Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fly fishing into the dark

Clouds piled up like foam from waves crashing on a beach. You can always expect some sort of precipitation this time of year, either spotty thunderstorms that feel like somebody emptied a big bucket of water down your neck before clearing or one of those relentless showers spinning off the newest hurricane whirling off the coast like a county fair ride.
It was a clear, hot day with little breeze to speak of, so the lawn mower got one of its shortest workouts ever. The grass was a little wet, anyway. Let it go, I thought. Trout were waiting.
With the temperature high and the water low, the fly fishing was tough, though it became easier to spot trout from high banks since those fish were not moving from the bottom, where they hugged rocks and spitefully ignored all my flies.
Being a weekday, Avery Creek’s campground was almost empty, leaving the trout water for me alone. Overhead, a few crows weaved and danced in the air, their caws sounding like glass breaking combined with a heavy metal band’s painful guitar licks. Crows, being about the only birds in the forest to make a truly unpleasant music, could not have cared less.
The songbirds are always a treat, for they sing pretty. The turkey buzzards know their place, sailing gracefully high overhead in silence, and never take center stage to perform. The hawks sound as if they are laughing from their hunting perches in the hemlock. More than once, I thought their derision was directed at me as I waved the fly rod back and forth.
My guess is that the raucous blackbirds scared all the trout. I left Avery Creek without seeing a fish.
Hoppers, ants, pheasant tail nymphs and caddis fly dries did not interest the trout. I got one rise in the Davidson next to the big parking lot, then left to try the North Fork of the French Broad, where I never get skunked. The church road bridge produced nothing, as did the water at the fire station bridge.
This was unusual. I entertained the idea of quitting.
Since it was a Monday, there should not have been a lot of campers and waterfall peepers on Courthouse Creek. But they were. The first campsite, one of my favorite hotspots, was occupied. Upstream, families visiting the falls made almost as much racket as crows.
The shadows stretched longer. It got cooler.
I passed up the chanterelle mushrooms dotting the bank with their little blaze orange hunter’s caps. They are just too labor-intensive, for one must pick a bunch of these little fellows to make frying them up worthwhile. Perhaps next time. After all, they are one of only a few wild ’shrooms I feel safe taking home. If I stopped to pick enough to eat, valuable fishing time (VFT) would be irretrievably lost.
It was beginning to get dark. Clouds turned pink with a disappearing sun dipping behind the hills.
A good-sized trout wiggled in a tiny pool near the path to the falls, and I managed to spook him with my first sloppy cast. Another, smaller version, hooked himself as I was moving upstream and, after flipping him back into the water, I saw another rise under the bridge.
This time the cast was perfect, the fly landed in the center of the rise ring and the fish smashed it with a violent splash.
That, I thought, was what it is all about.
Now encouraged, I drove back to the cabin to try the front yard pools, where I had just enough light to see where I was stepping but not enough to see the fly at the end of my line. I missed fish after fish, getting a tug here and a handshake there, but the trout had become active and the bugs filled the air.
They took their time, but the trout had stopped hugging rocks.
And I had managed to dodge those little storms all day.

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