On Jan. 2, 2016, Tim took me to Stone Mountain State Park in Roaring Gap, N.C. – a giant granite dome surrounded by forested land and miles of hiking trails and trout streams.
It was an unseasonably mild Saturday that brought out lots of anglers, far more than I had grown accustomed to seeing at our favorite fishing spot, Mitchell River.
There are some very scenic stretches of water here, made even more beautiful by overhanging tree limbs and mountain laurel branches (that also snag a lot of line).
Tim seems to have an affinity for fishing near bridges, so he was anxious to take me to a certain walking bridge where he “used to catch ’em all the time.”
Once we got there, he coaxed me into trying out his favorite spot, a deep well of churning water created by the positioning of some giant stone boulders.
“I put a weight on your line, so you want to cast right there, let it ride down to here and sit for a minute… so that the trout waiting beneath those boulders will see it,” my patient husband instructed.
“Okay, I will!” I told him, and off I cast. And cast. And cast and cast and cast. Nothing. And the sun was making things warm. Unbelievable for January 2nd. Maybe the trout can see me too clearly in this sunshine. Hmmm… the other side of the river is shady. I think I’ll go over there.
So I climbed up the boulders, walked along the bank to the walking bridge, crossed to the other side, and eased down onto a giant kitchen-table size boulder directly across from where I had just been.
And I cast. Tug tug tug. Oh my goodness! I pulled the line, and nothing. I cast again. Tug tug tug. BAM! He was on! And he felt HUGE!
I could tell immediately that if I could get him in, it would no doubt be the biggest I’d ever hooked in my short 4-month flyfishing career.
He jumped and I could see his gorgeous silver body – a rainbow. Oh my, I might need Tim’s help for this. I looked up. Where is he – oh there he is, in the water about 30 feet away. And ohhhhh my… I have a little audience. Not just a few hikers and fella anglers, but a couple cars have slowed down on the road at the top of the hill. Really? No pressure. I’ll show them this old girl can do it. Please let me look like I know what I’m doing. Please let me do this. Please don’t let me lose this fish.
“Tim? Tim!” I called to get his attention, but not too loudly, and not too panicky. I have this thing under control, I think, much to my friggin’ amazement! Yeah!
“Keep your line tight,” he said and started to walk over.
“It’s a big one!!”
“Yeah, I can see that! You’ve got it! Let it wear itself out a little…”
Tim helped me net him. What a gorgeous, colorful, fat little belly he had – all 17 inches of him. 17! I wet my hands, pulled out the tiny hook, fell in love with him for a few moments, posed for this picture, then released him back into the water.
I got a couple “way to go’s” and even a “you’re my hero” from a couple of the folks watching. If there was ever a time to do it all perfectly, no falls, no snags, this was it. I feel like such a bad-ass.
Of course, the next time we went to Stone Mountain, about three weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to go straight to that spot for a repeat performance. I was in such a hurry, in fact, that I slipped on that giant kitchen-table size boulder and busted that famous bad-ass. REALLY hard.* Which brings me to a valuable lesson I learned that day: the felt bottoms on your wading boots, when dry, will slip on rock.
No fish that day. But, tomorrow is another day. And the river got stocked this week…
*(So, when I fell, there was a slight audience again. I just sat there serious as could be and started casting as if I meant to do just that: sit-fish)