Category: Fly Fishing

Being ‘Reel’

Being ‘Reel’

The wind caused me to choose a slightly heavier fly rod. It was the first time I used it after it was gifted to me from the hands of an experienced and well-traveled fly fisher. I stripped line off the reel, did a slow backcast, paused for the loop to unroll and then sent the line forward. As soon as the dry fly kissed the water’s surface, a rainbow trout grabbed it and danced with me. As it arrived in the water at my feet, I gave the line slack and it unhooked itself and swam away with a no-contact release…my favorite way to end an encounter.

I considered it an auspicious way to receive the new rod and reel into my care. I think the rod was happy to feel the sun reflecting off its deep, translucent green surface. And the reel had its first-ever experience doing what it was born to do. 

Three hours of wading in the creek—under sunny, unseasonably warm air—was filled with rising trout, leaping trout, pouting trout, and the utter beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Water levels had dropped enough to once again make wading one of my favorite creeks safe and enjoyable. But I kept thinking of the reel. And the rod, but especially the reel.

It was a special purchase many years ago—a collector’s item of sorts with a special finish from a high-end manufacturer. My friend told me, when he gave it to me, that it had never been used. When I took the rods and reels he gifted me to Little River Outfitters, the guys there enjoyed each piece I shared with appreciation but especially the Abel reel and the Winston rod. Daniel helped me pick out line and backing that complemented the finish and suggested pairing it with the classic Winston. 

I wonder how the reel felt, after waiting all those years to fulfill its purpose, to be on the water, attached to an experienced rod, holding line and catching trout. I felt the balance of the pair as I lifted them to make that first cast, the smooth delivery of line, and the action as the fish engaged. The reel is a click and pawl reel, having no drag. Every reel has a voice and its voice is a growl, but after our time on the water yesterday, I think I heard a bit of a purr of contentment at being what it was born to be.

How many of us have waited and worked, hoping that someday our talents and skills align with work the world needs? What would that look like? What would it feel like to be ‘reel’ with the work we gift to the world? To be doing what makes our heart sing…or growl…or purr.



It became more just wading up the small creek rather than constantly seeking another small pool to cast into. Occasionally, I’d unhook the nymph and let it and the dry fly move through the air, but really I was just enjoying the profound beauty of the mist, the light rain, rushing water, and moss-covered rocks. 

The air was 57 degrees and the water was 50 degrees. As I waded up the creek, the typical fog–that so often thrills me in the Smokies–started to form over the water. The softness of air enveloped me with light moisture as it kissed my face and hands. Everything else was under waterproof cover. 

I saw only one trout and it was a brookie that danced with me until I freed it to carry on in the watery realms. But today, it was simply a bonus to connect with a fish for a few moments. Otherwise I was absorbing the beauty into my cells, feeling the peace of mind that comes from being in the present moment. 

It always amazes me what two hours wading a mountain stream does for me, to me. Hours later, I’m still feeling the creek water move through my body, the mist caress and envelope me as it did the rocks and trees. And I’m already excited about returning, to the creek…to myself.

My Bones Remember

My Bones Remember

My bones remember Oneness as they move over ancient moss-covered rocks, through clear, rushing water.

Space within me becomes everything reflected in the quiet, still pool or the bright eye of the swimming trout.

Each cell mirrors the gnarled roots reaching, drinking deeply and branches soaring, dancing into blue sky.

If I looked for a lifetime, I couldn’t find anything within me that isn’t singing harmoniously with this place.

Winter Wading

Winter Wading

The pressure of flowing water pushed against my legs as recent rains moved from higher elevations down through the creek to larger rivers. I stood in the 46 degree water, in waders, watching the fly slowly recirculate in the eddy, enjoying the embrace of the creek.

It had been a month since my last fly fishing outing and I was in serious withdrawal. Winter fishing in the Smokies doesn’t produce nearly the opportunities to dance with trout as other seasons; but, just to be in their element, in their temple, brings me into alignment.

With faster-flowing currents, cold water, and cold air, the usual focus is sharpened even more. Extra care of foot placement, balance, and choosing a way through small rapids must be taken to avoid an unpleasant baptism in the cathedral’s chilly font.

Of course, I love the water and rocks, trees and mountains….and trout. The physicality and challenge of staying upright on super-slick rocks in fast-moving flow is fun and satisfies the adventurer in me. But perhaps the greatest benefit is the absolute focus called for while winter wading.

It was such a relief to find myself once again immersed in the ‘zone.’ In this flow state I am totally connected to the present moment yet relaxed and at one with movement of fly rod, line, body, and water. There’s no need to think when I drop into this place. Everything becomes a dance of casting, stripping line, watching the fly drift, and repeating.

It’s nice to be able to merge meditation, movement, and Nature into something that occasionally brings shiny new friends into my life for a few moments, until they swim on their way.

To the Brookies, Browns & Rainbows

To the Brookies, Browns & Rainbows

My friends Bill and Leleah

One hundred fly fishing outings in the past 18 months was celebrated with two friends that joined me in the creek where it all began. It was a very warm November day (77 degrees) and the water was a balmy 60 degrees…that’s an increase of 10 degrees in the last two weeks. I wet waded. In November. In the Smokies. In short sleeves. And was completely comfortable.

My first day on the water fly fishing

My first fly fishing experience was with guide Travis Williams of Trout Zone Anglers. Travis has since taken over operations of the Gatlinburg hatchery but I’ve gone fishing with David Knapp of TZA three times, since my beginning days as as fly angler, and every time I work with him, I gain skills in reading water, casting, wading, and deepening my love of this way of being.

A composite image I created from the creek and this amazing rock.

I don’t think of it as a sport, although many do. Fly fishing is a way of being in the world, for me at least. It teaches me how to relax and deepen with Nature. But something I noticed today…it gives me confidence in myself and my body.

Aside from casting, tying flies, and reading water, wading in these mountain streams is no joke. Yesterday I spent the day in a river on the Tennessee side of the national park and there one has to negotiate huge boulders and deep pools with a steep gradient. On the North Carolina side of the park, the gradient is less, the streams more gentle and one particular area has the longest flats I have seen around Western North Carolina. And the monstrous, bus-size boulders are rare in NC park streams. The skill of wading is valuable and necessary when fishing these places. Aside from water flow, deep pools, waterfalls, and downed trees, the rocks can be snot-slick. Seriously bust-your-bootie slick. Yoga is the best wading training for me.

Today I noticed vast improvement in my casting from 18 months ago; yet, my wading skills have improved just as much. I now move with confidence across streams and have learned to find safe routes through puzzles of pools, trees, and flow. A wading staff is a very valuable piece of equipment.

Photo of Simone by David Knapp

Perhaps, kind reader, indulge my passion for a moment or two more as I share a few of my favorite memories over the past 18 months of wading wonder.

There was that time the mother otter brought two babies very close to me as I stood in the middle of a still pool. Or the differently marked trout I caught that was solid silver with red spots (probably a brown trout with different coloration). There was that time last autumn when I was sitting on a rock in the middle of the creek and lost myself in the golden reflection of leaves on the water’s surface and drifted into the ‘gap’. Just a few weeks ago, I was fishing with David Knapp in Tennessee and the autumn colors lit up the water like fire….that was amazing! Or that time ice was floating on the water’s surface as I waded and saw two trout sunning in shallow water. And then there was the time I caught a brook trout, released it, and waded up the gorge to find a still-dripping bear paw print on a rock.

Photo by Simone

Fly fishing is a way of life for me because it combines so much of what I love: physical intensity (hiking and wading for miles), creativity (tying flies), athletic ability (casting and wading), sleuthing (reading water, finding trout), meditative stillness (taking in the beauty).

I practice catch and release and keep the fish in water as I remove the hook…which has no barb. I learn from trout and consider them some of my most important teachers on how to live, move, and be in the world. To the rainbows, browns and brookies….thank you my friends.

And….special thanks to the amazing guys at Little River Outfitters. They have welcomed me into their fly fishing family and continue to be a source of great information, gear, and fishing friendship. And to David Knapp of Trout Zone Anglers for helping me deepen my skills and love of this amazing way of life.