Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you. John Riggins used to throw that quote out while playing football for the Washington Redskins back in the day. As most of us recall, Riggins got the bear more often than the bear got him, even those bears from Chicago.
Last Monday, we got the bear.
There’s usually a lot more snow on the other side of the mountain in Haywood County than there is on the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, so if was not without a little trepidation that I took the Troutmobile to the Delayed Harvest section of the Pigeon River. I expected some icy spots along the twisting road and some tough-to-catch trout when I got to the church parking lot, where you don’t have to park in snow and mud.
We found the little river fringed with a lace-work of ice and snow. The roads were smooth and clean. The air was a spring-like 50-something and felt warmer when the gusty breeze quit its blustery ways.
And, lo and behold, the Ttout set out the welcome mat.
In past years my luck on this little stretch above Lake Logan has been spotty, at best. Farther downstream, I once caught a monster rainbow well over 20 inches long and in the 4- to 5-pound range. A handsome fish, to be sure. Upstream near the Blue Ridge Parkway, I managed in midsummer to catch a handful of sparkling brook trout.
But I have been as disappointed and disgusted as a spurned street beggar holding an empty tin cup or ‘dreaming of a cheeseburger’ sign.
My hopes were not exactly high.
But it hardly mattered. Snow and ice were disappearing.
The winter air was softening. Insects were hatching.
After a long two months of catching nothing but freezer air in the face and going home with little more than frozen fingertips, it didn’t matter if there were fish in that water.
But there were.
After arriving and spending way too much valuable fishing time stringing up a new leader, I headed upstream, leaving my angling partner behind to fish the closest spot.
When I looked back a while later, there was another fly fisherman splashing through the water my friend was fishing. Bad manners, I thought. Mrs. Koontz would give that fellow a tongue-lashing for his rudeness. The nerve of some.
I was still fishless but the stranger and my friend both had bent fly rods and each was releasing a wiggling trout.
I waded back to where the fish were.
They were not picky fish. We caught them on a dry Adams, nymphs, caddis flies and just about anything else in our fly boxes. I had them hit on the top, just under the surface and in the deep pockets.
All were brightly colored and put up muscular battles. In past years, hatchery trout were pale and weak.
According to the fishing stranger, the stocking truck had dumped a load there that morning.
Talk about timing.
Sometimes, you get the bear. Sometimes you get him really, really good.