Soulshine

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by rbaileydav, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. not sure how i got started posting over here you guys gavem me some help on a washington trip last year so i have shared some colorado trips and now a nc home waters trip...hope it isnt too out of place.......................

    I awoke unsure what time it was, lost in a fog of deep sleep. I rolled over noticing the light beginning to filter into the room, and remembered that I had planned on going fishing this morning. But as I rustled around I felt the aches in my joints and bones, not anything major just the small pains of old football games and too many birthdays creeping bye. I thought of four hours driving for six hours fishing and a 10 or 11 hour day and was tempted to roll over and slip back into sleep again and skip anything that required physical exercise or for that matter anything that required me to even get out of bed, but as my eyes closed I had a brief mental snapshot of a trout rising out of crystal clear, sun spotlighted water and slashing dramatically at a floating wulff ……….and that one vision was all it took. I stumbled downstairs with my eyes half closed in retained sleep and grabbed some fishing clothes out of the laundry room, grabbed a couple rods, a couple reels, my waders, boots and vest and headed out on the road.

    By the time I had gotten on I-575, my dull lethargy had been replaced by the invigorating rush of heading out on the open road on a gorgeous crisp fall morning in search of a fishing adventure. There is nothing that compares with the feeling of being off and running heading to the mountains on a fishing trip, I feel 35 years younger like a 12 year old kid just released from school for the summer, pressure sand worries scattering and flying through the air just like the ritual throwing of your papers and books as you sprinted from school on that last day. Here I was flying down the road no pressures, no worries nothing to do but enjoy the ride. I tuned the iPod to Lyle Lovett’s “Step inside this house” and some old stuff of Townes Van Zandt. Great traveling music so in no time at all I was deep in the mountains. The leaves were at their peak, reds and golds abounded, blazes of brilliant yellow and fiery orange dabbed randomly across the landscape. A couple time I found myself so entranced by the colors and the sunshine that I almost ran off the road. Yet somehow, a short time later I found myself safely crossing the first bridge of the Nantahala DH section. The water was gorgeous, but the lowest I had seen it. I felt a thrill of excitement as I neared the pull out for my favorite section and found no other car had encroached on my territory. As I pulled into the gravel shoulder I felt that pride of ownership like I had some special claim on this section of the river for the day, I imagined myself as an old gold rush miner, staking claim to what I hoped would be a fishing gold mine. I practically sprinted from the car to head down and take a look at the river first hand ……… or maybe that was an overwhelming need to get rid of all of the diet coke that had come out of my “bubba-keg” mug on the two hour ride up the mountain.

    I dressed quickly feeling that familiar adrenalin rush of excitement as I realized how close it was to “lets get ready to rumble”… … I mean “fish” … time. Suddenly my heart skipped a beat as I realized instead of bringing my wading boots I had brought one of my kids old size 10 hiking boots with rubber lug soles… not my normal size 11 felt soled wading boots. I panicked for a moment, scanned the car for a suitable backup finding only my normal winter casual shoes … a pair of fur lined flip flops… and a pair of Cole Haan loafers……… neither of which was gonna do me much good in mid stream… so I made the only decision a rational sane fly fisherman would make……who needs to have feeling in your toes anyway… after ten sweaty minutes of stuffing, prying and tugging I finally had my feet and the excess wader material jammed down into the boots… and let me tell you circulation in your feet is way overrated when compared to not getting to fish after a two hour ride to the river. Next comes one of my favorite parts of a fishing adventure the uncasing of your chosen rod for the day. Today was to be one of the initial christening of a gorgeous 7 ½ ft 3 piece hollow built 5 wt with a special extra large grip that Gary Lacey had made for me. He had custom built the rod for just this type fall/winter fishing where I might be going deep and ugly or dragging midges and needed a rod that could go either way with style. The rod was typical of Gary’s work in that it was so pretty with the caramel cane and brown tipped yellow wrappings and Gary’s usual near perfect detailing, it brought a smile to my face as it came out of the tube but today I would test it to see if it fished as good as it looked.

    The air was crisp, with a cool breeze and almost cold air temperature hovering at about 37 or so, but the sun was warm and beaming down on the upper half of the canyon walls leaving the river shaded and shadowed but with a promise of what was to come. As I got into position for my first casts the quality of the rushing water, the symphony of color that was the leaves in their fall color and the natural beauty of this gorge made me actually pause to take a couple quick pictures upstream and downstream … … you know it has to be pretty for me to stop before the first few fish of the day… hell even before the first cast of the day just to admire the scenery.

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    Well even gorgeous scenery like that can’t hold me back from fishing for very long and since it was Delayed Harvest time in the south … from catching. I started out killing them from the very first hole. The fish were on and virtually every well placed cast of my weighted double nymph rig was drawing either a full out strike or at a minimum a bump or two from these remedial classroom stockers. They may not have been to smart or to wise in the ways of how to avoid getting caught but they certainly were feisty and pretty. I was getting mostly brookies in that 11 to 13 inch range which is a fun fish to catch and a few nicer rainbows thrown in for the fun of it. Many of you are I am sure asking where the grip and grin fish porn pictures are and I have to be honest in that; years ago I stopped taking grip and grin pictures of delayed harvest stocker fish unless they were something really unique in the beauty or size category and while these were lovely wonderful fish that I loved catching, they would undoubtedly not fit into either of those picture worthy categories. But that not withstanding the fishing was beyond fantastic beyond stupendous, I even managed to get a pair of doubles……. That’s right a “double double” in the first two holes and thirty minutes of fishing. Two fish, two flies one cast….. If I get to count combined size of the two fish that would have been a 25 incher on the first double and a 23 incher on the second one …. I do love doubles especially if the fish seem to want to go in different directions; then you have the rod pulling them in one direction and the fish pulling in two other directions, overall quite a fun experience. By now the sun was starting to actually begin to light up the river ... which for those of you that know the Nantahala River, this is a real rarity and only lasts for a short while ……. But man what a gorgeous sight as the sun finally rises high enough where the golden beacons of the sun’s rays can fall like multiple individual spotlights shattering the crystal clear water into shards of shimmering diamonds scattered across the current like stars scattered across the heavens

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    As the sun hit the water the fish began to spread out to the backs of the holes and the shallower water and were beginning to look up, but at some teeny tiny stuff that I could barley see. I was still getting action on my double nymph rig but had caught enough fish that I was ready for change so I switched to a pair of size 22 midges behind a strike indicator. Not sure they were an exact match for what was rising from the water column but the fish didn’t seem to mind and I certainly couldn’t see either the natural or my imitation well enough to know the difference so I spent the next few hours happily catching fish after fish. One stretch of beautiful water ……… pictured from downstream and then upstream about an hour later

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    Yielded so many fish that I almost felt guilty and gluttonous about it… ah hell who am I kidding I loved every minute of it … but even with midges it wasn’t what you would call challenging fishing. I lost track of the time in my fishing trance and was so totally at peace with myself that I really didn’t even think about anything, not about work, not about family not about anything … to be honest not really even about fishing I just let all of my built up, pent up emotions drain from me riding the current flowing around my legs bobbing down stream to be lost in the beauty of the fading afternoon… … casting and wading lost in the rhythm of the stream, my heartbeat and the relaxing of my soul. When I came out of my trance I was aware of the beauty of the fading sunlight on the already colorful leaves, changing my visions of the canyon into a dichotomy of exploding light and color and shadowed textures and cold steel blue of the river currents.

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    I trudged my way slowly back down toward my car on feet that were painfully numb from a tight boots squeezing so strong they could have squeezed blood like orange juice except that my toes hadn’t seen blood in the last several hours. I must have looked like a 110 year old man limping and hobbling back to the car. I paused on the bridge to take a few last pictures trying to get just that right shot. At the time I thought this one summed up the changing moods of the day about perfectly.

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    But as I was standing on the bridge feeling the tingling pain of my cramped feet overcome even the river numbed extremities … I saw a large dark shape with a decidedly gold flash and the strong jawed features of a big brown …… and I mean a big brown… go crashing through the hole below me and slap the water hard. As I watched she tacked into the current to the right and swung back through the hole in the other direction scattering smaller shadows in blitz of activity and sending water droplets raining down as she chased something in the river or maybe she was just tired of the company and was trying to clear the nursery for the romantic dance that all browns instinctively knew was coming soon. The beauty around me and the and the perfect scenery shot were forgotten in a heartbeat, and my poor abused numb feet that hurt so bad I could barley walk on a smooth level road bed a few seconds ago were carrying me at the speed of light down a rocky embankment to the water. I slowed my rush at the waters edge to think though my approach and the casting angles and to let my heartbeat settle down a bit. I got into position but couldn’t see her, yet somehow I was confident she had to still be in there. I made a few exploratory casts with my midges, got one slashing strike which I gratefully missed as I realized it wasn’t the fish I wanted. I thought about changing flies but wasn’t sure what to use so I cast another couple times, suddenly I saw her as she slip streamed sideways and rose out of the tumbling white water to intercept my flies … my heart rose and it took every bit of self control I had to hesitate long enough to let her complete her strike. She arched her back out of the water as she grabbed her intended meal and rolled hard into a forceful dive I tightened the rod feeling that exhilaration of contact wanting to yell in delight……… until I realized she had blown up on my white yarn strike indicator which had been pretty much useless in the fish hooking department except to raise my blood pressure to the level of the white water current. I cussed a few notes under my breath let my breathing reside and tried to think. I could see her swimming agitatedly through the water chasing the other fish out of her path. She hadn’t bolted but she clearly needed to settle down for a while before she would feed again. So I pulled out the camera and tried to take another of those classy perfect river photographs that I can never seem to get right….. And this one was definitely not right but my blood was still pumping pretty hard.

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    Then I tied on a big ugly white wulff which happens to be about as close to a “match the hatch” with a white yarn strike indicator that I had in my various fly boxes. I felt pretty foolish after throwing a pair of size 22 midges all day to now slinging a size 12 white calf tail monstrosity… but hey I did what I gotta do to get another shot at my big boned golden skinned beauty. The first few cast generated exactly zero interest from any of the residents of the pool and I was beginning to get discouraged when I saw her turn and follow the wulff… she didn’t strike but at least she had shown some interest. I cast again and saw her move almost imperceptibly upward but thought she had passed on my fly until I realized that the wulff was missing from the top of the water … I set the hook instinctively, before I think my mind actually registered that there had been a take… but she was way beyond delusions of peaceful meal and to be quite honest she was pretty pissed off as she stormed out of that hole of water and up into the deeper hole up above … leaving me holding on to that bamboo rod like a man trying to water ski behind a freight train. As most of you know the first few seconds of a hook up with a large trout are the most crucial and that is where the mistakes happen that snap most leaders or lose most big fish but somehow I managed to not screw anything up and as I stumbled gracelessly up stream on feet with not even the vaguest amount of retained feeling I realized we were still joined at reel, line, leader, fly and mouth which is a really good feeling to have when the other side is a 23 or 24 inch brown. I realized with a flash that in no way, size shape or form do two individual 12 inch fish pull anything like a single 24 inch pissed off female. She sulked on the bottom for a few minutes giving me time to get the line back on the reel and in control. She made two strong dashes for a submerged log but Gary’s hollow built was able to turn her both times. She turned and made a run back downstream toward the hole where I had hooked her and I was yet again able to turn her. I was beginning to feel like I had a good chance of landing this beauty. I even thought what a wonderful grip and grin fish porn shot I was gonna get… I turned slightly as I progressed toward her reeling in line to look at a perfect patch of vibrant multi-colored leaves I could lay her on and have the beautiful bamboo rod dressed in its fall like brown and yellow wraps laying next to her… I smiled in spite of myself at the thought … which is of course the exact instant she zigged where I thought she was gonna zag and left me with a water logged white albatross of a fly winging un-encumbered and airborne to the top branches of a winter bare tree to tangle in a nest of line and feathers that I somehow knew instantly was going to be this poor white wulff’s final resting place. I stared at that tree for a second letting my disappointment surge and recede and my breathing to surge and recede before I popped the fly off and reeled in remaining few feet of leader. As I turned back to the water I could still see her swimming slowly through the same hole she had started in …. And somehow I couldn’t help but smile … and that smile just grew till I was grinning like an idiot as the thought occurred to me that once again I had just had my ass kicked by a beautiful but big boned pissed off female………

    I climbed the hill back toward the car in total agony from my poor feet but my smile wouldn’t leave my face. As I finally shrugged out of my waders and broke down my rods … the smile never left my face… I made my way around to the car and realized that an early moon had risen and was hanging in neon white relief high in an azure blue sky framing a pallet of fall color

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    That shining beacon of a moon combined with an unbelievably fantastic day of fishing and more importantly a beautiful scenic day of relaxing seemed to join together and settle into my heart and soul leaving me with a full on case of “soul shine” … “Its better than sunshine, better than moonshine, d**n sure better than rain, hey now people don’t mind, we all get this way sometime, got to let your soul shine, shine till the break of day”…….. And I am betting most of ya’ll have guessed that the ride back home was an Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule jam fest…….. What a wonderful way to close a wonderful day…… I sure am glad I decided to get out of bed and go fishing ……

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  2. fantastic...thanks for the post.
     
  3. great shots!
     
  4. He used to say soulshine,
    Its better than sunshine,
    Its better than moonshine,
    Damn sure better than rain.

    Sweet photos and great post.
     
  5. I love those little appalachian mountain streams, especially in the fall.
    D
     
  6. hey itchy, you listening to warren haynes or larry mccray?
     
  7. Great read, great pics.
    Ya made my day.
     

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