The mountains look like piles of Chevy pickup trucks all reddish-brown and tan with rust and age. Most of the bright color of fall is gone. The November sun felt good when it slipped through the trees along the path.
The air was cool but not biting cold, so there was no need for a jacket. In fact, after a half-hour hiking gradually uphill along the river, I got warm. Perhaps, I thought, the fishing would be better up and over the hill confronting me. At the bridge where I left the car, the trout failed miserably in hitting my fly, so I caught nothing.
But it was a good day to be out, and the path had softened to a thick comfortable carpet of wet, dead leaves. The air was full of the rich smell of rotting wood, decaying leaves and at times a hint of a smoky campfire.
I never made it to the top of that hill. Those three prongs that feed the Davidson River would have to wait another week at best, for my legs were giving out. Finding a sun-softened rock to sit on, I skinned lunch by ripping the foil off two granola bars and then killing a nearly-cold beer I had in the fishing vest. Refueled thusly, I returned to attack the river, only to be met by indifference and perhaps even a little scorn by the wild rainbows and browns.
For the next hour the fish ignored my hopper, scoffed at my nymphs and greeted by dry flies with utmost scorn.
Fish, like people, can be hateful.
It was my own fault for arriving at the water in late afternoon, even though it’s well known that the best fall and winter fishing often comes during the height of the day when the sun is the hottest.
But it got colder. I slinked home without having caught one trout and pulled into the driveway in no hurry to quit, pulled out the flyrod and slid down the bank across the road. There, I hid behind a tree so I could flip the little yellow fly into the current without scaring what I hoped would be a big fish hiding close to the bank.
He was there. As the fly began to move toward the bank the fish hit, jumped and ran with the line slicing through the water’s surface like a knife through a tender steak. He was a fat handful at 16 inches .
And he made my day.
Getting out a little earlier the next day, I met a friend at Avery Creek close to where it empties into the Davidson. Both are catch and release streams, so you know there will be fish. You also know they will not be easy.
We caught several little trout, wild rainbows no bigger than a bass lure.
Switching to a dry fly, I tossed it into a little swirl next to a rock where the water was quiet. It was a tough place to put the fly, for as soon as it landed, the current would grab my line and drag the fly like a water skier, leaving a tiny plume a spray in its wake and scaring all the trout.
But not every time. Something splashed at the fly and missed, so I put it back in the same spot with lots of slack in the line, watched it settle from just a second and then disappear as a fine wild rainbow nailed it on the run.
Not as big as my homey trout, it had twice the fight.
And, you know what? That fish made my day.