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 Post subject: Reflections on a Blue Line
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:10 pm 
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Smallmouth Bass
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Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2009 6:31 pm
Posts: 266
Location: The Hollar
To all- I've come to feel pretty comfortable on this board and have had the pleasure spending time with a lot of you. I'm stepping out a bit here and am curious what everyone will think if they read this. It's not too lengthy, but is a report I spent some time on. I miss my mountain streams in WNC terribly and wanted to reflect on my time on a certain stream from last Friday. I'm kind of tinkering with writing and wanted feedback. You don't have to be nice because I really am looking to grow in my writing skills, which only comes with critique. Thanks, and I hope everyone is doing well. Take care, Knox
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I looked through the back window and into the bed of the aging pick-up to make sure my gear hadn’t blown into the middle of the interstate. I’m riding shotgun and Kent, my good friend and fishing partner, is slaloming through traffic as we head down the mountain. We’re eager to leave the responsibilities and stress behind in our wake, and today is my first day in months that I’ve been able to get back to my beloved Blue Ridge mountains. It’s a short drive from Kent’s place and before long we are pulling into a private driveway. We hasten on our boots and grab our rods, fueled by the anticipation that accompanies new waters. I’ve always rigged up at the car and Kent, as usual, is prodding me to pick up the pace. I take my time with complete satisfaction in knowing that internally Kent is having a melt-down. We are dear friends and this is our routine. Finally we hit the trail, cross over the railroad tracks with the smell of creosote and tar filling the air. With the woods up ahead we pass under steep banks blanketed with kudzu and are met by a closed gate. I can’t help but notice the “No Trespassing” signs, a common occurrence here in the southern Appalachians, and a good indicator that the stream ahead is indeed a worthy pursuit. I raise my eyebrows and throw Kent a look that asks “what are you getting me into?” He assures me that he’s already gotten permission, but that we have to keep quiet for the next half mile or so. I don’t ask any more questions.

After a brisk walk we can hear the burbling of the stream twenty feet below. We pause to peer into a pool where we can easily see the silhouettes of several nice wild bows jockeying for position towards the surface. We both smile to ourselves, and to the hopes that we have for the day.

Kent and I were roommates in college before he decided to move to Kansas City in pursuits of a degree. He also just happened to know a girl out there, as well. He was lured back to the mountains of western North Carolina a few years later, no degree in hand, and single. Since his return we had fished a myriad of small blue lines together. These free-stone streams whisper, tumble, and slide through nearly every mountain valley in the region, providing a life-time of opportunities to fish new waters. Here the intrepid angler will find thousands of miles of water filled with wild bows, browns, and the native brook trout. These waters are what called Kent back from the farm ponds of Kansas, and they remain to be a huge part of the bond that makes our brotherhood so dear. So when Kent called me last week with the news that he’d found a new jewel of a stream right under our noses I knew I was in for a treat, and potentially an epic day. His initial report indicated that wild, twelve inch rainbows abounded, but that conditions were tight and technical. Naturally, without thinking twice, I shaved a few inches off the fish he described. Not that I don’t believe Kent, but I know how easily it can be to distort the scale of things, especially on a mountain stream where the intimate minutiae makes everything more rich and otherworldly, from time of day to the length of fish in hand.


The effort and focus required to adequately fish small streams shrouded by rhododendron is comparable to a serious work-out on a Bowlfex. Throw in stinging nettle and poison ivy, copperheads and timber rattlers, and the real threat of flash floods in a steep gorge and you have the necessary ingredients for memorable experiences. The pursuit of these fish is remarkably more memorable than the fish themselves. I may remember the species of fish that a particular stream has and perhaps where it is located in the gazetteer, but what really buries itself in my memory is the stream and the way I had to respond to its changing moods.

Anglers who explore mountain streams know that to do so means to become absorbed by the place, to become as rugged and twisted and subtle as the moving slips of water, the gnarled rhodo, and the giant boulders that set the scene. Yes, in the midst of these things is our intended focus, but the struggle to fit in and to become the surroundings is our real pursuit. After all, we could be in some nice DH water catching larger fish on heavy nymph rigs, but we crave the experience itself.

Kent and I slide down the bank, pushing to the side all sorts of detritus, hoping not to disturb a nest of yellow jackets as we slide. Standing in the stream we pull out our boxes. Stimulators, Wulffs, Humpys, and Coachmen. Yellows, oranges, greens, and reds. Flies of summer. We left the nymphs at home, not because we are purists, but because who cares. I tie on a Thunderhead, a drab fly with spun hair, brown hackles, and a good generalized look. It was dressed like me.

Kent had fished this water a few days prior and let me have the first few holes. Each pool was more inviting than the one before- olive and brown hues, nice ledges, and always aerated water pouring into the head providing a slight thunder that was felt more than heard, similar to that of a grouse drumming in the morning. I was a bit slow at the beginning, missing hook sets and having several close range refusals. These bows were not like the brash brookies we were used to catching. Instead their takes were painfully slow and deliberate, a dark outline cruising up and barely swirling on the fly. I had decided to go with 4X tippit, correctly anticipating a few flies getting caught in the thickets, and was now second guessing this strategy. I added a length of 5X to soften the presentation and immediately got a fish. The 2 weight pulsed as the fish shook his head and rebelled against the world. Flash of white from the gaping mouth. He came to hand a few moments later, and as I slid the fly from the corner of its mouth my finger felt the grit of its teeth. I wiped my hand on my shorts and grinned at Kent. Your turn. We leap frogged from hole to hole, staying close to each other’s side so as not to impose on the casting, and so our tongue-in-cheek comments could be slung without creating too much unnecessary racket.


Gazing across the surface of a pool at eye level is one of the greatest sights an angler can come across. You can actually see the bugs skirting across the water almost in the same way a trout does. Midges were everywhere. Yellow sallies were thick, with a few huge light Cahills laying eggs. And I stayed with the Thunderhead. The more beat up it became, the more buggy and inviting it seemed to the fish. And so it went. Throw a cast. Bam. Hands together in prayer as we often times prepared our short leaders and flies for bow-and-arrow casts. Tight conditions call for imaginative and creative solutions. We would find the tightest lies just for the pure sport of attempting ridiculous casts, and we were often met with satisfying results. Our knees and backs ached as we dug our felt bottomed boots into the mossy boulders, assuming contrived foot positions akin to a rock climber, just to get that perfect leverage. Bodies pressed flat against the grey boulders that were inlayed with specks of mica and quartz. The smell of deep earth and water filled our senses. We were truly becoming the stream bed, or at least until one of our feet would slip and we were posterior-deep in cold mountain water, dazed look, and leader wrapped aimlessly around the rod tip.

It was bound to happen. We came to the confluence of two prongs and took the high road to the left, moving up a steep gradient, climbing more than fishing. Cork handles in our mouths as we mantled up and over boulders. The fishing was fruitless even in the best looking water. I thought for sure we’d get into some brookies with the high gradient. But no such luck. We decided to go back to the split and work the right branch. The water was more ample and the trail was somewhere nearby, so we assumed. We worked each pocket hard, hurrying along now that the day was getting away from us. One pool after the next we fished with no luck. Thunder was overhead and it blended perfectly with the sound of falling water.

Begrudgingly I took out my watch and knew instantly what I had loathed- the end of the day. With Thor the Thundergod moving in and our uncertainty about a trail’s existence this far up we snipped off our flies and began looking for the best route out of the gorge. We decided to keep walking upstream, seeing a ridge line coming down to meet the creek. Surely there’s a trail. Stubborness. We were met with nothing but downfall and thick rhodo. With daylight waning we decided to head back downstream. We hadn’t realized just how much water we had covered, as is usually the case on these mountain streams, and with shaky legs we bounded back down the gorge, remaining vigilant for any sign of a trail. We stopped to scout several times, bushwhacking and pulling our way up steep slopes, constantly being met by the demoralizing realization that the trail on the topo map didn’t exist. Downstream we marched, and the thunder grew closer. Dark skies looming.

An hour-and-a-half later we saw a promising sign- a clearing in the trees sloping down from the left to meet the creek. This was our trail. We step up out of the creek into the dusky canopy without saying a word. It’s difficult to guess the time, and as we stop once more to gaze into the waters, the fish are indistinguishable from the shadows. We turn towards the truck, and the first raindrops begin to fall.

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_________________
"Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over." -Mark Twain

"Say I won't!"


Last edited by Riverview on Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on a Blue Line
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:35 pm 
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Brown Trout
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Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 1174
Now that's what its all about Knox.........Ive often wondered if what we see in the reflection is real or just a glimpse of what we are searching for....Be safe

_________________
Family-Friends and painted fish............
"Never let a day go by without telling your CHILDREN & GRAND-CHILDREN how special they are"


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on a Blue Line
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:51 pm 
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Brown Trout

Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:47 am
Posts: 352
"Bodies pressed flat against the grey boulders "
Call it what it is: Rock humping.

Good story. Content is good. I personally thought the flow needed some work. Maybe build up Kent as some wild dude that just might be a guide or some weirdo you caught a ride with. Then let it all out with the college story.

Keep in mind that I mostly read Dr. Seuss so I was a little put off by no rhyming. So could you would you with a fox? Could you would you in a box?

Also, is Kent cool with you saying he failed in Kansas on all levels? You might jest while having a beer and he lets it roll but putting it out there for the world is a different story.

But again, good story and good content. Most stories need fact checkers so if you will send me detailed directions including the 'permission' slip to cross the property, I can take care of that for you.


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 Post subject: Re: Reflections on a Blue Line
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:22 pm 
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Rainbow Trout
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Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:16 pm
Posts: 111
Good story.

I would have made some changes to the wording and sentence structure to suit myself, but overall I don't think it's bad at all. You asked for some feedback but before I could offer up anything constructive I would need to know who you audience was. If it was just us or an informal blog, then I think it's fine as is. I am not a writer and don't claim to be one, but if I intend to write something for serious consideration I always think about:

Who am I writing to
What am I writing about (fishing, the place, the people)?
Where - besides location I consider present, past, future
Why - What's the point? Am I trying to be funny, factual, develop characters?

If you keep those things in mind before you start writing, your writing less likely to bounce around. When I post here, I rarely if ever keep those items in mind, but I'm just posting some pics and writing a few words for those who were stuck at home that day rather than trying to produce anything serious.

Now as to the where...........

Take Care,
Tim


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