Reminiscing from the Overlook
End of Christmas Weekend 2011
It was a 10 degrees drop in temperature from Asheville NC into the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest. We added another layer of clothing when we stepped out of the vehicle and felt the colder mountain air. My grandson could't wait to cast the new Joe's Flies I got him for Christmas for trout. All bundled up, I watched him cast the lures out into the flowing clear water of the North Mills River. Though he didn't catch any trout his dad did let him bring one in on the fly rod. He was proud to show me the trout and was careful not to let it fall from his hands.
After an hour or so he got bored and his mom picked him up. Giddeon and I hung around a bit and we both caught a couple more trout before he talked me into going upriver to a more remote area.
After driving a couple of miles, up the dirt road, we pulled off at a gated parking area. We got our gear together and he took me for what seemed like a 3 mile walk along a mountain bike, horse, and hikers trail. There was more laurel that covered the landscape than trees. The hillside was steep and as we walked I heard the faint but distinct sound of tumbling water somewhere down in the valley of the forest. Where we started fishing was like a narrow passage confined to a rock quarry with flowing water over and between the assortment of rock formations. The banks were covered with round boulders of every shape and size with laurel branches outreaching over the stream. I found myself holding on to branches with one hand while casting with the other often. Rock stepping, as I fished downstream, watching my balance more than concentrating on my fly line. About 25 minutes later my son showed up and suggested we head down river further to calmer water and wider sections.
Downstream my son set me up before a long slower flowing stretch of water. The far bank-side had a nice flow of deeper darker water and I found this stretch was much easier to wade. Slowly I cast into the far bank current and let my woolly bugger swing and drift beneath the under brush and along streamside debris. Looking down the trail I watched as my son disappeared through the forest. I lit a cigar and began to relax some and enjoy the environment. Before a half submerged loose branch I hooked into a small rainbow and missed another. From the trailside bank I was able to see a couple of trout follow my bugger on my 9' leader. I would let the bugger drop a good distance away from me and let the fish turn away before they could see me upstream.
From the boulder lined bank I cast the bugger across stream just beneath the outstretched branches of laurel. I looped a short mend downstream, in front of me, upon the slower current. Within seconds the line pulled and I instantaneously raised the rod tip to set the hook. My 4 weight arced and the hooked fish surfaced, splashed, and dove deep into the quicker undercurrent. Confined in my movement, along the rocky, laurel bank, I fought with the rainbow as he struggled against my will within the clear mountain water. I was able to feel every tail swat and propelling thwart in his sudden moves beneath the oncoming current as my rod tip section waved and arced downstream. He surfaced again near my side of the bank momentarily than headed back into the current. I hollered for my son and he appeared below me with his net ready. Raising my rod some, I swung it beneath the laurel. I was able to guide the frisky fighter to the net. Not a big trout by any means but the most enjoyable trout melee of the day.
Many times it was difficult to continue to wade downstream. Tangles of laurel crowded the bank-sides where the river narrowed. These areas also were crowded with boulders and rocks that caused slippery conditions and deep pools of white water force. I'd walk along the lower trail to continue my adventure downstream. Every now and then I would follow a goat path between such laurel and brush towards the sound of the river. Sometimes I found just enough room to roll cast a woolly bugger across the water and let it drift with the current. Occasionally, if I was able to keep myself hidden, I would be rewarded with a quick take and a good scrambling fight of a wild brook trout.
As the lower trail inclined from the stream I found an area to wade across the water and continued to fish from the opposite bank. I came across a good looking fishy area where water flowed between the steep bank and mountainside cliff spilling into a wider bend in the river. The water was a deeper olive color from the turbulence above. Laurel brush thickened the far side bank and it appeared to be deeper along this brush. Midstream the water slowed and small whirlpools of water would develop occasionally and slowly swirl downstream with the current. I added a little more weight and roll cast my bugger within the pool.
The first take was a sharp short tug and I set the hook instantly. A brook trout fussed in the slow current but was no match for the 4 weight. 2 casts later a rainbow gave a little more tussle on the end of the line. 3 more trout later, all around 7" to 10", my son showed up and motioned to me to follow him downstream.
We ended our fishing excursion on a sandy bank fishing a long semi-deep run that bumped up against a rocky cliff across stream. Underground water found its way between rock crevices and fell in droplets onto the slow recessed pools beneath the rocky ledges. We knelt on the sandy bank keeping our profile low. Giddeon and I missed a couple of quick rising natives on small Adam dries. The other fish didn't want any other imitations we offered them.
My son looked atop the mountain behind us and mentioned we had about a half hour of decent daylight left. We had about a 25 minute walk back to the vehicle. We called it quits and I slowly and carefully followed him up the steep bank to the main trail.
I stand here now at a scenic overlook off Interstate 26 just shy of the Tennessee line. I'm mesmerized, as I look south, at the North Carolina mountains and valleys beyond. A drizzle of rain comes and goes with the passing of strong winds. I push my Harley hat down tighter upon my head. The sun tries to peek out between the gray skies trying to make the morning less gloomy. I notice one more swallow of beer in the Pisgah Brewing Co. growler. I salute to the Tar Heel state and gulp it down. An A. Fuente Lonsdale will accompany me, delightfully, on the first leg of my drive back to Pennsylvania.
It was a pretty special Christmas weekend!