Tag: fly fishing women

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.

Wading in a Kaleidoscope

Wading in a Kaleidoscope

Photo of Simone by David Knapp

Colors exploded on the water’s surface. The sky was filled with shimmering yellows, dotted with oranges and reds in vibrant contrast. Often, I found myself stopping mid-stream and letting the fly rod rest while I captured photos of the kaleidoscope of color.

David Knapp, of Troutzone Anglers. Photo by Simone

David Knapp, of Troutzone Anglers, was guiding me on a fly fishing trip, but was very patient in my obsession with color and reflection….and beauty. He understands, as a photographer and nature-lover. 

Photo by Simone

Brilliant sunshine illuminated the trees and they glowed in their autumn glory. Oh, yeah, and beautiful rainbow trout danced with me. And I was introduced to a new section of water. And I got to climb over boulders and play among shimmering pools that were alive with trout and colors—all the things that help me feel alive and happy and in balance.

Photo by Simone

I started my fly fishing education with a guide that works with David. Travis started with the basics and helped me begin a practice that has quite literally changed my life. Since then, I have fished with David when I wanted to expand my skills and learn new water. I guess there are many guides that can do that, but with David I find another person that is in awe of nature as much as I am. He gives me space to enjoy the beauty yet he keeps me focused and challenges me to be a better fisher by teaching new techniques and ways to read water.

Photo of Simone by David Knapp

After our last outing in July, I started a dialogue with him about wanting to work with women as a guide and help empower them through fly fishing. On our trip last Friday, while wading or hiking between fishing spots, we discussed guiding. When I imagine a future of guiding women on fly fishing excursions into the wilds of the national park, I know the mentoring I am receiving will be a light for the way forward.

Photo by Simone

Lately, the idea of connecting with others has been coming to me through conversations with Cherokee elders, books I’m reading, and even social media posts. Connection. Real conversations. Imagine opening ourselves to connecting…listening to others…being present. Being genuine. Last Friday I had the opportunity to be outdoors, in water, around rocks, under crazy-colored trees and connect with all of that Mystery and Magic and connect with a professional guide that is willing to engage in a genuine way through his work. For all of that, I am deeply grateful.

And the stars of the day…rainbow trout. It’s all catch-and-release. Photo by David Knapp

When you find someone that understands your vision and supports it and is excited about it, it’s a true gift. So I’m grateful for David. And I’m excited to work with women wanting to deepen their relationship with Nature, with themselves, through fly fishing. When you find kindred spirits, you know you are on the Path. Keep searching. Keep listening. We’ll all find each other.

David Knapp pausing to allow me a moment to ooh and ahh about the colors…. photo by Simone.
Water Water Water

Water Water Water

Be careful what you wish for. Yesterday, I walked in the rain for 4 ½ miles and loved it so much I made a comment on social media that it was one of my favorite things. I think the rain listened.

Today, I wasn’t expecting rain while hiking and wading during fly fishing. But I did go prepared with my GoreTex jacket.

As soon as I parked, the rain started. While I geared-up, it kept coming. As I walked the two and a half miles up the trail…more rain. And even though GoreTex is breathable, sweat was rolling down my back. Water was rolling off my jacket. The sky was opening up and it was glorious.

It poured. It sprinkled. But one thing it didn’t do was stop.

And neither did I.

Nearly six miles of wading and hiking and casting was Medicine for me today. I wish I could come up with a word that described how much I love being in the creek, engaging fully with the life of that place, the energies that reside there and interact with me as I breathe with them.

I’m not the only one loving the rain.

Alas, I’ll just have to keep returning and exploring just how I can describe something so beneficial to me…in every way. Hopefully, it’s beneficial to Nature as we deepen our understanding of each other.

Remember

Remember

Words take me to a linear part of my brain and I want to stay in the fullness of the experience— watery curves of water flowing over stone; crashing sound of white water finding itself after falling.

Agitation, due to separation from wading mountain streams in lush forests, is resolved. Other things kept me from these sacred experiences, these holy times with Nature. But it couldn’t be helped.

Today, after nearly a month apart from my Beloveds, I waded again. My soul drank deeply from living waters flowing through an ancient river, an ancient creek. My entire body is re-set as is my energy and mind and emotions. 

I’m back with myself after 62 degree water caressed my legs and feet for three hours. It feels good to be home in my body once again. And to remember….

First Glimpse of Autumn

First Glimpse of Autumn

It’s 64 degrees as I head up the trail. Clouds still hide the sun, but the trail will be in shadow until later anyway. It feels like the first glimpse of autumn. 

I walk over a mile and a half before entering the 60 degree water. By now, I’m warm and my feet smile as the clear water seeps into my boots. I’m in my happy place—water. 

Fly rod in hand, minimal gear…I feel free as the water washes away everything else. I stand at the tail of the large pool and watch. Consciously, I slow my breathing and inhale the beauty of rocks, water, trees. Slowly I exhale a breath of who I am to all present. We stand like this, in perfect communion.

And then, I unhook the fly from the guide and release it to kiss the water. A few practice casts to warm up, then I wade toward the rear center of the stream and begin placing the fly on river right….then river center…then river left. When I cast to the left side, a nice rainbow trout responds and the barbless hook is set. It self-releases just a few feet from me, my favorite way to interact….no handling, no fouled hook…a clean release with only one moment of the trout being out of the water—when it leaps into the air to shake the hook.

I keep working the pool, moving up the right bank, side-center-side, and have small trout slap, nudge, and grab the fly…but I don’t want to hook them so I move up the pool. 

Sometimes I get a strong sense of a where a fish is feeding. That’s the case now so I carefully cast into a very small area of stillness and the area, no wider than two feet across, erupts. A very nice-sized, sparkly, fat trout is on and it takes a minute or two to land it. I keep the trout in the water and reach down to remove the hook from its lip. I feel teeth…not usual. It’s not a rainbow, as I first suspected. It’s not a brook trout…but what is it? It’s completely silver with no markings except for bright red spots. So beautiful, healthy, feisty, and free once again as I watch it swim away strongly and with much attitude. 

I spend the next two hours wading from pool to cascading pool, dancing with rainbow trout. But that’s only part of what I’m doing. I’m breathing in the essence of this place and sharing myself every time I exhale. The lush green moss and trees, clear water, gray rocks call me deeper into relationship. 

A favorite rock shelf calls me and I wade in nearly waist-deep water to sit on it…and simply breathe. Eventually, I unhook the fly again and sit, casting into the upstream pool. A small rainbow dances with me and I wish it well as I set it free. And still I sit and gaze into clear water, no longer casting…just being.

Being totally present is a must for there is swift water, deep holes, and sticks hiding in pools. So I go deeper into the present. I become fully aware of my body…how I place my booted foot, the angle at which I move, how the water tries to carry my foot away before I place it, the strength of my thigh as I step up, the coolness of the water on my skin.

This deep pool had a freshly-fallen tree in it today…bark and small limbs were still caught in an eddy. Glad I wasn’t there when it fell…I think the trout will appreciate the extra hiding places.

Before long the creek will be filled with multicolored leaves blowing from limbs preparing for winter sleep, but today I sense only the first stirrings of autumn and am happy to be in the flow of seasons. 

In my happy place….water!

I later found out that the silver fish with red spots was a brown trout with an unusual coloring for the Smokies. It is a magnificent fish friend…one of the many I met today. And in case you are wondering….I don’t photograph fish as I want them to spend as little time as possible away from their normal day, but today I wish I had taken a couple of seconds to document this unique fish. 

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Gear nerd stuff…glasses are a MUST for eye protection and polarized sunglasses help cut down on glare so you can see fish and see where you are walking when wading. A hat is helpful for overhead sun and also for hook protection. Clothes and colors that blend in are helpful to be less likely to spook fish and to blend in with Nature. Long pants are pretty much vital to avoid poison ivy and briars, although I see people in shorts–but I wonder about them :-). Wading boots give traction and foot protection as well as insulation with neoprene socks for additional insulation. I rarely use a net as once I get a fish near me, I simply reach down and undo the hook without holding them…that’s the ideal. But sometimes, a larger fish needs a net to calm down…but still keeping them submerged so they can continue breathing while I remove the hook. In the summer I carry a small waist pack with tippet, forceps, flys, flotant, extra leader, water thermometer, snippers, and cell phone. A small waterproof pack rides above that with a concealed carry device, id and licenses, car keys, satellite messenger device for emergencies. I use the Gaia app for reference when noting express points on the creeks and rivers and for bushwhacking from creek to trail when I haven’t already noted the point. Finally, I carry a Grayl water purification device. And that’s all the gear nerd stuff for today.