Monday, June 17, 2013

In the Smokies, Going Home

On any trip, the last day is different. It represents the point at which thoughts invariably turn back towards the workaday life. Whether it's a week on the beach on the Cape with the family or a week on the Kvichak fishing with close friends, the last day means the end of something extraordinary and the beginning of something more mundane. When the trip spans a brief, long weekend, the mundanity boomerangs back rather rapidly. Sunday was upon us.

Sunday brought more rain and another ghost town, Elkmont. It's another example of manifest destiny preserving this place for us and screwing a handful of individuals out of their vacation homes. It's a valley full of summer cabins with all the people missing. And it has one sweet river. We got to the river at the magical moment when the rain had just stopped and the clouds had parted and the light came through at just right angle to make the green's glow and the river sparkle.

Marc fishing the head of a productive pool.
The rain had finally taken it's toll and the water was high though not too murky. We had until around noon to fish at which point Mike and I had to turn east to put me in cell phone range before an afternoon conference call. The only thing worse than taking conference calls on a weekend is taking conference calls during prime weekend fishing hours.

We nymphed a bunch. I struck out but Marc and Mike did okay though Mike cheated and used a San Juan Worm which would have been okay had I thought of it but I didn't and thus Mike garnered unfair advantage.

At one point I lodged my dry-dropper rig in an overhanging branch. The nymph was hooked tight to a leaf and the spindly limb resisted efforts to dislodge the fly. I moved a couple of steps downstream to gain better leverage and noticed a hornet circling around the large, bushy dry. Before long there were several hornets assaulting the dry and that's when I noticed a small, Bald-faced hornet's nest about a foot or so up the branch from my nymph. I stepped back, tugged my rig free, and looked elsewhere for fish.

Troll territory
Like most folks, when the fishing is slow I usually dig through the fly box with fervor trying to dial something in. The wiser me occasionally breaks through the mania, resigned to the reality that it's just not happening, and I dig through the fly box thoughtfully. That's where I was on Sunday, less manic more willing to take it all in. Perhaps I was just happy to be out of cell phone range of the world.

Water Snake I found basking the elusive sun. Almost stepped in him.
That was better than the one that swam towards me on Saturday. Creepy. 
Sitting on a boulder tying on a rubber-legged Copper John I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was the wind blowing an eddy of small yellow flowers. Grasping the stems of these flowers were large yellow stonefly nymphs. I had seen similar nymphs scattered on rocks and tree stumps on Friday and fished a large yellow stonefly nymph without success. I'm always disappointed when the stonefly doesn't get hits. It's such a big yummy meal. One would think it the sure thing.

Wouldn't you want this if you were a fish?
Much too soon, the road demanded attention and we packed up and drove east. Marc gave us a tip on heading over the mountains to Cherokee instead of going back through Pigeon Forge. It was the right call. Heading back through the carnival would have been too shocking after a weekend of wandering deep valleys dripping with rain and roaring with water. The road over the Smokies afforded us the spectacular, eponymous views that these mountains

Smokie Valley
We stopped in Cherokee, NC for a Hardees Burger and a conference call. Even the local First Nation population was texting and phoning with the abandon of Manhattan Investment Bankers. I suppose it was a fitting reentry into what passes for civilization these days.

In Cherokee, a Cherokee, texting.
Nestled in the Smokies under cloudy skies it is easy to be transported to a different frame of mind. The country is intimate. The world ebbs. Time eases. Language slows. That which nurtures the soul rises. It's a place where one relearns the sound of one's heart beating and the feel of footfall on mossy banks. The nearly constant blanket of clouds and fog and heavy air is so far from where one is day-to-day that you find the plug trailing behind you long before you consciously decide to remove it from the wall.

I have less of that now.


  1. Delightful. Well done chum. Glad to be reading this Monday morning, work-bound.

    1. Yes, that whole work-bound thing does put a damper on an otherwise bright day.

  2. Amazing wilderness, thanks for sharing it with us.