Simple Pleasures

At the FFF Southeastern Rally a few years ago the always thoughtful Shirley raised her hand repeatedly during their live auction to purchase a guided trip on the Soque River in north Georgia.  Ever since moving to western North Carolina I have seen the pics and read the stories of the monster trout that are found there, so I was naturally thrilled with her good sense and her persistence to win the thing.  It was a half day trip for two anglers on a trophy section of the famed river.

It was a no brainer that this trip was going to be son-in-law Chad’s birthday present, and since his birthday back in September, we had anticipated heading into those beautiful north Georgia mountains to meet up with a toothy, hook-jawed rainbow or two.
We had a year to use it and the year was ending this Memorial Day, so what better way to spend Mothers Day weekend than packing up our families and heading to the river.  And yes, all the mothers were invited.

A few nights before leaving I spoke to the donor about the river conditions and to pick his brain a little about what we could expect.  He said if we were lucky we might get some top-water action on hopper patterns, but if not, we’d have to go deep with little nymphs.  He recommended nothing smaller than 5 weights and 4x tippets.  I’m likin’ it already.

When we arrived at his lease – just a stones throw from the Batesville General Store - I was a little surprised at the size of the water.  This so-called “river” would have barely qualified as an Ozark “crick,” but it was wild and beautiful, crystal clear and as fishy lookin’ as any water, anywhere.  Our donor and Chad headed downstream and I headed up.  I hadn’t been in the water but a few minutes when I notice a trout rising no more than a good double-haul upstream of where I entered the water.  As the place was too canopied for a double haul, and I can’t do one on a just-mown football field anyway, I went into my excuse for a stealth mode and headed up to his position.

My dry landed perfectly, drifted over his position – and nothing happened.  After three more reasonable casts I reeled in to change patterns, and as if to mock me, the trout rose two more times while I was fumbling through my fly box.  Over the next ten minutes I tried a couple more patterns to no avail and finally conceded defeat.  I gave him a wide berth and headed upstream with the intention of fishing back down to him with a wet.
I moved upstream about 50 yards and sat down on a midstream rock to take in the beauty and allow the fish I had disturbed to re-settle. 

As any painter would know, to make “green” you mix up a bit of blue and a bit of yellow.  The shades of green that you can create are virtually endless, and thanks to an early spring with ample rains, they were all here on this overcast late May morning.  But for the patter of a light rain and the occasional crow calling out to his brethren, I was surrounded with the silence that we all cherish when on a trout stream. 

Until the dogs started howling.  Distant at first, the ruckus was becoming louder, closer, and more frantic as the hounds chased what was surely a 300 pound black bear toward my little slice of peaceful paradise.  Of course it was a bear!  What else could rile up every dog in the county?  The more I thought about it the surer I was, and the larger the bear was getting.  I was imagining the headline . . .”Headless North Carolina angler found floating in north Georgia trout stream.”  Well, I wasn’t going to sit on that rock and just let him have me.  No sir, if I’m attacked by a bear I’m going to be fishing when it happens.

As the bear and the dogs changed course at the last minute and faded off into the distance from whence they came, I was back into position to make a presentable drift with the black Woolly to my real nemesis, and sure enough, on the first swing through his lair he was on!  After a few moments I brought him along side, slipped my forceps around the Bugger and released him back to the river.  Though certainly not of bragging size, the little 12 incher was beautiful.  I continued on downstream and had a few more hits but other than seeing the flash of one nice fish – one very nice fish - the lunkers of the Soque had eluded me.  So be it.  My back was hurting and I headed back to the truck about an hour earlier than planned.

When we first arrived at the parking spot, in a silly mood for sure, I asked if there really were huge trout in the little pond that adjoined our parking area.  With raised eyebrow and a smirk, he said, “Sure Alan.  Go have a go at ‘em.”  Then we headed for the real water.

Well, after sampling the real water and stretching out on the picnic table for a while I couldn’t resist the temptation of the pond.  A few weeks earlier at the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival I got to know one Mr. Steve Vorkapitch, the creator of the Float Master strike indicators.  I had met Steve a few years before, and we would occasionally exchange pleasantries when our passed crossed at various fly fishing shows, but we never really got to know each other.  That was my loss.  Steve is without doubt, one of the nicest guys I know, and spending some time with him at the Speckled Trout B&B in Waynesboro was a highlight of our journey north.  Before parting ways I convinced Steve that he and I needed to do a little product swapping.  (For the uninitiated, the Sunday afternoons of most fly fishing shows see frantic activity amongst the vendors as they wheel and deal to carry home the items they’ve admired all through the weekend, but were too cheap to buy.)  I left with Steve’s strike indicator selection, with a promise to try them out, and he left with a few of my prints.

So here I was on a premier southern trout stream, rigging up one of Steve’s indicators with plans to try them out on the little ponds bream population.  I selected one of the smaller yellow ones and placed it about a foot above a brown Girdle Bug.  Wham! The minute the rig hit the water it disappeared, and shortly thereafter I had in my hand a pretty little bluegill.  I won’t try to convince you that each and every cast had the same result, but I will tell you that over the next hour I landed at least three dozen of the little guy’s cousins.
They say that fly fishing soothes the soul.  They say that its not just about catching fish – it’s about the experience.  They say that standing in that clearwater trout stream and soaking in Creation is good for you and your relationship to its Creator.  All true.  Chad and I got to do that on Saturday.  I got to do that before hiking back to the truck and the pond, but I sure am glad that I got to experience the simple pleasure of landing a mess of bluegills too.




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