The black sky outside the camper window slowly faded like a pair of old jeans to a shade of gray. The rising sun added a bit of blush. An eerie mist shrouded the beasts mulling about in the field.
It was my third weekend camping, and the newest spot was nestled under a clump of shade trees beside the South Holston River in Tennessee.Unlike the other campsites I had tried, this one was wide open as the Serengetti in Tanzania, though the beasts that surrounded this site were mere beef cattle, not wild rhinos. And I was thankful for that, despite the plethora of flies that lent their incessant buzzing to the natural melodies of summer.
It was the flies that drove me inside the camper early in the night. I usually sleep with just the star-sprnkled sky for a roof. It it rains, I can fit the sleeping bag into the back of the Troutmobile, like I was forced to do the previous weekend.
In two and a half days I got in a lot of fly fishing, managing to catch tons of brown and rainbow trout. They were hitting little sulphur flies, little yellow things the fish seemed to like floating on top of the surface or below. I fished a CDC dry up and across, then let it swing downstream until it dipped under the surface. From there, I stripped the fly back slowly until I felt that familiar jerk at the other end.
Sunday evening was awesome. After a long lazy lunch, I rigged up the new rod. From my seat at the campsite, I could see rise rings spread over he mirrow-smooth water while the feeding trout taunted me. I could not turn away from such a challenge.
During the recent hot dry spell, trout have been stressing out. Warm water can be lethal to the fish, and many fishermen avoid low-altitude, and hence warmer, creeks and rivers. Instead, they search out trout in the higher elevations. Or they find a tailrace river, where the coldest of the cold water in a lake is released from the bottom of a dam to generate electricity and make a lot of trout downstream happy in July.
It is never dry on the South Holston. The water gets a bit rough when they open all the gates, but it's always a healthy cold temperature for trout.
I was catching a few and missing a few when a fellow in a big 'ol cowboy hat hollered from the bank. Names were exchanged; dinner invitations were offered.
The fellow, who has the same name as one of my first cousins, said they would cook the steaks around 6 and return to the water at 7 for the evening hatch.
Sounded like a plan. My luck was looking up.
And after dinner we slayed 'em, mostly with little yellow spinner flies, and fished until the biggest moon of the year peeked over the treeline upstream. Sparkling trout held in the glow of a midsummer moon left one of those indelible images forever etched in my brain. Who needs a camera?
The next day, there was a late-morning frenzy of hooking, catching and losing trout, almost all bulldog-strong browns. The fish returned for an encore later in the afternoon, just before the dam gates opened and the rowdy river chased us to shore.
I slept like the proverbial log that night to the tune of Carolina Chorus frogs and the river's steady beat.
The flies stayed outside.
And as I left, I recalled the campsite owner mentioning an empty home he would let me use, which would certainly protect me from bug attacks.
But I would miss the water buffalo wading throught the early morning mist, awash in a golden sun.
What's a few bugs?
Trout like bugs.