Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fly fishing invasion

The plan for the long weekend was to invade neighboring Jackson County and conquer as many of its much-publicized trout streams as possible, take a lot of photos and throw back a lot of wiggling fish.
The county put out some nifty waterproof maps recently that show where 15 of the more popular trout streams are located, how to get there and what to expect when you do. You learn what kind of trout are there, what size to expect and how many.
They call it the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail.
For several weeks I planned the invasion, even though I hate planning for anything. Planning is bondage, the swami said, and I tend to agree, especially when it comes to getting out for some fun. You have to remain flexible. The weather may change, and probably will, or the car will break down, and hopefully does not, or I may just get lost, which is always a good bet when I explore new mountainous trout country.
Last week I never had a chance to get lost. I just never drove in the correct direction, which really does not count as being lost as much as being just another adventure, and ended up in barely familiar land. Passing by some promising water, I finally stopped at Balsam Lake, which feeds nicely into Wolf Creek. I just like the name of that creek, though I haven’t fished it much.
I should have turned left instead of right out of the driveway. The little creek, numbered "4" on my handy trail map, was in the other direction.
No matter. I can fish lakes too.
Fishing on two weekdays, I had the place nearly to myself. An elderly gentleman clad in bib overalls and a plaid shirt stopped by the car to tell me nobody was catching any fish lately, then he continued to the picnic shelter with his can of Vienna sausages and crackers.
Well, I hope he wasn’t planning to use those sausages for bait. I wouldn’t, since I prefer using flies, but I guess one could fashion a Vienna sausage fly and perhaps catch an unwary catfish somewhere. That can wait. I have entirely too many trout streams to haunt.
Watching to slow water for feeding trout rise rings, I perked up when a fish splashed at something near the parking lot. It was an overcast day the color of an old battleship. Rain threatened. I hoped to see some blue winged olives. Tiny flies, long tippets and delicate casts can be fun, or frustrating. It all depends on the trout.
I moved out to a point where the lake and creek met. There were a few rises, here and there, but they were not hitting the little olive fly.
After about 30 minutes of fruitless casting into a stiff wind, I angrily stripped in the line and hooked the brown trout just as I was lifting the fly from the water. Then, he snapped off the fly.
Switching to a soft hackle wet fly, I inched out on a tiny peninsula, flipped the fly into the current and gently stripped it in.
I caught two browns and lost a rainbow that flashed a little silver and red when it came out of the water and broke off.
A hard rain drove me away, but I knew it would not be very long before returning. Turned out the lake was just 11 miles from the cabin. I am surrounded by so much trout water that I rarely make it too any destination without a stop or two to toss a fly.
Like on the return trip.
The wind died, the rain subsided and I stopped at a little bridge. The trout was there. I put the fly softly next to the rock. A red-cheeked head came up, looked at my fly and splashed away.
That bridge is almost always a part of my plan. Perhaps soon I’ll make it to some of those other rivers, though I suspect there will be a ton of stops along the way.
It’s all part of the adventure.

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