I was cooking by the creek as the sun was waning when a shadowy figure emerged like a phantom from the laurel. He had on a wide-brim hat, light waders, nice boots and what I can only guess was a pretty expensive flyrod in his hand. At least, there was no duct tape holding it together. His vest was perfect. No stains, so he must have just bought it. Though I had never seen him before, he turned out to be a neighbor who had lived in that neck of the Pisgah National Forest 53 years.
He admitted catching just a few small fish before he quit. Nothing big. Nothing to write home about.
We sat by the fire, adding twigs to keep the flames alive.
I had quit fishing earlier in the day and was having my own private cookout by Courthouse Creek. Surprisingly, there were not that many tourists camping and hiking. As the sun dropped behind the hills, a comforting quiet filled the air, with just the song of water splashing over smooth rocks.
We told fish tales for awhile, recalling the days when huge trout fought at the end of our lines, not even realizing how much those long-ago fish had grown.
I told him about the big brown that had hit my caddis fly seven years ago, right there under that bridge just up the dirt road. And, there was the one at the church road bridge that nailed a slow-floating light cahill, and a couple of others that I had landed using a Tellico nymph with enough lead to sink it to the bottom of the shady pool downstream from the bridge.
And I admitted I had not caught a big one all year, and here it was half over. I had been fishing a tandem rig, with a muddler minnow tied to the hook bend of a small caddis dry fly. The idea is to fool the trout into believing a baitfish is chasing a small emerging fly and slam into the muddler, and it often works just like that with a big, head-shaking brown nearly tearing the rod from your hands.
An angler never forgets such fish.
We even remember the ones that broke off, like the one I lost on the Smith River in Virginia about, uh, a quarter century ago. He flashed all gold and silver in a late afternoon sun, leaping from his hiding place behind a log, and snapped that tipet as if it were a spider web. I remember my knees shaking from the excitement and shock.
This weekend, I’ll again try for the monster browns with the muddler and anything else big in the flybox.
And, while sitting around the fire late in the day, I’ll have a fresh yarn to spin if another fisherman drifts in through the laurel.