Snow was falling like spilled grits. You couldn’t see the road. Fools who did not know snow drove too slow. Mrs. Koontz slipped off the road twice, but she made it home OK about the time I was getting up to go look for her. It was quite a snowstorm, she said.
When I went out to check the sky Sunday night, though, all I saw were stars blinking in a winter sky. I thought I saw some snow and clouds about 10 miles up the mountain, which turned out to be right where the snow stopped, like someone had slammed a door at 4,000 feet.
Down at the cabin it’s 3,500 feet above sea level, and that made all the difference. Monday morning, I left the frost-covered cabin to hit the sunny East Fork of the French Broad River near Rosman where the air is warmer and the water is always filled with trout in the winter.By the time the temperature began bumping the 50-degree mark, the water was crowded with off-work fishermen trying to hang into some of those Delayed Harvest trout.
Sunlight bounced off the water’s surface like flashbulbs, the river was clear and cold and I began fishing with a nymph tied behind a parachute dry that had a brightly colored and easy to see wing. At the first stop I nailed a rainbow with the dry fly.
That was all for that first bridge. I never got another hit.I ripped the nymph off to make room for a scruffy dry fly I had tried to fashion the night before. It barely resembled the Yaller Hammer fly I saw in the fly shop, but nobody told the trout. Bugs aren’t always pretty, I reasoned.
At the next stop, there were more fishermen than trout, so I kept on getting on.At the second bridge I was surprised and delighted to find I had the rest of the river to myself. The water was smooth and quiet. Sky, clouds and trees bounced images off the surface, but at first I didn’t see any feeding trout. I kept trying with the dry fly, with no luck.
There are moments in fly fishing that stand out like no other event. We always remember the monster trout that shake us out of our day-dreaming trances and the beautiful wild brook trout caught near tiny waterfalls. Moments like these get etched in our minds. They’re forever. They keep us coming back for more.
Another such moment is when you spot a fish feeding, figure out what it’s eating and then put the fly softly near the trout without spooking him.Like Monday at that second bridge. Off to the left, I saw the ring spread from where a fish was having a bug lunch, let out some line and put the scruffy fly within inches of the trout.
The Yaller Hammer floated just a nanosecond before it disappeared in a violent splash. Bingo.I tried photographing the rainbow underwater with the waterproof camera, but the fish would not stay still and the water was bone-crunching cold, so all I got was a little fuzzy shot.
My hands ached, and I thought about what a good choice it had been to avoid the north side of the mountain, where all the snow had fallen, and keep to the sunny side of life.
This moment on the river was a keeper.