Blue River Fly Classic

Blue River Fly Classic
A One Pattern Fly Event

Saturday, October 26, 2013

North Carolina Redemption

The Chance Encounter
It was the month of May in 1973.  I had a pretty wife, and a beautiful year old daughter and we had made an exodus from Oklahoma on a pilgrimage to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  We were traveling in a 1969 Impala that owned four tread-bare tires.  Just ten days prior I had graduated from boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina.  There were 80 recruits in my platoon and only eight of us would graduate boot camp with a stripe on our shoulder.  I guess to the recruits that didn't earn that stripe we must have seemed like the guys making the big money, but the base rate for a private first class was not a princely sum.

The Impala made it to Asheville and then due to some rather poor navigation skills on my part, I chose a course that would take us through the Blue Ridge mountains and the Pisgah Forest.  Turned out to be the best wrong turn this fellow ever made.

It seemed like every third or fourth turn on that mountain road would reveal the most beautiful water I'd seen in my life.  Cascading water, plunging over falls, riffling here and there.  I immediately began my starvation for the next two years.  Having grown up in an angling home I wanted to fish that pretty water, but fishing would have been a frivolous thing when all our money was needed for Pampers, formula, and the daughters needs.

That was forty years ago, and all these years I've held a whit of regret in not getting to fish the pristine waters of western North Carolina I encountered back then.  However, I work for a thoughtful boss and a very kind and generous owner and the two of them teamed up to make a trip back to the Pisgah Forest possible.  I was overwhelmed by the gesture.

I knew I wouldn't go by myself because I am not a traveler.  To be quite honest I have lived my life on an outside fringe of many things modern.  As embarrassing as it is, before the trip to North Carolina I didn't even know how to use a credit card at a gas pump.  I do now though. 

I wanted to take someone with me that is on fire for fly fishing and a person I knew would see me through and get me back home in case something happened.  That man is Van Stacey.  Not only is Van married to my youngest daughter, he is an avid outdoorsman and down right good man.

We arrived at our cabin in Brevard late in the afternoon on a Thursday.

Wandering Around The South Mills

Friday morning we decided to set out on our own since we didn't have an appointment with the Davidson river until Saturday.  We had read about the South Mills river, it's upper section and the lower.  From what we read the lower section seemed to fish better, but we weren't quite sure how to reach this section.  As we navigated the winding road in the minutes before sunrise, we saw what looked like a large lake filling a valley between the mountains.  As the morning light came our way we realized what we were seeing was a fog lake.

We did have directions to the upper section and after wandering the winding roads for a better part of an hour we realized we had missed a vital turn.  Doubling back, we finally arrived at an area known as the gauging station.

The South Mills is a lovely river and home to wild trout.  One of our biggest obstacles was simply finding access down to the river because much of this river runs through a gorge if you will.  The banks are quite steep and at places the river seems to be 50 feet or more below the trail.  As far as wading the river for a long distance, that proved difficult also.  This was one of the slickest rivers I had ever tried to wade.  Starting out with a hard rubber traction system on the boots, I quickly changed to felt and that helped a little... not much though.

Van fishing the pretty South Mills River.

We managed a few wild trout and they were all in the small size category, but beautiful in their infancy.  Flies that enticed these wild beauties included the Tellico, RS2, Partridge and Orange, and olive soft hackle. By noon, it seemed like we had hiked four miles or better along the trail, which had now turned into a pig trail.  The further we walked the steeper the bank became so we decided to call it a day saving our legs for the Davidson river on Saturday and Sunday.

The Delightful Davidson

The entire area around Brevard, North Carolina is called the Land of Waterfalls.  One of the more prolific waterfalls is Looking Glass falls and this beautiful sight is just a stones throw from the Davidson river where we would be fishing with our guide Ken Hardwick of Davidson River Outiftters.

Ken is a young man but carries an impressive resume of fly fishing experience.  Having served as a guide in Alaska he returned to Brevard to pursue guiding full time. 

We can watch all the videos, read all the fly fishing books, attend seminars and schools, but nothing like time on the water will substitute for the learning experience when it comes to fly fishing.  With Ken by our side on the Davidson river, we learned a lot in a short order of time.

Ken armed us with size 20 and smaller midge patterns tied in tandem fashion.  The trout of the Davidson are wild trout with the exception of one small section downstream that receives a supplemental stocking and is considered delayed harvest.

There is a fish hatchery on the Davidson and the hatchery draws water off the river and then flushes it back to the river.  In the flushing are volumes of nutrients in the form of chironomids. The trout simply stage and open their mouth to suck in these life-sustaining morsels.

It didn't take Ken long to get us into some beautifully colored trout.  Rainbows came our way first and then the brown trout came, especially for Van.  Van seemed to be on a brown trout searching mission.

Getting Humbled At Humble Hole

There is a place on the Davidson called Humble Hole and is quite aptly named.  Ken took Van and I to Humble Hole on Saturday and we both walked away empty handed.  The trout are definitely here, and there are some bruisers swimming around.  These fish seem to care less that the angler is right on top of them as they continue to ignore offering after offering.

Sunday, we went back to Humble Hole to experience much of the same.  Van took somewhat of a break sitting on the bank and simply rolling his fly out to the mainly not interested trout.  Ken staged me upstream and by some stroke of luck I manged two bows from Humble Hole. 

There's a real pretty bow in that net.  Ken Hardwick is the gentleman attending the net.

The Brook Trout

My return to western North Carolina wasn't so much to experience the trout, since I never experienced them when I was there as a young man, but rather to experience the beauty of this entire area.  No matter where you are in the Pisgah Forest or Blue Ridge Parkway, you can't keep from feeling that your standing in a place where a piece of heaven has fallen to earth.

But, even though I came more for the beauty than the fishing, one goal I carried was to catch my first ever brook trout... and Ken made that possible.

I guess I had it in my mind that the first ever brookie would be one of those delicate and dainty fellows that fit in the hand.  However, the brook that Ken put me on was almost gnarly looking.

Van steps up next, right after my brookie is released and catches his first ever brookie and she is quite nice also. I think both of us catching a brook trout, one after the other, testifies to Ken's ability to get anglers on fish. 

Way To End A Trip

Monday morning rolled around and we had a flight to catch that would return us to Oklahoma.  Our departure time allowed for two hours of fishing and Van was faunching at the bit to fish before we left. 

I don't know exactly how many brown trout Van caught during our time on the Davidson, but it was a lot.  The highlight, however, came with only fifteen minutes of river time left.  Van hooked up with a fat brown with thick shoulders.  It seemed like ten minutes had passed and the fish was still not near the net.  Running out of time Van asked if I could net the fish, but I told him I didn't think my net was quite big enough.  I tried once and the fish wouldn't go in.  So, rolling the dice I decided to head net the fish, which is for sure a dicey thing to do.  It worked and we quickly walked the fish to the shallows.

Van couldn't have been more happy and it was a perfect way to end an already fantastic trip.

The Lighter Bucket List

Due to some problems on the return flight to Oklahoma, we wouldn't arrive home until midnight.  Once inside my home, the reality that my already shallow bucket was a little lighter now since I made the trip to North Carolina came to be.  

Would I go again?  In a heartbeat I would, and for sure I would look Ken Hardwick up to see if he would put up with me once again.  

Left in the bucket are a number of other places to experience by way of fur and feather and it looks like the San Juan is next.

1 comment:

Gregg said...

You deserved that trip Barry if anyone I know did. Very nice write up and pictures. Loved the large brookie, love the wild fish, and what awesome scenerey.