Tag: fly fishing

Plan D

Plan D

I’d been looking forward to fishing a very special place for months. My calendar dinged a reminder: My day! Abrams Creek. 

A friend from Black Mountain was coming over and we were going to seek the green drake hatch that had captured me, raptured me, last year on my birthday with my guide friend David from TroutZone Anglers. (Read that story here).

We left the house by 7am and drove through the national park and all the way around to Cades Cove with hardly any traffic snarls…that in itself was a little miracle during spring break season. We saw wild tom turkeys doing their impressive dances as female turkeys pecked for bugs and perhaps rolled their eyes as they turned their backs to the toms in search of breakfast. I was impressed with the tom’s dances; but, I’m not a female turkey. We also saw many white tailed deer as we slowly made our way to the turn to Abrams Falls. 

Finally, we were close and I pointed out the road coming up on our right. I also saw orange barricade barrels there but thought there must be a hole in the road. But no. As we drove up there was a sign hanging that simply said: Abrams Falls Trail Closed. Plan A: failed.

Kip later told me I said, “NO! No, no, no, no!!” I don’t even remember saying that as I was in complete shock. (Sigh). Months of planning and looking forward to this epic day and it wasn’t to be on that particular creek.

Both being positive humans we quickly re-grouped. I suggested we park at the visitor center and inquire about fishing the creek from there down to the trailhead. At first the three ladies behind the counter paused as their eyes bugged out and then in unison said, “NO! You cannot access the trail. It is closed.” Calmly we explained we were NOT trying to access the closed trail, but rather fish down to it. Then, they calmed down enough so we could smile and wish each other well before doing a bit of a scouting mission down the trail in the 32 degree air temperature.

Yes. It was 32. It had been 28. So you see, there was a bit of a warmup happening. A very small warm-up.

As we walked beside the small creek, we saw huge masses of trees blown down from a recent wind storm. Cades Cove had just re-opened a week ago. The park roads were closed for days as they worked to clear them. So we definitely understood why Abrams Falls Trail was closed. I’m guessing it won’t be open for a long while.

Plan B: failed due to skinny water and a general lack of enthusiasm from two fly anglers. Onward to Plan C.

We drove down a gravel road where I had previously seen people fishing two years ago. Once again, we felt the water was too small for what we had in mind. Plan C: failed. But, the temperature jumped from 37 to 50 degrees in a very short time. At least it was warm enough to feel more comfortable wading. Just where to go? 

The national park isn’t short on water with 2900 miles of streams, so we finished driving the beautiful Loop Road and made our way back to an area I’ve been wanting to fish, but will not name. Even though there are some rather steep gorges, we managed to finally, at 11am, put on our waders and boots, assemble our fly rods, tie on some feathers and cast. 

Water was swift and rocks were very slippery but we saw several trout rise and miss or rise and refuse. Sometimes it’s challenging to figure out what exactly is happening when trout are rising. I caught and released a nice rainbow and then another one before we moved on. We fished from the vehicle as too many areas were not wadeable. I caught another small brown trout in another pool and a rainbow a bit further upstream. At least we were seeing fish rise and there was successful dancing with trout.

The sun was bright, the water was clear. This makes fishing these wild trout very challenging. I stayed low as I could, hid behind boulders, stood in the shadows of large tree trunks in order to be a stealthy trout hunter. Sometimes it worked, but they were a weird bunch of trout kids today.

With the sun so high and bright, we headed back to pavement and another area I adore fishing that would offer a little more shade.  Again, we had a lot of fish action and I managed to catch a very nice rainbow and lost another one that was hooked but spit the barbless hook…but wait…that might have been back on the gravel road. It all blurred together after a while. We still had some silly trout antics that had me laughing. 

Just for kicks, I tied on a fly with odd colors I combined to see what would happen. I cast several times, making my way across the water. I could ‘feel’ a fish in a really nice calm area and sure enough…a larger trout rocketed out of the water but slapped the fly with its tail. It dove down, leaped back out of the water and slapped it again. Note to self: it is offensive to trout to use red thread and a bright blue foam body. Experiment failure…but that’s the fun of tying flies. You never know when you’ll invent the next fly that changes the world of the fish and insect nerds that we are. With this particular one, I was properly scolded by a large trout and I muttered an apology.

We were riding back through the park after getting off the overly-warm waders. We chatted about our crazy day. The trail being closed, the attempts at finding good water. The weird behavior of the fish at both locations (far from each other). And how much incredible fun we had. 

Our plan was such a great one. But it crumbled as we found the road closed. We could have allowed that ruin our day but WHY!?!?! It was such a magnificent day with turkeys dancing, deer frolicking, mayflies hatching…sun, wildflowers, trout and their silly trout antics. All the stuff magnificent days are made of. 

The day was a gift. Plan D was a gift. Crazy trout antics…a gift. A friend open to letting the day unfold however it would…a gift. 

Had either of us been attached to our plan, the day would have been quite different. Our flexibility, good humor, patience, and determination to let the trout lead us, allowed us to receive the gift of the day.  

I always think that how I spend my birthday influences how the next year will unfold. So I expect some doors will close, others will open and I will be unattached to closings and openings . Maybe one…or two…or three doors need to close so that the right door has space to open. I will cultivate flexibility, patience, and a keener ability to simply go with the flow so the magic can happen. I will allow Life to go off script as I open to the unwritten, unknown way forward.



Last week, I explored my angst about not getting enough time in Nature; during five days off, I made an effort to change that. Every day, I went into the woods and came out happier, more at peace, and more aligned with myself.

Over the past two decades, when I’ve asked what I’m supposed to do with my life, I’ve heard to deepen my connection with Nature. It all comes down to that bit of inner guidance. Not, ‘Save the world,’ or ‘Do something huge.’ It’s been clear and simple…’Create a deeper, personal relationship with Nature.’

It’s taken a while to understand that I didn’t have to become an expert guide or teacher to lead others to their own connection with Nature, to their own inner healing journey. For many years, I thought that was what I was supposed to do. After some recent soul-searching, I’ve come to understand that living with a deeper awareness of the inner connection, the Oneness, can create positive change around me, just from being rooted, anchored in a reverent and reciprocal relationship with Nature. 

I’m most joyful when I’m with Nature, listening to flowers, water, trees, rocks…I mean being still and listening with my heart. Perhaps my contribution to the world is simply going out and practicing this. If we change ourselves, we create ripples of energy that move out into the world. In essence, by being exactly who we are, we create positive change in the world. Not by forcing or even inviting. Just by being who we are in our most genuine expression of soul.

The act of intentionally connecting with Nature changes me and it changes Nature. I’ve felt the shift many times as I consciously connect with various aspects of Nature. And it’s an outcome that isn’t coerced or pushed; it is a natural, organic way of being. 

I love to reflect on experiences I have outdoors and express them through creative processes. That’s all very natural for me, like breathing. Writing, photography, composing music…all arise from releasing myself to the creative flow that comes by being in sync with the the energy of Nature…Oneness…Source.

Many times people have viewed my photographs, read my essays and books, and commented that they can never do what I do but enjoy experiencing it through my sharing. I’m finally understanding my ‘work’  is to simply go out into Nature with an open heart, with a conscious desire to listen, connect, learn. 

Last Thursday, my teacher was a trout lily in full bloom. I sat on the narrow trail beside the lily and listened. In the stillness, I felt intimacy with the flower, mountains, birds, the creek far below. I felt my soul filling my body. I felt harmony within myself and everything around me. But, there wasn’t me and everything else….it was simply everything expressing the energy of Life in different forms. 

Friday, I hiked over 12 miles on a trail filled with beautiful wildflowers with friends and fly fished in the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen. Saturday I visited a unique geological area with a friend and saw bluebells and shooting stars. Sunday I waded a section of local water and danced with beautiful rainbow and brown trout. Monday, yesterday, I waded with pouty trout that kept missing the fly. All of it opened me to Nature, to myself, to all Life.

From now on, instead of trying to figure out how to help people connect with Nature, I’m going to listen to decades of guidance…Deepen your connection with Nature…and take it to heart. I’ll connect deeper with Nature and allow It to teach me, heal me, fill me with joy. I’ll allow the creative process to move within that relationship and witness the unfolding. I trust this to be my Path of true service to the world.

Celebrating Mayflies

Celebrating Mayflies

I stood along the side of the stream, cold water flowing around my waders and blue sky overhead—blue sky filled with hatching mayflies. Tiny fairy-like-flight of insects rising from the water’s surface into the warm spring air. 

Admittedly, I was distracted from watching my fly float along the surface. Several times it intersected with a hatching mayfly and I was anticipating a trout to make the imitation of the mayfly and the mayfly into a sandwich. Alas, it didn’t happen.

But, last summer I was fishing another creek and through the clear water, I watched a trout chase a hatching mayfly from the depths to the surface. Right after the trout missed the emerging insect, my fly landed at the exact spot and the trout took the fly. Never in my wildest dreams…I’m not sure even my friends believe that wild story. But I swear it’s true and I can show you the deep pool where it happened…but I won’t, because it’s one of my guarded spots that me and only a couple hundred people visit…thankfully not at the same time. I’ve only seen other anglers there once in four years.

On my birthday last spring, I was with a guide friend and we waded upon a green drake hatch. (There’s a blog dedicated to that magical experience you can read HERE). Those huge mayflies had us both laughing and excited, in awe. Yesterday, they were smaller but brought no less joy to this nature-lover.

It seems everyone knows mayflies by their flying persona, but the mayfly lives in that evolution of their lifecycle only a couple days. The majority of their life is spent underwater…as a buggy looking, rather hard-shelled, multiple legged nymph. 

I stood in the water watching and thought: last year, females laid eggs in the water and two weeks later they hatched. They spent an entire year as an underwater bug and maybe I stepped across them last summer when I waded here. Now, they are hatching as I witness. Now they begin a 24 to 48 hour time as air-breathing, flying mayflies and will shed their exoskeleton once more during this time. Then, they’ll mate and the female will lay eggs and they will hatch (unless eaten by a trout) next year, perhaps when I’m wading the stream with my fly rod. And yes, I actually stood there thinking all of this!

The egg-laying was also happening yesterday as I stood transfixed in the creek, lost in the wonder of magical mayflies. 

Mostly, mayflies are underwater buggy creatures; however, their flight is what we celebrate because that’s what we witness, and some (like me) hardly notice the fish when a hatch is underway.

Perhaps our lives are a bit like the lives of mayflies…we spend the majority of our time growing and looking positively buggy in our attempts to develop into good human beings. And on occasion, our hard work pays off and we metaphorically take flight and are able to express our beauty, the beauty to which all of us are destined if we realize our potential.

I learned this from a little mayfly that lit on my waders, over my heart. We had a wonder-full conversation, fueled somewhat by my imagination. But mostly, I just softly whispered words of love and appreciation and thanked the small wonder for bringing me so much joy. 

I created this image for the logo of my business, Wading Women: Holistic Fly Fishing. So…yes, I do adore mayflies. 


It is said that a trout’s diet is up to 70% underwater nymphs like mayflies and other cool insects like stoneflies. Every spring I spend as much time as possible in the water, casting my fly rod…which is really just an excuse to witness one of my favorite nature phenomena. And a favorite of the spring hatches? The yellow sallies, a type of stonefly. They really do look like tiny yellow fairies flying up from the water.

I Love a Surprise

I Love a Surprise

Rain was expected all day. It’s not that I won’t fly fish in the rain, but heavy rains in mountains creeks can mean seriously quick rises in water levels. I expected to spend the day inside, maybe watching someone else tie flies at a fly tying demonstration.

I woke up and looked at weather radar….no rain. I looked at the hourly forecast…cloudy but no rain until mid-day. A fire was lit to eat breakfast, feed the critters, and pack my gear. Before 9am I was heading out the door. Destination? My favorite creek.

When I turned into the parking area, elk were everywhere…on the road, in the woods, and a juvenile elk was calling for its mama. That sound echoed through the area as I assembled my fly rod and slid into my waders. Elk wandered on the other side of the creek as I walked to the spot calling me.

The water level was absolutely perfect. Down about a foot since the previous weekend, clear, and there were heavy clouds so no shadow to spook already seriously spooky fish.

Wild trout in the Smoky Mountains are no joke in their ability to know you are there. They know flies and large trout commonly swim up to a dry fly, circle it, and I swear they roll their eyes and I hear a ‘tsk-tsk-tsk’ sound as they leisurely swim back to their lair. It’s said that if you can catch wild trout in the Smokies, you can catch them anywhere.

And winter isn’t an easy time to fish here. The water is crystal clear and often you can spook fish from far away, even using your best stalker tactics. My expectations to dance with fish during winter are pretty low.

But yesterday, I had the creek to myself and with no other fly anglers, I must admit I was doing a happy dance of blissful solitude. My communion with the water, trees, rocks, moss, and fish wasn’t interrupted by anything, not even my own monkey mind. It was complete surrender to the connection I share with that little heaven.

I was able to dance with a gorgeous rainbow for a few seconds before blessing her and releasing her back to the creek. And then another, very small brook trout danced with me until it self-released as it approached my boots. 

And then…that massive trout that checked out the dry fly and did the eye roll…or at least I imagine it did an eye roll. That was just as cool as actually catching the others. Just to see them and observe their behavior and interact was so fun!

Nearly four hours of delight in and around the water came as an amazing surprise on a day I was expecting no wading. And then I thought a couple hours…maybe. I would have stayed longer but thinking it would be limited to two hours or less, I only took a small bottle of water and no snacks. So with deep gratitude I started the walk out after two miles of wading and hiking. 

Words are such a limited way to express how wading and interacting so deeply with Nature brings my to balance and peace. Awe and wonder are my constant companions even though I know this creek intimately. The creek is my Beloved friend and teacher and how grateful I am to spend time immersed in the clear waters of life.

The following morning finds the creek rising again due to heavy rain. That perfect wading window closed…for now. But I’ll go back…and soon.