The Jedi is a Rainbow

The Jedi is a Rainbow

Saturday night there was a big insect hatch at the creek so Sunday the fish were stuffed and completely uninterested in eating. Sort of like eating the entire pizza myself and then not eating the next day…not that I’d ever do that. Today felt like a day they might be hungry so I worked on an online yoga class this morning and went out this afternoon to try my luck at wading in the creek and meeting the Jedi Master Trout in my favorite creek.

The water level looked a bit lower as I drove along the Oconoluftee River…was glad to see that as the creek I fish in feeds into the ‘Luftee so I was hoping the flow would be down a bit in my little bit of heaven. 

It was in the mid 60’s and overcast. As I gazed into the creek and then to my fly box, I listened to the prompt that would guide me about choosing a fly. If I was a trout today, what would I be eating? Sparkly, yummy nymphs. So…I chose a lightning bug nymph. 

Once my gear was set up, I put on the waders and boots, adjusted my hip pack and unfolded my wading staff…probably the most helpful gear I have. I strolled up stream along the road and then stepped down to the creek when the bank became less steep. 

Something about that first step into clear, flowing water…everything else melted away and I was completely present with the creek, rocks, trees, insects…and hopefully the fish. Fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park reminds me of cave diving in that it’s a bit gear intensive but thankfully I’m not hauling around two steel scuba cylinders. And like cave diving, the focus must be 100%.  If your mind wanders you can fall and lose gear or hurt yourself. There is an unmistakable call to be completely in the moment. 

It didn’t take long to catch a brown trout. The little six or seven inch fish was beautiful but quite unruly. I dipped my hand into the water to steady it so I could remove the barbless hook and release the fish. The fish decided to flip out, literally, and in so doing untied my awesomely unimproved improved clinch knot. So maybe that sparkly tiny little lightning bug fly will find its way out of the trout’s lip. Otherwise she or he has a piercing with a small bit of bling.

I’m not quite comfortable changing flys in the creek yet so I waded out and knelt in a dry creek bed and once again looked into the magic box…what would I like to eat if I was a trout? Oh, a little copper john fly. I mean little. This time I made sure I got the improved part of the clinch knot and walked back to the water.

A few casts and I had another little trout and it was really little and danced and spit the fly out and flashed me a naughty little sign with its tail as it sped back into the cold water. I stood there happy as I could be. The water pushed against my legs, the green leaves of spring created a tunnel and the rocks gave patterns and flow to the cold creek. Totally present. Nothing else existed…just Nature and me and there wasn’t even separation between us. It was just beauty coexisting with all life.

Eventually the sound of rushing water called me upstream and so I carefully waded. One thing I am learning is that wading in this fast-moving water is an art, a carefully choregraphed dance with the elements.

There was a nice series of areas with flat, smooth water where I knew trout were hanging out. I felt it. In the distance I saw a large rock and deep pool and so I gradually worked my way toward that sweet spot. It had a little rapid above so the water was well-oxygenated, the big rocks and deep pool offered protection and it was freaking beautiful. What trout wouldn’t live there?

As I carefully approached, I checked for overhead trees and gazed into that clear, deep, cold water…You are coming to me. I spoke those words, prepared for a rolling cast…another one…one more a bit closer to the rock and BAM! I mean BAMBAMBAM! This was a big trout. My Jedi trout had arrived.

The fish fought and leaped out of the water and I was squealing with delight and wondering how the heck I would land this monster. I mean…compared to the seven inch one…this guy had major muscle and knew what to do. These are wild trout, not hatchery raised here. I kept hearing the guide I went fishing with a few weeks ago in my head….Keep your rod tip up…swing it around to you. I got him (or her) into the shallow area around my feet and he took off again but stayed in a little pool. I bent down and kept him in the water as I gently held him…he needed a bit more than a gentle grip, but I finally got him to calm down, took a quick photo of him in the water and threw my phone on the shore. Then I removed the hook from his upper lip and relaxed my grip a bit but kept him there for a moment to recover from the fight and hook removal. Then he was ready to swim off and did so with a relaxed little shuffle back to his lair, to the pool and cold, deep water.

I estimated him to be at least 12 inches in length and quite a beautiful rainbow trout. He initiated me into what it means to fly fish…to stalk, to be patient, to react quickly, to handle a fish with care and keep it in the water while removing the hook (did I mention it was barbless? All my hooks are barbless). It was like the teacher showed up and I was ready…a humble student with an open mind. I always begin the excursion with this little request…teach me today wise trout. Help me learn about this magnificent place.

After that I felt ready to go home. Nothing else could top that experience. I looked at my watch…over two hours had passed but I had no idea…such was the state of bliss in which I found myself. 

I secured my line and gear and headed for the trail up from the rocky shore. As I stepped up, a white-tailed deer stood within twenty feet of me—watching, wondering, eating. I slowly unzipped the chest pocket on my waders and removed my phone. I took a few photographs and waited for her to decide what she wanted to do. It felt like I was in a magical realm that was rich with possibility. I half expected a bear to waltz out or Yeti to invite me for cocktails. It was a bit surreal.

I knew from the beginning that fly fishing was more—much more—than the fish. I’m finding it one of the most enriching experiences of my life…and I’ve had some amazing experiences diving in caves, the ocean, with whales and dolphins and manatees. This is something I can do where I live and it takes me into the most amazing place of peace and satisfaction with life. I feel myself sinking deeper into the rhythm of Nature each time I go. Every time I wade that creek, our friendship deepens. 

Besides the amazing beauty, a mystery was revealed today—my Jedi Trout Master is a Rainbow. I will always remember that pouty mouth, the tiny copper-john fly shining on his upper lip and the moment he became calm in my hand and allowed me to carefully remove the hook and set him free. Wild, wonderful Rainbow Jedi…thank you, teacher.

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