I had no idea where I was headed. There was a little parking lot, but there were few cars on a Monday afternoon. Upstream from all the commotion at the fish hatchery, my map says the Davidson River splits, then veers off to the north and then splits again into three little tributaries that originate close to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Adventure beckoned. New water and wary trout waited for my fly to float by.
I crossed the big bridge and really didn’t expect to find much. It was just such a perfect day for a gentle walk through the Pisgah National Forest under a canopy of gold and orange. After a week of unsteady rain, the cushion of leaves had softened, making the trek a lot like walking on thick new carpet.
But it was not a leisurely stroll. It was uphill, with steep banks stretching deeper and deeper with each step on the rapidly narrowing road, which turned into a trail which then turned into a skinny path.
It was way too far to slide to the water. I kept walking. A strikingly bright sun knifed through the beech and maple. There was a shy breeze whispering through the hemlocks. The air was perfect.
Normally, all my fishing activity is confined to the water downstream, near the hatchery or just below. That’s where the humungous trout big as hound dogs fin lazily in crystal clear water within sight of hundreds of tourists and fly fishers. Occasionally, I have caught some of those monsters, and at other times the bigguns broke my line. Mostly, those trout ignore anglers’ flies, for they have seen every imaginable type and size and color. They are, in a word, educated fish. They see a lot of fishermen, too, and don’t spook easily. They just hunker down and stare at you.
That portion of the Davidson is Catch and Release. Past that section and the hatchery, there is the part known as "The Gorge," which is not for the faint at heart or feeble of body. The water roars over boulders big as cars. It’s much tougher to get out than it is to get down the bank to the river.
But, like I said, there was adventure beckoning. I went farther up, past Cove Creek to where Long Branch Creek goes left and the Davidson wanders to the right where it later splits into three little creeks — Right Fork, Daniel Ridge Creek and Shuck Ridge Creek.
I walked forever.
When I came to what was left of an old bridge, I considered sliding down the bank to get to the other end of the road, but then I realized I would hve to climb back up that same bank.
So, I took the path less traveled by.
This little path, which followed Right Fork uphill, was just as steep with a gorge almost as deep as The Gorge. I found one place that was easily accesible to the creek, slipped down a gentle bank and caught a little wild rainbow surrounded by loud, rowdy water tumbling over huge rocks.
I leaned my back against a smooth, warm rock just to let the day soak in. I could have fallen asleep and decided it was too late and I was too worn out to finish the trek to the end of this little path.
The walk had taken its toll. And I still had the return hike to the car.
For the next week I walked with a little less bounce . It was Friday before the aches faded so I could consider finishing the exploration.
Yeah, I took the path less traveled by and it certainly made all the difference.
I ached all over.