Three of us (some of “the retired guys”) once again launched ourselves into a fishing trip that at the beginning none of us knew where we were going. Mike, the designated guide for this trip had started out by suggesting that we fish the Nantahala. As we got closer to Asheville, it was the “Tuck.” Then it had to be “Wilson Creek.” “Were we game for the change in plans?” Mike asked. Both Charlie and I were game for anything and we both said it was his decision as we knew that whatever river Mike chose we could be assured of “good fishing.” Isn’t it the job of the designated guide to take you to the best river that he could – even his private spots?
So it was “Wilson Creek” - - game finally on. Mike then proceeded to tell us about his recent foray on the river but not the section that we were going to fish. This was going to be new water – “new water” I thought could be a bummer. But as he said, it would be the “delayed harvest” section which was supposedly loaded with fish. My thoughts brightened.
As we rode by the canyon stretch, my thoughts rambled from how in the world you would get to the river, I did not bring any ropes, carabineers and rappelling gear. Getting too old for this stuff – game yes, but still too old. Then we crossed the concrete bridge, and the canyon walls were finally gone and the river looked even better – long runs with great riffles; one after the other. My kind of water.
My thoughts gave way to “let’s get to a pull off and get into our gear and see if we could get our net wet.” For you Yankees, this means landing a fish with a net instead of just dragging it up on the bank. As I continued driving, we went by run after run until Mike finally said “let’s pull off here.” Finally, we could all take that long awaited water the vegetation break – hope you caught my drift here as I am not going to explain it any further. It was in the shade that we put on our gear, put our rods together and tied on the one fly that was going to be the fly that the fish could not stay away from. As we walked though the knee high poison ivy, watched for that copperhead to poke his head out from under the poison ivy leaves, the river beckoned with the sound a great river makes – “here we come, here we come, be good to us,” I thought as we rushed towards the rivers edge.
As any river has its moods, Wilson Creek was ready for us. The river was bright and clear. Not low, not high, but as the little bear in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” said “just right.” Just right it was, as I stepped off the bank into that cool water and crossed the river to get into the best position to present my flies, yes flies – two of them. Top fly was one of Mike's secret concoctions – an “Iceman,” the bottom fly, tied onto about four feet of 6X, was a small sherbet emerger. The first cast started down the run. As it straightened out, there was that pull we trout fishers wait for – but no - - a short strike, darn. If you know me that is what I really said, really… Next cast the same thing but this time a nice, a really nicely colored up brooky took to the air and gave me my fly back – darn it all. Then finally a small “bow” decided it was his time to get in on the act. As he danced in the best part of the run, I tried to herd him up into the slack water – but he was not going to be that cooperative. Finally, he wore himself out and as I slipped my hand under his belly, I thought – “he put up a great fight for a 10” fish.”
The rest of the morning continued the same way, fish after fish, cast after cast - - then from behind me a voice boomed out and said “can I see your license please?” This was the first time in about 18 years that I had a game warden ask me for my license. “No problem,” I said as I started to wade over to him. He immediately said “stay where you are and just show me your license.” Now I thought “how in the heck is he going to read my license from 60 feet away?” Then I saw his binoculars? What a great idea! So I pulled down the “zipper” on my waders – yes, my waders have a zipper - - how else can an old fart like me take a break without peeing on himself when the urge comes on – and the urge comes on pretty often being one of "the retired guys.” I just cannot get out of the river fast enough, take off my jacket, take off my vest, pull down my suspenders – oh, hell, it’s too late. Haven’t been there? Your time will come.
Talked a bit with the game warden about not being checked in a longtime (18 years), wished him well – to keep himself safe, too many nuts out there. I am sure he saw my pearl handled piece – never did he ask me for my permit. Had it if he would have asked….
Then there was the corner pool – a long deep pool going around a long bend in the river. Carefully, I stripped line out from my reel and launched my “Iceman” and an emerger downstream. As the leader and line straightened out, “bang” a 18” plus beautifully colored “bow” headed for the moon. Two runs up and down the creek - almost into my backing, and then he came unbuttoned from my fly. Heck, I was going to release him - he did not have to be that obstinate. All I wanted was to look him in the eye and say to him “I won this time” but he beat me to it. A “nice fish” – a really nice fish. Several more brookies…, and the pool shut down – must have pricked every fish in the pool.
As I rounded the bend, two young gals were sunning on the side of the next pool in their skinny bathing suits - when they saw me they waved – hey, I waved back being a nice guy. As I drew closer to the young gals - working pool after pool, catching a fish here, a fish there (all brookies), my thoughts were on how was I was going to get around them to fish the pool below where they were – and if you believe that then I have a bridge that I want to sell you, how about some water front properties? Well I did mange to get past them – them smiling at me - me smiling at them, how are you doing?
Then the fish started to hop onto my flies – one right after another. Then much to my surprise the older of the two girls asked me “if I wanted a Pepsi.” Now I have never been offered a Pepsi while fishing waist deep on a trout river or any river – but maybe you have. You know we are awfully polite down here in the south but being offered a Pepsi while waist deep in a trout pool just doesn’t happen – not very often that is. Being a gentleman and dying of thirst after battling these fish all day - I just could not turn the Pepsi down. Now a Pepsi is not what I normally drink – I need something a little different that is made from corn, yeast and ferments for a little while to kill any nasties that might be in the make up water.
I wish someone could have taken my picture – here I was standing in the middle of a run, a pretty gal standing next to me in her bikini, a Pepsi in my right hand my fly rod in my left hand and a fish comes rocketing out of the end of the pool hooked onto the size 18 emerger. “Would you mind holding my Pepsi” I asked, as I landed my 37th fish? Stopped counting after that.
Anything else would not have mattered - it was just another day in the life of one of “the retired guys” …..
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Stopped counting at 37 and had a Pepsi