The Art of Flyfishing

brookTroutLast week I realized a dream and it was better than I could have imagined.

I went back to my roots in the mountains of Western North Carolina following in the footsteps of my father who was an accomplished fly fisherman.

I joined my good friend Don Yelton (WFR Relief director/AMEN founder) for two outings to hone my very limited skills with a fly rod. I was delighted to catch a native speckled trout on a dry fly, my first ever, and enjoy some of the most beautiful of God’s artistry.

We had contracted the services of a guide who was to take us on a float trip down the Watagua River in East Tenn but that plan was scrapped due to rising water because of power generation at the dam above. Instead we met our guide, a very nice guy named Lou, and traveled far back into the mountains to a secluded stream off the beaten path and only accessible by clients of the outfitters.

I am a novice fly fisherman, that day I believe was only my fourth time to fish with a fly rod. With Lou’s tips and education about the insects the trout were feeding on that morning I started casting the fly and hoping. I didn’t catch many trout, only three for the half day trip, but it was the half day of a life time!

I caught a very rare native brook trout, much like the one in the picture. It was so rare the guide would not have believed it without seeing it with his own eyes. In that stream, in that part of the country, a large native brook is exceptional. The colors were amazing! After admiring the beauty as much as we dared, Lou carefully lowered him into the chilly water and he returned to grow and fight again another day.

The last fish of the day was a gorgeous rainbow, a text book catch. It was the sort of catch a TV fishing host would want broadcast unedited. I cast a minnow impersonating fly in the swift current of a small water fall and let the torrent sweep it along until it settled in the slow water. On my 5th or 6th cast into the same spot, suddenly the line stopped and when I set the hook the fish jumped about five feet out of the water and the fight was on.

 Between me and this fat rainbow was very swift water and a 2 lb test leader. After many runs and more acrobatic jumps, Lou came with his net and finally I guided him into the net. This is the experience that causes men and women to spend hundreds of dollars and stumble on slick rocks in frigid water. Those two to five minutes will never be forgotten.

The day was completed by making a new friend and the fellowship of an old friend and taking in the beauty of creation that reflects the glory of Jesus Christ. “…by Him, and for Him, and it continues to be by His mighty power“.

enjoying the Life,

A look at history in black and white

Today I took a few hour journey back to the mountains of North Carolina, the place of my birth, and the place where generations of Ogle’s, Fox’s, Thomas’s, and Blevins’s were born, lived, and died. I could feel the cool wind coming across the hill scattering rust colored leaves, turning up the corners of collars, and being greeted with squinted eyes and rosy cheeks. I appreciated the warmth of the noonday sun which can only penetrate those deep hollers a few hours on clear days. I sat on rough cut wooden steps, looking down the road by the creek where you must look sharply up to see the sky in any direction. It is a time and a place where the richness of the black dirt is only surpassed by the lives of it’s citizens who carved out a meager living with calloused hands, strong wills, and faith in the Creator.

My people were common folks, few if any graduated from any school of any kind, but they raised children by the dozens who became “salt of the earth” kind of citizens who drove better cars, lived in houses with indoor plumbing, were better educated, but were cut from the same cloth as generations before them. They were carpenters, mechanics, home makers, and gospel preachers. But for a few sad exceptions they only saw the outside of a jail. As recently as two generations ago, one of my uncles, Bill Wheeler, never owned a car, never worked on a public job, had never lived in a house without an outhouse, but built a reputation as one of the best men in his county. Uncle Bill was a man of God, a fact no person who knew him questioned, but he never claimed to be anything but “saved by grace” and in love with his Lord. He had two brothers who were preachers like him, although Bill would never admit to being a preacher.

Grandpa “Papa” Fox, my maternal grandfather, married my grandma who had a house full of small children, was living in a wilderness area of Avery County, N.C., and had been deserted by a philandering hypocrite husband. Papa and Grandma Fox added three more children, my mom being the first from their union. Papa walked several miles to hitch a ride to work on the Blue Ridge Parkway, leaving at about 4:30 a.m. and returning after dark. He raised most of what was eaten including pigs and chickens and vegetables. There was no electricity, no water in the house, no insulation in the walls, but they joyfully survived, playing the cards dealt them without grumbling and complaining.

Grandpa and Grandma Ogle, my paternal grandparents, lived a few miles West in the same county, living off the land, scratching out a living and managing to raise twelve children, burying another boy when he was an infant. Digging May Apple roots and ginseng, gathering ferns for florists, working in saw mills, and killing wild game and catching fish, fed the Ogle clan except for the coldest part of winter when at least some of the kids would be sent to relatives for a while ‘til “Spring broke” and the garden started to produce food.

I come from good stock. I’m proud of my heritage, my mountain home, and my people. I like to think that in my physical and spiritual DNA there is some of the stuff that makes men strong and faithful to their families and their God.  From birth there was a Good Samaritan some place in me, a kind word, a hug, a helping hand, and a seed of faith that is still alive and well. My grandparents, my parents, and almost all of my many, many aunts and uncles, and countless cousins, claimed Jesus and live, or lived, in His grace.

This morning I went to an old roll top desk that I had as a child and took out a cookie box, and a Christmas card box, both full of pictures, obituaries from the news paper, report cards, high school play programs, and letters, and I revisited history in black and white. This time there was no sadness, no tears, only warm memories and renewed appreciation for my place in the world and for the land and the people who made it possible. I have more relatives in heaven now than on earth, and that is not a bad thing, it’s very good. At 63, I too will graduate soon and I sort of look forward to the home coming.

What wonderful people! What a wonderfully blessed life! What a wonderful God!

It is time to be thankful.

A son of the hills and the One who made them,