Tag: Simone Lipscomb Photography

The Green

The Green

Intense green seemed to ooze from every expression of Nature. Grass growing in the creek, trees gracefully arching over moving water, trees with newly unfurled buds—all of these elements joined together to create a glowing green realm that quite honestly seemed otherworldly, as if I had wandered into the faery realm.

It was a rainy day that started with heavy, gray clouds. Being prepared with the right gear made the rain a non-issue. Fish tend to like the rain. Or perhaps fly fishers like the rain because the trout aren’t quite as able to discern hand-made flies from naturally occurring insects hatching. It wasn’t a disappointing day wading, casting a line, and generally enjoying what I think of as a typical Smoky Mountains perfect day—cool, rainy, foggy, and beautiful.

Generally, I fish alone and enjoy it immensely; however, I fished with guide David Knapp, owner of Trout Zone Anglers, and was able to explore and wade places I wouldn’t generally go by myself. We went off the trail and made our way upstream using the creek and rhododendron thickets and moss-covered banks to navigate. The only other indication that others used the area was fresh elk droppings. The road wasn’t far away, but it felt as if we were immersed in a magical ecosystem of cold water, rocks, moss, trees…and trout. Lots of trout.

In past writing, I’ve said it’s not about the trout. But it is about the trout—and everything else, too. I occasionally fish another river, outside of the national park, and it’s pretty and there are many stocked trout, but it’s not magical like these remote areas that require extra effort to traverse, extra miles driven down bumpy gravel roads, and a capacity to enjoy beauty that stretches one’s ability to take it all in.

I won’t go into detail about what I learned about fly fishing, which was a lot. I’ll simply state what a pleasure it was to fish with someone who enjoys the whole experience of fly fishing, not just counting trout that are landed. Wading, stalking, casting, listening to birds, noting insects, watching trout rise to flies—these elements and more absorbed, appreciated and celebrated. 

April 29th of last year, I started fly fishing. Almost a year to the day, I was able to feel the confidence I’ve gained and skills that have improved as I’ve enjoyed over 65 fly fishing experiences, most of them in the national park and most of them solo. I’ve come to appreciate the intricate innerworkings of these cold, mountain creek ecosystems and am so grateful they have received me into their beauty.

Wisdom of the Rock

Wisdom of the Rock

Frustrated to not be attracting any attention from the Trout Magi I decided to switch from nymphs to a dry fly. This is like going from playing with fingerpaints to using oil paints. In the narrow creeks where I wade and fish, there’s not a lot of room for casting and 90% of the time trout don’t go after dry flies but today I had room to cast and figured why not get some practice. 

The casting steadily improved and I was landing the fly right under an overhanging tree branch in the sweet spot. I congratulated myself and on the very next cast my fly caught the tip of the rod and did several backflips around it. I’m quickly learning that ego and fly fishing cannot co-exist. But that wasn’t the real lesson of today’s wading. The real lesson came from a rock in the middle of the creek where I sat and requested wisdom be shared. That’s the real story here.

Yesterday I wrote about fly fishing being the perfect mirror for my life. It dealt with the frustration I have about my life’s work finding traction in the world. This morning I awoke to an amazing dream.

Here’s the dream: I was completing a training curriculum and there was an exam that was a test of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength. In preparation for the exam, later that day, I decided to run through all the tests. One was climbing a high bridge that had very narrow ladder rungs. I could look through and see the water far below and had to stop a couple times to regroup because it was very scary; eventually, I was able to move forward and complete the climb. There was a new class coming into the school so our group was finishing and we were advising the new students.

I awoke feeling very moved by the dream and inspired to continue allowing fly fishing to teach me.

Once again I went to my favorite creek and enjoyed the mists hugging the water, the varied shades of summer green and the crystal-clear water rushing over beautiful rocks. I waded a couple of hours and cast using underwater flies but eventually felt a desire to just sit and listen. So much had been revealed yesterday, I wanted to be still and quiet and stop thinking.

I saw a big, moss-free rock in the center of the creek and waded to it. I gently sat down and said aloud, Please share your wisdom with me. I’m really wanting to learn about my life. And so I sat. My feet were on the pebbled bottom, I held my rod—hook stowed—and relaxed. The sound of rushing water was music as was bird song. It took a while but I finally got quiet inside my mind and heard, Stop looking for trout. Hmmm. I’m fishing. Isn’t that what one does when fishing for trout? Look for them?  So I asked for clarification. The reply was the same: Stop looking for trout.

I sat in stillness and allowed the mantra to work within me…Stop looking for trout. Stop looking for trout. Stop looking for trout.

A memory surfaced from fifteen years ago when I lived in Asheville and heard guidance to go into Nature every day when I repeatedly asked what I was to do with my life. I was like…What? I’m in Nature every day already. But that message repeated and has repeated often in the following years. Today, as I sat on the Wisdom Rock, I heard, When you come into Nature you always have an agenda…take photographs, fish, hike to a certain place. When I say Stop Looking for Trout I mean to stop coming into Our presence with your agenda. There are so many layers of wisdom awaiting discovery if humans would simply be still and be quiet and await the inspiration.

Of course that is true. I feel the need to do or produce to help others connect with the amazing beauty and Oneness. And that’s great but it leaves little room for deeper wisdom to be revealed if I would just be quiet. Take the camera but stop and sit a while and be quiet inside and listen to the music of the rocks and trees and water. Take the fly rod but take time to just stop and rest and let go of all agendas. Allow the real gifts to surface in that stillness.

As I contemplated this ‘exchange’ between the rock and me, it felt like a doorway opening into the bottom of the creek that would reveal many mysteries of Nature. And that’s when, after half an hour or so, I decided to finish the morning by switching to a dry fly and casting big. And it was going great until I congratulated myself on the almost amazing casts. But it didn’t matter. Two days in a row I found myself untangling a major mess after feeling like I was making major casting progress. Fly fishing is a sport that teaches humility.

Immediately after I climbed the bank to head down the trail, I heard loud rock music…not like the rock music I had been listening to…but like heavy metal…way up here on the trail. And then a young guy and his dog materialized and he turned the music off. As we passed he asked if I’d caught anything. I wanted to say how much I had learned from Wisdom Rock and that I received really solid guidance but instead I said, Nope…but it’s a glorious day.

Society expects us to catch a fish if we are fishing and if we don’t we are failures. That’s certainly the message I tell myself from old societal programming. But what if success wasn’t measured by how many fish we land, but how much wisdom we accumulated on the wade up the creek. Wouldn’t that be something.

As I walked down the trail, I came upon a dragonfly that appeared to be dancing on the surface of a small stream…dipping her tail over and over again in a bouncing dance. It was so amazing to observe her and see one of the mysteries of the creek revealed. Trout will feed on the larvae but many will survive to become dragonflies. How amazing is that?!?

The first cast this morning at the magic pool ended with me hooking myself in the upper arm in a location I couldn’t reach without taking off my vest and squirming a bit. I think it was a reminder that this journey is all about learning more about myself…each of us is on that journey in our own way. All the answers are already within us. We simply have to be still and listen or in my case, sit on a rock in the middle of a creek.

——

And to add to the incredible teachings coming from Nature through fly fishing, I found another large, black feather. This black feather journey started when I began yoga teacher training and recently has amped up so much that I ask every black bird I see to share its teaching and of course thank it. I even had a recently-fledged juvenile crow hop in front of me a few weeks ago after I caught a big trout. That was the same day a white-tailed doe watched me land that trout. I have entered the realm of Nature Magic. And it’s a very special place in which to find myself.

NOTE: According to Ted Andrews, Nature Speak, crow symbolizes the secret magic of creation. Crow is the smartest of birds, has a complex language. Working with crows, according to Andrews, can help people see how the winds are going to blow in life and how to adjust our flights. His grandfather told him crows are symbolic of luck. Magic is the Medicine of crows. “They are symbols of creation and spiritual strength. They remind us to look for opportunities to create and manifest the magic of life and they are messengers calling to us about the creation and magic that is alive within our world everyday and available to us.

And dragonflies….the eggs eventually develop into a nymph and remain in the nymph form for almost two years before transforming into an adult dragonfly. Andrews wrote that their realm is the realm of light…spending time outside near fresh water will be beneficial…(no kidding). The dragonfly reminds us that change is coming and that we are light and can reflect light in powerful ways. It helps us cut through illusions and allows our own light to shine brightly. “Dragonfly brings the brightness of transformation and the wonder of a colorful new vision.”

The Perfect Mirror

The Perfect Mirror

    

It was one of those days. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. The weather was like that, too. It rained overnight and was supposed to rain more but then radar showed showers staying west of us. Rain? No rain? Walk? Fly fish? Yoga? I felt antsy and unsettled after putting out mulch early this morning. 

Yoga finally happened mid-day and it was a nice practice. So…fishing? All day long I wanted to go but was not sure where I wanted to go and if I wanted to use waders or wet wade? After getting irritated with my indecision, I got my gear together, put on shorts to wear under waders and headed to my favorite creek.

The humidity was very high from the overnight rain and it was quite warm. Since the water is cold, there was a beautiful fog hovering over the surface of the water. Walking into the water was like putting on a mantle of mist and entering another realm.

The fish were there and very smart and I wished more than once I was just wading in the creek without the rod, reel and vest. I found myself aggravated but couldn’t really blame the fish since I’d felt that way all day. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to do anything but scare the fish (I actually had a trout zoom out from underneath my boot as I was wading). 

The beauty kept pulling me back to myself and out of my head. But my mind kept chattering. I was doing something I love with such passion and it felt as if I was failing miserably because I wasn’t catching fish. Finally, I interrupted the negative thoughts as I sensed a familiar story being mirrored to me. It felt just like the frustration of doing the work I feel called to do and am so passionate about and it not producing a livable income. This has been an issue now for many years and one that grows more troublesome and worrying. 

I’ve been working parttime at a university vaccination clinic and it’s been nice to have a little income to slow the drain on my savings, but the clinic is closing and that is creating an inner disturbance. You see, for many years now I’ve made very little money as I have given myself totally to documenting and sharing beauty and being a voice for our planet. I’ve loved it and feel lucky to have the opportunity to photograph amazing creatures underwater and visit sacred places that have fueled my passion for healing. I’ve published several books with my photography and writing including three children’s books. Yet, with so much effort and money spent to create these works, there has not been a supportive income produced by them. I’m not whining but rather expressing a deep frustration and grief that the work of my soul, the endeavors of my heart are not paying the bills. 

If I get a full-time job just to produce an income, I won’t have enough energy to do the work of my heart. I’ve tried. And quite honestly, I cannot do it. The passion is so strong within me to do the work I feel called to do…and have felt since childhood…it feels like self-betrayal if I don’t do it. I struggle to express the depth of love I feel for our planet and all life here and so want to help bring balance

All of this was going through my mind as I waded back down the creek with mist swirling around me, softening the harshness of my thoughts. I finished fishing after taking note of my improved casting and promptly getting the fly stuck in a tree. After getting it out of said tree, the fly wrapped around the tip of my rod and created a massive tangle. I put the reel end of the ten-foot rod on the creek bank and walked out into the water, pulled my magnifier down from the hat brim and took 15 to 20 minutes to untangle the line which included removing the fly and strike indicator and carefully working with the spider-web thin line. I felt the fishing was done after that exercise in patience. Plus, I’d been wading for over three hours and was ready to head back down the creek and trail. 

So, the mists were swirling and my frustration was tempered by the absolute beauty bombarding me from every direction. I begin to realize that fly fishing was mirroring my life’s work perfectly. It came down to this thread of thought: I feel called to be in Nature and explore the energetic, spiritual, emotional and physical connection with it. Through photography and writing I share my experiences to encourage others to connect and heal and love our planet. But mostly I share these experiences because I cannot not share. I am a visual storyteller. Period. That is my calling.

I also am a yoga instructor, a Reiki practitioner and teacher, an intuitive, a women’s drum circle leader, a musician…I have all these skills that are centered around helping others heal and I haven’t found a way to put it all together to provide an income. So I am, and have been for many years, very frustrated. 

Walking down the trail I allowed the emotions to arise, to come up from the depths and be acknowledged. The sound of rushing water helped them to flow. Foundational understanding resulted: I would fly fish if I never caught another fish because I love the clear water, trees, rocks, green moss and so it is with the work of my heart; I will continue to connect with Nature and open myself to It and learn from it and share what I learn even if nobody reads my stories or I never sell another book or photograph. So deep is the trust I have for my soul leading me true, I am willing to risk everything to follow the Path. It doesn’t conform to the way of the world, but I know it is the right direction.

Patience. Practice. Perseverance. These three qualities are needed to learn the art of fly fishing. They are also a reminder for my Path…I want so much to help in the healing of this world. My gift is to be a bridge between Nature and humanity and use my talents of photography, writing, teaching yoga and energy work and creating music to fulfill my goal. I will continue to persevere through practice and patience. And trust that doors will open so my work can blossom and be a light into a suffering world as well as support me financially.  

Fly fishing—a perfect mirror for my Path, my Life.

UPDATE: the night after I wrote this blog post I had a most amazing dream and the next morning another profound lesson learned from a rock. Check out the follow-up post and the wisdom shared by a rock.


To support the work of my heart and soul you can purchase my books, order photographs, take private yoga classes with me, come for a Reiki session or just donate. I also do graphic design and book layout as well as editing. My self-publishing led to the creation of a workshop for those wanting more info on how to go from a completed manuscript to a finished book. I will work with individuals and groups wanting to self-publish. One of the ways I have given back is to partner with non-profits to support their work through my books by given a set amount to their organization and I’m happy to include this with mentoring in your publication journey.

Wild Trout Are Pouty and Other Lies

Wild Trout Are Pouty and Other Lies

Amazing trout that allowed me to land and release it a couple weeks ago.

I took a break from my hike and stood on the bridge overlooking the creek—gazing into clear waters, wanting to find trout—I said out loud, You trout are pouty little things, aren’t you? Suddenly three huge trout materialized out of the rocks. It’s true, they popped into the creek via a portal or something because there’s no way there were there the entire time I had been searching.

I have read a lot since starting my fly fishing journey and much is written about trout being moody and pouty and difficult creatures. One guy even wrote in his book that they are stupid (I would burn that book if it wasn’t in my Kindle app). I guess they are difficult because they are more intelligent than those of us trying to see them and (gasp) politely ask them to bite a hook.

The three brutes meandered around the rock ledges, nosed the bottom, occasionally grabbed a bite from some insect nymph (which I can only imagine because they are too small to see even when a replica is on the end of my tippet). These ninja trout were queens of stealth and smarts. So of course they get labeled, along with all their kin, as being pouty or snotty or moody. Gosh, as a woman I know what that’s like.

Zoomed-in photo of one of my trout teachers this morning. Notice their color blends perfectly with the rocks.
Another photo of the same trout but zoomed out….these creatures know how to hide.

Wild trout are intelligent, wonderfully amazing creatures that know how to live and survive. Occasionally they might bite a fly we send their way but mostly they will nibble and spit it out in total disgust. Why? Because they are wild and free and let’s face it, much smarter than the two-legged animals stalking them.

After watching yet another trout join their morning breakfasting and apologizing for calling them pouty, I walked on and reflected on the encounter with these beautiful rainbow trout. Women have historically been labeled as moody or pouty when we have refused to bite the hook of domestication. Every wild woman knows what I mean. We can be very attractive to men who think how fun it would be to partner with us until they realize that they will never tame us. Just like the wild trout, we will not submit our wildness to anyone.

The other day I watched a guy beat his fly rod back and forth through the air (yes, use your imagination and giggle at the intended pun) like he was killing the trout before the fly ever touched the water. I actually laughed out loud at this barbaric behavior and thankfully the sound of rushing water muffled my laugh which kept up the illusion of politeness. Good fly fishers know the artistry and grace of a fly rod captained by a wise fly fisher. Man or woman, aggressive casting is cause for eye-rolling and laughter. 

Our culture was founded on the power-over mentality: labeling indigenous cultures as savages so destroying them was acceptable, burning women who were healers so their property could be seized, enslaving people because they wanted free labor. The language carries over to how we describe wild things. 

This morning those beautiful rainbow trout reminded me to honor their intelligence, their wisdom and their wildness and to never, ever give up my wildness to anything that would try to tame me. Many men have told me that women make better fly fishers. I think I understand why that is so just a little better now.

Wild Turkey on the Bridge

Wild Turkey on the Bridge

It felt good to gather the gear and head to the creek. But today, I felt a call to a different section of water. Before I even stepped one foot into the water, a beautiful and huge wild turkey hen lit on the old bridge railing and peered downstream. I love it when magic happens from the start.

After she flew off over the water and disappeared into the trees, I walked down to the place where the Oconoluftee and Bradley Fork merge. Heavy cloud cover made the air beautiful, like only the Smoky Mountain air feels and smells. Rocks thickly carpeted with green moss, a light mist and overhanging tree limbs made wading especially pleasant. The fly rod was a prop today–an excuse to wade in the water with the trout and crayfish. I had a few good strikes but today was really about being with the creek and her creatures and learning from them.

I waded upstream to the trail gate with just a few bank walks. There’s just something mystical about quietly walking in a mountain stream. Sure, I look for likely trout hangouts; however, mostly it’s about getting quiet.

At one point, far up the fork, I was walking and somehow caught my fly (which was secured to the rod…ummm, not) with my foot. It came off the line and I knelt down and spent over 15 minutes looking for the tiny nymph fly—not one designed to float but one to sink and look like insect larvae going with the flow of the creek. I looked at my boot but it wasn’t there. I kept feeling it was on me but didn’t see it and so gazed into the very shallow water for a long time. Suddenly, I saw movement and as I kept my focus on the tiny pool, a baby trout—not even an inch long—swam among the small pebbles. He or she didn’t seem to mind my fingers feeling for the fly. It was so sweet to connect with this infant who had yet to become pouty and moody like the wild trout I have met thus far.

Like the one who jumped and flipped a tail at me as I cast a bit further upstream. Really…make fun of me? Just because I stepped on a fly and lost it? I laughed as I moved upstream, glancing up to see people with umbrellas walking in the campground. I had no idea it was raining. I was too into the baby and the fly that got away and the smarty trout that was trying to show me where to cast.

A few hours passed and I was getting hungry and a bit tired. Walking in rushing water over slippery rocks isn’t the same as walking on dry anything. Plus, as soon as I put my waders on I had to pee…never fails. It seemed a good time to end my morning in the cathedral of Nature when I reached the gate at the end of the campground. But that one sweet spot called so I went a bit further into that one magical place where I caught the big trout a couple weeks ago. Thought I’d visit her again…yeah, well, she didn’t care a bit that I was there. But it was still nice to visit and recall how she scared me when she hit the nymph fly. 

I walked back through the campground smelling wood fires, coffee, bacon…that never gets old just as moving through the pristine waters of the national park. 

I got back to the car and started removing gear. I checked my boots to make sure the fly wasn’t embedded in them. Nope. Oh, well. But after taking off the waders I checked that left leg and shazam! There was the little fly. It caught me well and survived wading through rushing water and kneeling down to play with the baby trout and a bit of bushwacking. I laughed out loud and probably caused a few campers to gaze up from their rainy-day reading.

Every time I fly fish I understand more about why I’m doing it…today it was about connecting with a baby trout, listening to bird song, gazing at mountain laurel gracefully arching over the creek, feeling soft, green, mossy rocks and finding the wild turkey on the bridge.