollinators especially. 

I asked David to take a photo of me in my happy place.

Standing in the waters along the creek bank, witnessing the green drakes hatch felt like a glimpse into how Nature should be…healthy, thriving and the interconnectedness of it all working together to create rich, abundant life for all species. 

David photographing a Green Drake on a leaf…notice his smile.

I often experience awe and wonder when I’m fly fishing. If I go for a few days without wading and finding the sweetness of life in a mountain stream, I feel off balance. But today, the morning after a day spent with the green drakes and rainbows and everything that creek ecosystem offered, I feel full, sated. My body feels as if it drank sweet nectar and is still in that dreamy place of feeling delight after a most-magnificent meal—perhaps like a trout stuffed with juicy green drakes. I wish I could spend every day exploring and observing the secrets of Nature as they are revealed through colorful fish, rushing water, and species like green drakes.

Green Drake Heaven

I finish this writing at 6.30am, April 8th…the morning after this epic day. As I walked into the kitchen to prepare a cup of cappuccino, I glanced at the clock on the stove. A wave of sadness moved through me as I realized that 24 hours ago I was loading my car to head across the rainy, foggy gap to begin the adventure that I already treasure. But mostly, I feel deep gratitude to live in an amazing place, to have a guide friend that is as appreciative of these places as I am and is mentoring me to become a fly fishing guide, and that I am alive to witness such beauty. 

A note about choosing a fly fishing guide: I have such deep reverence for all life and respect every creature I am lucky enough to interact with. Yesterday, I realized that one reason my love of fly fishing has grown so much is I have a guide and mentor that deeply respects Nature and treats trout with care while handling them by keeping them wet, releasing them carefully and not even touching them if it’s not necessary. Had I had the misfortune of connecting with guides that do the grip-and-grin cowboy fly fishing, I probably would have given up long ago. I am so grateful to have a mentor that models respect and reverence.