Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Mountain Goat Fishing"

_____________“Mountain Goat Fishing”___________________
I had just lost my job. My youngest son was graduating from high school while my oldest son was graduating from college and my #2 son just loves to fish. I thought why not take a few days off, get out of town and out of the state and go fishing with my boys!!

I called them up and asked them if they were interested in going somewhere in early June fly-fishing and they all said great. I checked ideas over that were within driving distance. I know Pennsylvania has tons of blue ribbon trout streams but I wanted out of the state. There’s something about getting away, far off, that seams more like a vacation and you can relax more. I chose to plan the fishing down in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. I checked web sights and got guides, a fully furnished cabin nearby to stay in and the ok from my boys. I called Jeff to see if he was interested. Two days later he said ok, he wanted to spend a little more time with his son-in-law, Chris, anyhow and this would be a good chance.

By luck one of the top stories in my fishing magazine was “the perfect 10 flies for fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains.” Everything seamed to be going right. I started tying some of the patterns.

The plan was for my youngest son, Jesse, and I to pick up my eldest son, Jeremy, from Pittsburgh on Thursday morning. Giddeon was leaving from the North Carolina coast early Thursday and will fish until we get there. (The owner of the cabin stated that there was a trout stream within walking distance). Jeff and his wife were meeting their daughter and son-in-law earlier in the week in Ashville. From there he and Chris will head down to the cabin and said he’ll have deer burgers on the grill by the time we get there. On the Thursday we left the plan seamed to be in full swing. I got an e-mail back of where we were meeting the guides on Friday morn.

As I followed the direction to the cabin and turned up a country road I spotted Jeff’s truck down the stream parked on the side of the road. So much for the deer burgers! As we continued up the road, looking down towards the creek, there sure seamed to be a lot of outcropping of rocks. They almost looked like big marble and granite looking rocks. The water was clear and I’m sure there were rainbows just waiting to be tamed a bit. Oh well, off to the cabin.
Giddeon’s car, son #2, was parked in the drive. The cabin was beautiful. It was Log siding and a big front porch. The inside had all the necessities and more. So far it looked like I did a good job with the planning. We just got our baggage in when Jeff pulled up. We said our hellos and he started the burgers. He mentioned he caught a few rainbows on nymphs but nothing was rising. We were enjoying our meal out on the porch discussing Friday morning. Jesse just started fly-fishing, so he and I would take the guide who also teaches fly-fishing. Giddeon and Jeremy will hook up with a guide and Jeff and Chris will take the other guide. It was just turning to dusk when a figure of a young man came walking up the drive. Fly rod in hand and a backpack slung over his shoulders. Giddeon finally showed up from fishing. He lives in the city now and doesn’t get to fly-fish much so when he gets the chance he takes full advantage of it. While we all sat there enjoying the time a dog come waddling over, walked up the steps, checked us all out and plopped himself on the porch floor. We just guessed he came with the place. Sort of gave the place more of a homey feeling.

We met the guides the next morning at the designated area. We introduced everyone and got into their vehicles for the ride up to the fishing creek. When we got there we all gathered around for the days plans. We’ll be fishing for native brookies and browns. The guide said we will be fishing dries. Showed us and explained about high sticking with our fly rods. We’ll be fishing in pools and pocket waters moving upstream as we go. At around noon we’ll meet back up, eat and then drive to the upper part of the stream and end the day there.
Jesse, our guide and I walked down stream a ways before we got into the water. He tied about a #12 yellow bodied stimulator on Jesse’s tippet. I showed the guide some of the flies I tied and he suggested an Adams variant. It’s a yellow-bodied fly with grizzly wings and grizzly hackle on both front and back of the fly. As they were fishing while I waited I checked out the scenery. There wasn’t a fly in sight. The weather was already warming up but the water in the stony creek was still cool. There would be no problem with casting, for the canopy over the water was quite high up unlike most small streams in Pennsylvania. The hardwood trees stood pretty straight with few lower branches. Hardly any brush or over hangs crowded the stream banks. In most parts the stream was only about 10 yards wide at max. We were fishing a flat area that didn’t decline very quickly so the water flowed gently, running around the boulders into pools and than shallows. Most of the pools were up against the banks. We were only casting about 4-5 yards upstream. Letting our line settle than mending in slowly just enough not to have too much of a drag while high sticking our rods. My son Jesse is left handed and casting mostly from the right hand side of the bank. The guide was patient and informative as Jesse followed his instructions.
The first rise came quick and surprising. Jesse was way late on setting the hook but he got excited. We fished awhile before I got a strike and I was late on the take also. Those natives strike quick and you got to be ready, that’s for sure. I had switched to a peacock bodied fly and started to get more trout interested. Jesse and I would take turns following each other up stream fishing. Jesse finally landed a nice 7” brookie. The colors were beautiful. I had caught a few also once I got the hang of keeping my line straighter and quicker on the draw. That morning I caught the longest out of all of us. The native brown was about 10”. It fought well. I never seen a stream bred native brown so that was pretty exciting in it self. The hallo spots and a very wide tail for such a small trout.
We got together for lunch and Jeremy and Jeff had landed a few trout also. Giddeon and Chris were still fishless but they did have rises but just missed them. From here we were driving up the stream for a “little mountain climbing.”

We pulled up to the end of the road. Jeff’s party headed down stream while the rest of us headed upstream along the path. Jeremy’s group split off a ways, while we continued up the trail. We finally arrived at the stream after a sort of steep decline. The scenery was beautiful. Water cascaded over rock shelves and huge boulders lined the stream here and there. In some spots the trees crowded the banks but the water was still able to be waded and running clear. The water ran a little swifter due to the greater drop in elevation. Rocks and stones still was the majority of the stream floor. There was still no fly to be had but fishing earlier proved that the native trout would still rise if you give them cause.
The guide tied about a size 14 Adams looking fly on my tippet with a light greenish body. Jesse stuck with the yellow-bodied stimulator but only a size smaller, about a #14. The guide took Jesse upstream while I started at the point of entry. Short casts, high sticking and quick reactions caused more fish to be landed than not. Back in Pennsylvania the higher and more upstream you go the thinner and shallower the water gets. Not here, the stream seamed just as wide and with good flow as down below. I kept an eye out for the guide in front so I can tell where they fished and were they skipped pools and left for me. It was so peaceful and quiet. The sounds of water trickling over rocks and every once in a while hearing Jesse calling down he caught another brookie made me feel great.

I got up to this nice piece of water the guide had left for me. As I studied the situation the guide was on his way down to see how I was doing. The water before me trickled down off a small rock shelf from the left bank spilling into a small pool of water. The main stream flowed directly around a big boulder and then the water fell down hard into a deeper poll. As this water fell from around the boulder, upon entry, some of the current flowed along a rock shelf towards the right bank. From there it slowed while it flowed under a rock ledge. About midway, in the shadow of the rock ledge, a limb from a tree had settled in and only a bend of the branch protruded above the surface water. From there the water eddied back and met with the main stream where I stood.
“Looks like a good spot for some fish to be” the guide said. He stood back to my left.
“Yep, I think I’ll start left and work my way to the right.” I was standing just to the right of mid-stream.
My first cast landed the fly right in the middle of the riffle to the left. The fly bobbed up and down with the riffle but no takers. I threw to the left and right a few times towards the left bank and still nothing.
“There should have been one in there!” the guide said
I was quiet concentrating on my casts. I false casted to dry my fly than placed it just left of the main waterfall. The fly stayed a float and flowed with the quick current. Still nothing. To the right of the water falls, watching the water just waiting for something to rise at any moment just a few yards in front of me, nothing. I flipped the fly up against the rock edge just right of the waterfalls in the slow current. I didn’t want the fly to go under the rock ledge yet, so I backed up the rod tip and let my fly flow along the shadow to bright reflection of the sun just on this side of the exposed branch, still nothing. I flipped the fly back to the rock edge and let the fly follow the same path.
The guide was still standing behind me and being pretty quiet.
“How am I doing?” I asked just to get a response from him.
“I’m just standing here enjoying watching you cast” he commented. “You’re pretty darn good!”

Now I never fished with any so called experts. Most of the time it’s just me. I do fish a lot and though I really didn’t know how professional I looked or casted I get the fly where I want it and that’s what counts. Just knowing that this guides comments were genuine almost had my hat fall off my head from swelling up. I thought this guide has guided many fishermen from Wisconsin to down here in North Carolina. I’m sure he’s seen all kinds of casters. To give me a compliment like that made me feel exceptionally great.

He knew on my next cast I would be going under the ledge so he suggested me moving to the left side of the stream for a better angle. I thought in silence 'you want to see finesse fishing, I’ll show you.'
I calmly said “that’s alright I’ll stay here.”
Fishing in PA. in small brushy streams I learned how to manipulate my fly rod to get the fly where I want it in tough situations.
I false casted, side arm, towards the left bank a couple of times. On my last stroke towards the left bank I brought my right casting arm to almost touch my left fore arm. With a quick backhand of my fast action rod, I shot the line out towards the rock ledge on my right and than came to an immediate stop. Let some line out of my left hand than pinched the line again and dropped my rod tip. My line backed up a bit at its full draw and came to rest softly against the far rock edge just beyond the rock ledge as far back as possible with enough slack for a nice drift. This let my fly line stay out of harms way of the exposed branch by letting the fly flow down first before my fly line. As my fly drifted under the ledge I must have been impressed with my cast. A mouth appeared to take my fly just behind the branch. I might have had too much slack and by the time I pulled up the fish escaped the hook.
“Man he looked like a nice one!!” the guide commented.
“Son-of-a-gun, I had him dead to rights too!” I commented back
I casted again and put the fly in the same spot. Even knowing there was not another chance in hell for that fish I just had to try. Before my fly line got hung up on the exposed branch I flipped it out of there. Without saying anything I quickly backhanded a sidearm cast just below the exposed branch. The cast was so fast you couldn’t see the fly until it landed on the water just beyond and down stream from the branch. Without hesitation a fish came up, a sharp jerk and I hooked into a 9” brookie. I landed him but both, the guide and I new this wasn’t THE ONE.
We fished till almost dark. We met up with the rest of the gang. Everyone caught a few and missed a few. We all enjoyed the scenery and time spent. We thanked the guides after they dropped us off and headed back to camp.

We entered camp and the aroma of deer roast and moose roast, in the crock-pots, enhanced our sense of smell and appetites. Jeff uncorked his homemade wine while the boys grabbed beers. We sat around the table eating like Robin Hoods merry men after a good hunt and wilderness adventure. After the boys cleaned up and put the dishes in the dishwasher we went out and sat on the porch. Two dogs now lay on the porch relaxing. I sat in the wooden rocker and Jeff handed me an imported cigar. This is the life!!

“So how’d you like that Mountain Goat fishing?” Jeff asked
“What do you mean Mountain Goat fishing?” someone else asked
“Climbing over those rocks and boulders all day long trying to hook up and land a few fish!!”

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