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.

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