Thursday, June 18, 2015
Trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains
I go trout fishing in the Great Smokies National Park maybe once or twice a year. It is something I started many years ago (Louisville men's basketball had one national title then)...to give you an idea of when I first started. I had been to Gatlinburg, met a shop-owner who knew people from Louisville that I knew and he invited me to go with him early the next morning.
He provided the reel, the hip-waders and boots and his wife made sandwiches for us to boot. He taught me the art of casting (think metronome) tying flies and casting philosophies. The first time I caught one ( a 10 inch rainbow we released) and the ensuing struggle had me hooked.
Charlie, my mentor, is a great guy...has lived in the area his entire life and is now retired. He goes 2-3 times a week, usually with his blue-tick hound (now Bo...he's had several since I've met him) and likes the early-morning streams...
Over the years, we've caught innumerable brook, brown and rainbows. We've hit quite a few streams in and around the Gatlinburg and Great Smokies...mostly hard-to-access, remote areas that we've taken his series of Dodge pickup trucks to.
As I've gotten older (and as Charlie has also) our mobility isn't what it used to be. Some of the places we used to fish we now find a bit harder to get to. That was never clearer to me that when I lost my balance on a steep decline to a stream and basically slid the final 40 feet or so and ended up in the water. Charlie, always the joker, yelled "Safe!" when I finished my inglorious descent to the water.
I still use an old but dependable Shakespeare rig and have the same hip-waders and boots that I purchased in the early nineties. Charlie ties his own flies and is always happy to give me a few when we go.
His daughter, Laura Grace, accompanies us from time to time. She is quite the tomboy type and actually played DI softball back in the nineties. She returned to the area and basically took over the shop after she learned the fine art of wood turning and Charlie decided to retire. She makes quite fine bird feeders and bird houses, among other things, that we have proudly displayed in our yard over the years. She also tosses a pretty mean line when on-stream and is the first to buy a round when the day's work is done and it's time to relax. She also tosses a mean round of darts at the Fox and Parrot and "drives all the old men crazy" while keeping a fierce sense of independence and heritage.
Charlie is also a die-hard UT (Tennessee) fan and his love for Vols athletics also includes the women's side of athletics. He is proud of the autographed Pat Summit pictures he has.
When Mercedes Russell decided to go to Tennessee, one of the first calls I got was from "you know who". It was probably payback from when I called him a couple of years back when Louisville knocked off UT en route to the women's Final Four.
An early morning, clear and bright....the sun creeping into a narrow valley where a bubbling, rushing stream send cold water over boulders and fallen trees. A small pool of slowly moving water. A careful toss of a fly and then the sudden jerk, spin of line and the wild dance that can occasionally result in the landing and netting of a 12-14 inch, fighting brown or glimmering rainbow.
I do love it so.