Tag: nature

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.

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. 

______

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.

Rainbows Call Me Home

Rainbows Call Me Home

I slept later than intended so was a bit concerned about a 9am start to wading a favorite section of a local river. When I pulled into the parking area, nobody else appeared to be fishing so I decided to just go with the little intuitive nudge that called me there.

It was difficult to settle down. I felt out of my body–not grounded–as I begin wading up the river. Dodging overly-deep holes, limbs caught underwater, slick areas when I just wasn’t all ‘there’ made me a bit anxious. White water itself is cause to be fully present, but given the challenge of these mountain waters, I wanted feel more grounded in the experience.

Fish started taking the dry fly and that’s what finally brought me into the moment. It was as if they were saying, Hey you! You better pay attention!! Normally, when I’m feeling a bit ‘off,’ I don’t catch fish, but today the fish were ready to dance with me and forced me to really tune into the rhythm, the vibe.

Once I arrived with my whole self, I was able to appreciate the beauty…of the colorful fish, the colors of green moss and trees, the sound of rushing water, the shapes of rocks. The strength of my body, the ability to balance and the successful choosing of a way upstream was part of that beautiful experience.

When I first started wading and was having such a difficult time of ‘arriving,’ I thought perhaps I should have stayed home. But the fish called me to pay attention…to them, the water and rocks, the trees, myself. It ended up being one of the best times in the water this summer.

So what if we are a bit slow coming into communion with Nature, with ourselves. If we simply make the effort, sometimes magic happens and rainbows call us home…to ourselves.

Another Way Around

Another Way Around

This pool was calling me…

The large stack of logs looks the same as it did the last two times I stood here but that pool above it is calling me. Their position in the river, with large rocks, rushing water, and overhanging branches, makes it appear impossible to navigate. But the water is just 25 yards above this mess….and I really want to cast the fly I tied yesterday into that pool. But….can I do it?

I walk to the upstream side and the moss-covered rocks offer a steep approach. Nope. I walk back downstream and look again. Maybe I can wade around the logs, downstream, and navigate the swift water near the far bank. I stand here….comtemplating, studying….and then the thought comes: Get down on the level of the water and see what it looks like. Maybe the different perspective will help me decide.

From water-level, it looks so different, so doable.

Carefully, I make my way down the slippery bank, again grateful for my wading staff. Once I am downstream from the log jam and see the water on the far side, I realize that it’s definitely doable. 

The first cascading pool comes quickly and I cast a fly. BAM! Dance and release. I wade a bit further upstream and cast into a delicious pool from the lower pool. BAM and it tossed the fly. Then immediately another hit and connection as the rainbow dances over the ledge and into the pool where I’m standing. Carefully, the fly is removed and off she swims, with a beautiful, feisty attitude.

I wade on, stopping before the bottom of each beautiful pool. The dancing is fine. One especially clever rainbow dives under a limb caught under a rock. It’s a deep little pool but I can’t leave a fish on a fly and line, tangled under the limb. I ease into the butt-deep pool and reach under clear water and pull the limb up. The fish removed the fly and left the fly hooked on the limb. I laugh out loud and blow on the fly to dry it before I step up the rocky ledge to move upstream.

Beautiful pools as far as I can see offer more opportunities to dance but I’m in a good place to stop and bushwhack through woods to the trail. I walk up the trail another mile but mostly just to enjoy the morning, the green and reflect on the wisdom offered by Nature.

What if I hadn’t taken the time to really look at the apparent blocked way? What if I had given up without trying? How sad to contemplate missing all that beauty, interaction with trout, and the rocks and water that made me work hard to achieve the goal of visiting these amazing pools where cold water nurtures my master teachers as they swim with wild abandon.

When faced with obstacles in our lives, do we give up and turn around or do we take the time to explore and wonder? The choice is ours to search and find another way around.

Rhodo Hell

Rhodo Hell

The old timers called them rhododendron hells. Today I found out exactly why that is as I crawled through one with fishing gear. Thank goodness for cave diving training and experience. And I’m not kidding. At one point I couldn’t go forward, or sideways and backwards wasn’t looking too promising. But let’s start at the beginning.

I arrived at the parking lot just before two sets of two fly fishers were heading up the trail. One guy asked the other group where they were fishing. (And no….nobody asked me. I guess my camo hoodie was working well for me. Or they weren’t taking a woman fly fisher serious). Whatever the case, I listened as they described where they were going. And I decided to take my time and fish up the creek, from the lower portion at the parking area, to give them time to do whatever they were going to do.

At one place, instead of exiting the creek at the usual spot, I decided to continue past the familiar exit to wade and fish pockets. The water level made it perfectly suited for wading and wading and wading. Much easier than exiting on a creek bank with no trail. The wading was awesome but I wanted to push further up the trail, so after 200 yards or so, I saw an egress point and took it.

That set the tone for the day. It lit a fire for adventure in me….why not just enter and wade instead of popping in and out of favorite spots!?! Maybe there were new favorite spots to discover!

I knew the guys said they were headed up, as they gave each other an approximate place of entry. In order to avoid both sets of fly fishers, I decided to enter a little lower than my favorite place, and just keep wading. The thing about this place is…once you commit to wading upstream, you pretty much have to keep going or turn around and backtrack downstream. The reason? The trail and the creek are sometimes level with each other and sometimes the trail goes up a steep slope, leaving the creek far below. I knew about how far my favorite spot was, so I committed. I kept wading.

A few trout gave a shove or push of interest, but it wasn’t great fishing. The scenery, however, was amazing and beautiful so I was happy….until I saw a new can of Copenhagen tobacco ‘dip’ swirling in a eddy. Seriously!?! Somebody had to have dropped it recently. And then….I saw the wet footprint!

OH, NO! I was fishing behind one of the teams and knew that the fish would be spooked. It’s a small creek. I looked towards the trail. I was already in an area where the trail was far above the creek. I looked back…no way! Too far to backtrack.

So I continued. It became more of a scouting expedition for future fishing. I continued to cast, but knew it was pretty much just casting practice.

Eventually, I smelled smoke and glanced down at a nearby rock. Dripping wet boot print. I looked upstream and there they were. The bank was crazy-steep so I continued on, stowing the line and fly and just trying to catch up and go around them without messing up their fishing.

But they weren’t at all friendly when I said I wasn’t trying to cut them off. Great. I just wanted to go around them and not fish. They didn’t budge, didn’t reply. Nice, guys. 

There was a huge strainer to the right of the guys. A pile of logs that was 12 feet high isn’t safe to crawl over and the bank around it was jammed with rhododendron. Since they wouldn’t even acknowledge my request to go around them on the other side of the creek, I decided to crawl through the thick growth of twisted branches and exit the creek, rather than just stand there and watch them fish until they moved on. 

They have beautiful flowers, but these plants are unforgiving.

First, I took my 9 foot rod apart. At least in two shorter pieces, I’d have a better chance of making it through successfully. Then, I took my net out of the holster at my back and unclipped the wading staff. All the while, I was asking for safe passage from the snake brothers and sisters.

My rod in my left hand, net and wading staff in the right hand, I got on my knees and began the crawl. Rhodo’s don’t just grow straight. Their branches intertwine and create a barrier that goes from the ground to however tall they are….15 feet, 20 feet…or more. 

At one point I couldn’t move. The way forward seemed blocked…meaning I couldn’t crawl forward. The sides were blocked and my fly line caught on a leaf. Great. Just great. I wondered if they’d find my skeleton. No way my satellite communicator would work under the dense cover.

I crawled backwards, unhooked my line and crawled forward. I made it to a bit of an opening where a downed and rotted tree blocked my way. It was getting better and better…if the thought of being stuck in a thicket was appealing. But, I had looked at my Gaia trail map app and knew the trail was close.

After clearing the downed tree debris…there were two trees blocking my path…I finally saw the bank in front of me. It went straight up. I didn’t have a choice. It was up or stuck.

By some miracle of green plant beings, the place I scrambled up had zero poison ivy. None. How was that possible when the entire side of the trail is covered in the plant. I was amazed and side-stepped up the bank, trusting my legs and feet to propel me the final few feet up to the trail.

There were many words said aloud, but they are not words I’d repeat in public. But there were words of gratitude, as well. I made it out of rhodo hell! WOO HOO! Now on to my favorite spot.

As soon as I reassembled my rod, I noticed the tippet and fly were missing. That’s what was holding me up in that tight spot. No worries. I stood at the downstream end of the upstream run and claimed the space, just in case the slightly obnoxious guys arrived before I could get the tippet and fly attached.

But I had the place to myself. Just me and the trout. As soon as I got out from behind the other fly fishers, trout started dancing with me. I fished a while, filtered some water and then ate my chocolate and almonds.

After ‘lunch,’ I pushed on and decided to keep wading above nice pockets I’ve fished before. The fish kept dancing, I kept wading. But this time, I had intel that directed me to exit points.

One day last winter, I left my fly fishing gear at home and hiked the trail. I did several walks from the trail to the creek and if the egress points were good, I’d mark them on my Gaia app. Just in case.

Today, as I waded in magnificent waters and around pools filled with trout, I’d occasionally get out the phone and check the app. Perfect. I knew exactly where I wanted to exit.

This deep pool held several trout who ‘sniffed’ the fly and swam away. Beautiful to watch their intelligence at work.

And finally, after over 5 hours and over 4 miles, I left the creek after saying thank you for a wonderful day. I blew a kiss to the trout and rocks and water and trees and headed across the woodland to the trail.

During the two-mile walk down to my car, I reflected on the day. Epic adventure, no doubt. Rhodo hell….conquered (this time). The guys….one had a red beard with upturned ends of his mustache and with the sun reflecting off his face, he definitely took on the personality of a lesser demon. His gnome side-kick, well….nothing much to say. As my feet carried me downhill, I thought of funny ways to describe them and embellish the story I knew I’d write. Then, when I got to the car, they were at their car, loading their gear.

The gnome and I started talking and we had a nice conversation. And the other guy really wasn’t a devil. They were rather new to fishing and really didn’t know what to do when I said I needed to walk around them….or so they said. We had a nice visit.

Major lessons learned? #1. Scouting and marking egress points is a great idea and next winter, I’ll do more of that at my favorite creeks. #2. Rhodo hells really are hell, so major lesson #1 is a MUST before wading sections I haven’t scouted. #3. Don’t assume people are asses because they appear to be. #4. Persist! Keep crawling. Keep going. Keep wading. Keep climbing. Keep casting. Keep loving this beautiful world!