>From the bridge, Star date March 31, 1996, Captain's log...

Oops, wrong bridge.

It was Sunday, March 31, 1996, and I was standing on the walking bridge
across the East Prong Roaring River. It is in Stone Mountain State Park,
north of Elkin, NC, and is one of the more heavily fished Delayed Harvest
streams in the state.
Cindy, my wife, and I had come here with friends from our fly fishing club
in Greensboro, NC, to camp for the weekend and fly fish for trout. The
bridge connects the parking area with the group camping sites on the far
side of the stream.
I had fished about an hour on Friday evening after setting up camp. Did
reasonably well for forty degree water. Caught perhaps six or eight trout,
most of which came on a size 16 Brassie nymph fished as a dropper about
fifteen inches below one of my favorite dry flies. Two or three of the
trout, mostly stocked brookies, did rise to the dry.
The dry fly is one of my favoites because it works for me. And for Cindy. I
call it an American Express, as in "don't leave home without it". Basically
it is a parachute style fly, like a parachute Adams, but with brown hackle
and tail, and with a tan body and tan poly wing post.
Most times I tie it with a 1x or 2x hackle (hackle fiber length more
appropriately sized for a fly one or two sizes larger). The oversized
hackle and poly wing make a great floating fly that serves as a terrific
attractor in it's on right, and does not founder with the addition of a
dropper fly.
But, this missive is not about flies. Not really about trout. Or fishing.
It's about me. And, perhaps you or someone you know.

The weekend had gone well. It began under threat of rain and cold, and
Friday night and most of Saturday had come and gone without any rain, and
the temperature had stayed tolerable. The night that preceded Sunday's dawn
did bring a gentle rain, however, and here it was mid-day Sunday, and it
had misted rain off and on all morning.

We had watched the number of fishermen increase during the day, Saturday,
but it never reached epidemic proportions. We continued to fish pretty much
where we wanted, and caught fish.
Sunday morning was different. Trucks and cars poured into the park from
both ends, and from our vantage point downhill and across stream from the
dirt road, we watched the hopeful anglers arrive and take positions up and
down the creek.
The three of us gentlemen in our party, leaving two wives in camp, went off
to escape the crowds by fishing a smaller, more difficult to fish, stream.
We caught a few fish in an hour and a half of fishing and returned to camp.
There, in camp, and from the bridge I mentioned, we could see different
anglers park at the foot bridge, gear up, enter the water, and fish up
through a quite lovely section of stream that lay right alongside our camp.

Standing there with a friend with whom I occasionally trout fish, I found
myself making remarks about the anglers we watched proceed up the stream
past us. I critiqued their casting and their wading, how fast or slowly
they moved. I even had thoughts about their clothing, whether I vocalized
them or not. My friend may have made a remark or two, himself, but most of
this was coming from me.
"Wait a minute. This is not me", I thought to myself. "Why am I thinking
and saying such things? Me! Why, I am always pleading for acceptance of
others, in fly fishing, or just plain fishing, as in all things."
I struggled to regain control from this other entity that had invaded the
very core of my being where my life's values, my very essence resided. I
found it helpful to reflect back on my own beginnings in fly fishing. Equal
parts humor and humiliation, if I recall correctly.
I remember a day astream with an acquaintance. He was my boss, actually,
and it was the first (and only) time we ever fished together. The first
half of the day, we both used spinning gear, and we both caught two or
three trout, apiece.
Back at the car for a lunch break, and I got up the nerve to break out the
fly rod. I remember making long, sloppy casts upstream, across, and
downstream. No part of the stream, no matter how far from me, was safe from
me and my fly fishing.
Now, of course, I know that I was not fly fishing. I was making a fool of
myself, and probably a last(ing) impression on my soon to be ex-boss.

I take no small amount of pride in how I dress for fly fishing. Notice, I
said "how I dress", and not "how I look". For one thing, I don't know how I
look. I don't get to, and lucky me, don't have to look at me.
My pride is in my fishing gear. The hat that covered my face to help keep
me warm when I spent an unplanned night on Abram's Creek in the Smoky
Mountains. I was soaking wet, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and it was
October 1, 1994. That same hat survived the accident on October 2 that sent
me to the hospital for two weeks, and Cindy for three weeks. To the
educated, the hat's history is evident in its appearance.
My $225 Streamline neoprene waders that I tore the leg out of while
stepping over a downed cedar tree, again, in the Smokies, the very first
time I wore them. Streamline put a new leg on them for $25, and I was a
happy camper, er, wader.
My vest. In winter, it's an Orvis Super Tac-L-Pak. That is pronounced
"holds-more-damn stuff-than-you-can-tote". I learned a couple years ago NOT
to fill all the 31 pockets. In summer, its a mesh vest for ventilation.
It's Orvis, too. I am not an Orvis fanatic or basher. I am not a political
person. I study rods and reels and vests and waders and boots available on
the market, and I buy what I think offers the features I want. If it's
Orvis, that's great. If it's something else, that's fine, too. I want
lasting value.
My hat was once new. So were my neoprenes, but not for long. And my vest,
and my rods and reels. And, yes, once upon a time, so was I. Brand new, at
least, to fly fishing. For the most part, I stayed away from crowds. Lucky
for them, I suppose. I stunk, but I kept at it, and I read everything I
could about doing it right. I like to think I have gotten a little better
at it, but I know I still have a lot of room for improvement.

Bridges. Remember the bridge? Isn't life a series of bridges? I think maybe
it is. How did you get here? Yes, here to Danny's page on the web. My guess
is you used a bridge. Something that spanned from where you were to where
you are right now. A small, intricate strand. A gossamer thread. 6x? How
'bout 7 or 8x? What matters is that it works!
Fly fishing works for me. It has brought me far from where I started, and I
have neither desire nor need to return. "You can never step in the same
stream, twice", someone said. Neither can you log onto the same internet or
post to the same flyfish maillist, twice. It is changed by the very act of
our "stepping into it". And so am I. And so are you.
We are different for our interaction, one with another. I trust that we are
better for it.

Wayne Clodfelter
TROUT, NC on the web   http://ns.netmcr.com/troutnc