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There Was A Fish There, I Think

August 29, 2021

I live in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in Western North Carolina. One of the many reasons I chose this place as my home is the generous amount of fishing that is available. However, sometimes it just doesn’t work out as planned.

It was Thursday and I called a friend to ask if he wanted to go fishing the following week on the North Mills River. The long and short of it was that although the river was to be stocked the following Monday, my friend had hunting commitments and could not go. I was a little disappointed as I value his company but I decided in the end to fish the river by myself along with my wife.

The following Tuesday rolled around and I set off for the whopping 10 minute trip to the North Mills River. Yes, I knew it had been stocked just the day before and so I expected a few other fishermen. But Lord, as I approached the parking area I counted no fewer than 30 cars. Yikes! I perused the stream below the road and I thought I saw few rods in the water so I rationalized, as most of us do, that many of the cars probably belonged to hikers and that the fishing really wouldn’t be that crowded. Wrong! To boot, the water level was historically low and it seemed from the start the day was doomed.

I got into my gear and headed for my favorite hole. Holly Crap! There were people in the water, shoulder to shoulder. I looked like a dunking derby! I said, “Let’s go!” but my wife reminded me that I would probably just be back in the following morning anyway so I chose to stay and fight my way into the stream. It honestly seemed like Disneyland, although I could not spot Mickey roll casting anywhere on the water. I finally found a tight spot where I felt I wasn’t interfering with other fisherman and began plying my skill.

Almost immediately I landed four nice fish and released them. I said aloud, “This isn’t going to be terrible after all.” After shooting a little line here and there, I was in the rhythm and feeling like I had made the right decision in staying. I worked my way down to the bridge after a couple of fellow fishermen left the water for lunch and began fishing a deep hole.

At first, I thought I heard a couple of Buck Eyes plopping into the water ahead of me. That’s normal this time of year. Then I saw a flash of silver. WTF? Upon closer inspection I spied the creature. It was a local resident throwing a spoon the size of Jupiter across my line. Pop! Off went the Woolley Bugger that I was stripping along. I coughed a bit to let the clod know I was immediately up-stream as I tied on another fly. That didn’t dissuade the dude so I moved closer to the bridge as to offer him a clear view of what I was doing. No matter. The spoons kept coming like torpedoes for the next half hour.

You get to the point where who can scream, “Hello asshole – Are you blind or what?” or you can just walk away. I learned decades ago that the latter is always the best course. So I waded back up and out of the stream to have lunch with my wife. Sharing time with my love has always trumped even the best day of fishing. We found a picnic bench and began eating. Every once in a while I glanced at the spooner to see if he was still at it. He was.

I waited and I ate and ate and ate until there was no more to shove in my mouth. Spoon Boy was still tossing and not catching a thing except for everyone else’s line. I then waded back into the stream below him in a completely different hole and resumed fishing. All the while, I wasn’t getting even a strike. The constant bombardment from up-stream kept coming like it was the London Blitz. Then a very strange thing happened. A complete quiet filled the air and I noticed my nemesis was gone. But where? Hell, it didn’t really matter so I waded out and back into the stream to where my frustration had begun.

At last, I was in my favorite hole with no tormentors or distractions. I laid out cast after cast but there were no takers. That happens. Unfettered, I continued but with no success. I knew they had put in 1,800 fish the day before so what was going on? Too much pressure? Probably. Too low water? Definitely. I was sure there was a fish there somewhere.

Another fisherman happened along and he politely fished below me, showing complete respect and stream etiquette. We spoke a bit as the action heated up again and each of us started catching fish. It was though the switch had been pulled on. It was really comforting to see another person on the water who knew those unwritten rules of the stream. I was so impressed that I smiled and asked this fellow if he would like to fish where I was fishing as I was going to move way up the stream. He thanked me and moved in as I moved out of the hole.

An hour or so later found both of us on the bank heading for our cars. We chatted for quite a while about things fishing and of life. I liked this guy so I gave him my number and invited him to call me the next time he wanted a fishing partner. The day had at last gotten better, not in the water but on its banks. As I left the river, I looked back and mumbled to myself, “There was a fish there, I think…”

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  1. I’ve never gone fly-fishing, but I think I’d be addicted very quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoying my visit here – 😀 Already, most likely, have overstayed my ‘welcome’! LOL that said, when/if you have time, please explain to me the virtue of catch/release OTHER than throwing back small ones to preserve the species – I only ask, because many of my avid fisherman friends do not bring home food for the homestead from a days activities – regardless – nor did my husband (he may now, I don’t know – we haven’t been married for over a decade….! OOPS!) But, to me, I understand conservation and preserving the species, and etiquette and all that, but once I was invited to ‘go fishin’ and learned it wasn’t to gain food for the winter stores? Supper? I would go… I’d just take a camp chair, one – three fave books to read, and be in charge of the beer cooler – what’s the point in fishing if we aren’t gathering food? You all go right ahead…I’ll be over here chillaxin – – LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cath and Release is an attempt to maintain sustainable fisheries. It is less important in streams where fish are stocked (put and take) but is essential where wild, native fish live. I have released many thousands of fish in the small hope that I am helping sustain fisheries for others.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I get that part of Catch and release, I just never understood those who LOVE to fish but never fish, ever, for anything OTHER than catch/release – me? Never felt skilled enough to properly catch, then release, without killing it anyways, in the process – so perhaps that’s why I struggle with the overall concept/hobby time spent – will read up and learn more – thanks for your reply!!

        Liked by 1 person

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