Tag: trout

Long After

Long After

The clear, cold water moves through me still. Long after four blissful hours are over there remains inner clarity and flow. My cells were changed, cleansed, and made new. The trout swim within me; I am part of the river, still with them. 

I close my eyes and sense the inner sparkle. Things were laid down in that river; burdens left behind to be carried on the currents of flowing water…down, down, down over rocks and waterfalls, scrubbing away the heaviness so that by the time they reach the sea, those burdens are only sparkles of light, released from constriction, freed from bondage.

I give thanks for wild places.

The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away

Thanks Shawn for taking this photograph of me fishing.

It was a day of extremes. BIG fish and tiny fish. But it was epic!

For months I’ve watched four trout I call the trout magi. They live at a place I walked frequently. In the spring, they stayed in a certain place and have moved to more hidden places as the seasons have progressed. How do I know? Well, my friends, that’s the tale of the fish story.

I’m relatively new to fly fishing but am going into my third season and have done okay as a catch-and-release Nature lover. I wade in cold creeks to connect with the beauty, to learn from wise creatures and to generally exercise complete presence of focus and intention. These trout magi have schooled me in what it means to be a trout…at least as much as I can grasp it as a human. Observing for half an hour or so many times over several months (walking, not fishing) I have become a diligent student.

Bambi fresh out of the tying vise.

A week ago I stood behind a log at the upstream edge of a deep pool and cast across the rushing water to the other side where flat water hugged the bank. I had a feeling…… As soon as my fly kissed the surface, water erupted in a huge splash, my fly was hit and then, as I tried to set the hook, I saw that nothing was left. The fly had vanished. My custom-tied, made-up fly I named Rudolph had flown away courtesy of a trout magi.

Today, a week later, a friend from Arkansas walked up to the same area with me. She fished downstream a bit as I started wading, intent to make it back to the log. And eventually, ever-so-slowly, I made it back to this tricky place and began casting. 

Bambi wet.

I was aiming for some rough riffles. I don’t know why…because it felt fishy there today. The new fly I made, named Bambi, was sinking due to the rough water but I just let it sink. And after a few casts, it felt like a huge, underwater troll had grabbed the end of my line and was bending my 10 foot 3 weight rod nearly double. 

I set the hook and started stripping in line with my left hand, anchored the fly line briefly with my right middle finger so I could grab my net and let it hang behind me then kept stripping line as the fish was shaking her head, leaping and bucking like a wild bronco. My adrenaline level skyrocketed. And I screamed with wild abandon.

I kept a nice bend in the rod and as I directed the rainbow trout magi over into my net, I realized I couldn’t land the fish with the silly log in the way and a lot of deep water on the other side (if I slipped). So I decided to try and bring the fish around the end of the log. With net ready, I shifted my weight on the rock where I stood and turned. 

As soon as I dropped the tip of my rod a fraction in that move, the wise trout shook her head and the barbless hook went flying. Bye bye wise elder.

My knees were knocking and my hands shaking as I brought in the fly for a look. It was fine except for the golden pheasant tail feathers on the rear. Mama trout took those with her. Everything else looked just fine. The deer tail hairs were still there, the grizzly hackle and elk fur wing…all just fine. 

My friend Shawn fishing upstream

We moved upstream another half mile or so and fished. She caught a nice rainbow and released it, I landed a little brown trout and released it. When I say little, I’m not sure how it managed to bite the size 14 hook it was so small….but we had a brief meeting and off it swam.

On the way back, we stopped at a big hole. My friend fished upstream from me and I wanted to try a nice structure on the far side of the creek. It had a beautiful rhododendron sheltering the nice rocky, underwater ledge. It was so fishy I was almost certain there was a big one living there.

After several casts into this tricky area, I was able to float the fly just over the hole where the suspected trout lived. Sure enough, a big fella swam out of hiding to investigate (thank goodness for clear water so I could watch this). After the fly floated past and begin to drag, I cast into the same area and BAM! The Bambi fly did it again! This time I missed the set and the fish swam off in a huff. 

It’s not so much about landing the trout as it is letting them teach me about their lives. It’s learning to trust myself wading in really slippery conditions (these rocks were the slickest I’ve ever walked on). It’s deepening my connection with Nature. And today, deepened a friendship.

Bambi dried out and ready to fish again.

My Garmin watch said I walked 6.46 miles and fished 4 ½ hours with 13,963 steps and 326 floors climbed. My body agrees with those stats.  It was rainy and chilly with the temperature hovering around 52 degrees. The water was 52 degrees. Thanks to great gear, I remained dry and mostly warm. It was worth every step, every incline climbed. 

I’m gradually progressing in the lessons my trout magi teachers are imparting to me. Today, one almost allowed me the honor of netting her….alas, I wasn’t quite ready. But I’ll always remember….the one that got away. And I’ll got back to try again another day. 


Yesterday I bought this little fishing line waste container and hooked it to my vest. I hate losing small pieces of tippet in the water and even if I put them in my vest pocket, they get pulled out when I go back into the pocket. Today, after two casts, I found a HUGE wad of fishing line and a lure left by a spin tackle fisher. It took me 10 minutes to untangle the mess from a wad of wet leaves. I was so very glad I spent $12 for this little canister.

River Wisdom Keepers

River Wisdom Keepers

A wisdom keeper with his student

We stood at the edge of Humble Hole, the place where big trout hover suspended in the cool waters of the Davidson River and watch as your fly floats by…dry, nymph it doesn’t really matter. This might frustrate many fly fishers; for me seeing those fat fish relaxed, unspooked by the fly line or movement of the two humans on the bank was beautiful to behold. After all, I’m not there to catch fish—I’m there to witness beauty. And those trout magi are the wise elders. Except that day the other human was also a wise elder in the art of fly fishing.

The largest fish hatchery in NC is located at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. They raise rainbow, brook and brown trout. It’s open to the public every day except Sundays….and worth the visit.

The past two mornings were spent at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education near Brevard, North Carolina. I took part in a women’s fly fishing school presented by the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. They have various fly fishing offerings that include a kid’s program, casting classes, fly tying. Our two day school included the basics of fly fishing and casting on day one and fishing with a river wisdom keeper on day two. 

Steve was my mentor for the morning. I learned so much and improved my casting a lot.

I call these volunteers river wisdom keepers because they offer their experience and expertise as fly fishers to those wanting to learn. Veterans of being snubbed by trout, they offer solace to those of us eager to learn how we, too, can be humbled by a rainbow or brown or brook. But they gift us with so much more. After all, fly fishing is creating art while fishing.

It’s good to know what nymphs are living in the place where you are fishing. Steve shows me a nymph that looks like the pheasant tail fly that I’ve caught a lot of fish on in my endeavors thus far.

There are many elements to fly fishing…selection of the fly or flies to use (dry fly, nymph, streamer), tippet length, strike indicator placement, stealth, casting (without catching rhododendron, brush piles, rock edges, submerged sticks, yourself, your guide, your rod/line), water flow, ledges, holes, riffles, seams, shadows. The river wisdom keepers volunteer their time to teach about all of these elements and more.

Too often we fail to take advantage of the wisdom held within individuals who have spent years learning this living art. As I stood beside Steve yesterday, I felt honored to be one of those lucky enough to learn what he had to share. As I glanced upriver and downriver, other mentors were with their students…what a beautiful sight.

Steve was very trusting of me to hold the rod still as he changed flies. Once he even held one fly attached to the line in his mouth to add another one below it on a nymph rig…he did remind me not to move the rod. Trusting soul isn’t he!?!

The North Carolina Wildlife Commission provides these programs free of charge. Yes…free of charge (unbelievable, I know). The programs are paid for with funds generated from fishing license sales for the most part. According to an article in the Citizen Times several years ago, trout anglers gave the state’s economy an estimated $383 million from direct sales on fishing equipment, food, gas, lodging, and guides. That same 2014 study found 3600 jobs were supported by mountain fishers. A 2009 study showed a total impact of trout anglers in North Carolina impacted with $174 million boost to the economy. That’s a significant jump in five years. Considering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park had the highest visitor numbers ever last year, it’s difficult to imagine what economic boosts fly fishing is providing the state present day. A drive along trout creeks and rivers or a hike into even more remote creeks gives evidence to the high demand for fly fishing in our Western North Carolina cold creeks.

Women are the fastest growing demographic among fly fishers and our wildlife commission acknowledges this by providing dedicated classes for women. Because fly fishing has been a male-dominated endeavor, it’s sometimes challenging for women to enter into it. In the four months I’ve been involved with it I’ve visited several shops or outfitters just to see how a woman is welcomed. Some have been amazing and supportive beyond imagination. One was so full of testosterone and loud, vulgar stories I will withhold any support of that particular place or their guides for anyone. In April, when I started practicing art while fishing, I connected with several guide services for instruction (since classes were not happening due to Covid). Every one I ‘interviewed’ was asked how they felt working with women clients. My favorite outfitter, Little River Outfitters, recommended a company (Trout Zone Anglers) and I went with them after emailing the owner and checking out the bios of their guides. I chose one with a wife and two small kids…I mean, he must have patience. It’s important for women to feel supported and respected, especially when entering an arena that has been dominated by men for so long. But the smart outfitters, stores, and guides realize that supporting women means their business will prosper.

I didn’t intend for this writing to meander like one of our mountain creeks so I will bring in the line, so to speak, and simply thank the instructors and the wildlife commission for being so progressive in their putting education for all as a priority and especially to those river wisdom keepers that volunteer their time to spread the love of fly fishing.

Trout are some of the most beautiful fish. I hope to be able to paint abstracts that are inspired by their colors and patterns.