Friendship… is born at the moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’
— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I had known Doover1 for several years, but it wasn’t until I walked into his faculty office in the microbiology building at the University of Georgia and he told me that he loved to fish for trout that our friendship really began.
Waymore and his wife were visiting our church Bible study when we first met. He wasn’t really all that impressed with me, nor I with him. Then, mysteriously, fly fishing became part of the conversation and before you could say “soft-hackle pheasant tail,” we were fishing buddies.
Doover2’s wife had been a PhD student in Doover1’s department. Then she and Doover2 moved to Boston for work. Several years later, when she mentioned to Doover1 that Doover2 was learning to fly fish, D1 told me to take D2 to the river and show him what little I knew about fly fishing. That was about two years ago, and we have been fishing together about 50 times since then.
Fly fishing forges friendships.
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
– C.S. Lewis, Four Loves
In the brief time that I’ve been friends with all three of these gentlemen, the stars have aligned twice wherein we could all go fishing together. The first was our epic trip to Colorado this past summer – see link.
The second was last week.
Doover2 was visiting relatives in central North Carolina for the holidays; I was visiting relatives in north Georgia; Waymore now lives in north Atlanta; and Doover1 lives just south of Athens, Georgia. It looked like we were all free from work and family responsibilities to go fishing together on December 29.
Since I had done most of the planning for the Colorado trip, I was happy to let D1 and D2 make the arrangements for this trip. They settled on a relatively unheralded stream in North Carolina, the Little River. Other more popular destinations were ruled out because of untimely tailwater release schedules and reports of crowded conditions. A fly shop employee told us that the delayed harvest section at the Little River should be “good” and that we should fish small nymphs.
The delayed harvest area of Little River near Hendersonville, NC was roughly midway between our respective locations: southwest from where Doover2 was staying in North Carolina and northeast of those of us in Georgia. It took D2 a 2.75-hour ride to get there; the other three of us met in Commerce, GA and drove up together in Waymore’s sedan.
When we rolled into the rather large parking lot at 9 am, there was only one other car there. Must be a summertime destination, I incorrectly surmised. The river showed a lot small-step falls, plunge pools, and shallow runs. Signs along the trail pointed to named waterfalls in either direction.
Meeting up with Doover2 again was surreal. It had been three months since we had all fished together in Colorado, but it seemed like three days. We were immediately all chummy and cutting up and talking about our approach for fishing the river.
Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.
— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
D1 and D2 chose to start downstream in some water that looked too shallow to me. Waymore and I started upstream at a deep pool above the bridge that was fed by a fairly steep series of pools that looked tantalizing. We decided to meet back at the footbridge in 45 minutes to exchange notes and decide on a strategy for the rest of the morning.
Waymore is like a trout bloodhound so naturally he caught the first trout in some soft water at the side of the pool. He decided to go back and fish under the bridge while I thought the small plunge pools upstream looked intriguing. I began crawling up the small rocky slope before realizing that it was a bit more challenging that I anticipated. Crawling up the rocks wasn’t so bad, but the rushing water between the rocks wouldn’t let me move laterally.
Determined, I put my fly rod between my teeth and used both hands to help me bridge the torrent between the rocks where I was standing and the rocks where I wanted to be. I made it, but I decided I didn’t want to try that again.
After shimmying on my rear end over some long, slanted rocks, I finally reached the small pools that were only accessible to someone willing to do what I just did. I liked my chances. I was rewarded at the first pool with a ten-inch rainbow that rose to my stimulator. Apparently, he was intent on just tasting it, but I managed to floss his teeth on my tippet and he became lip-locked with my dropper fly.
But the other small pools proved to be disappointments, with no action whatsoever. By the time I reached larger pools at the top, it was time to meet the other guys at the footbridge. To my surprise, both D1 and D2 had caught a trout or two and rolled a few in the skinny water downstream. Waymore had caught two more trout under the bridge.
The strange thing was that the parking lot was now full and the area was teaming with people and their dogs going for hikes along the river. There was, however, a disturbing absence of any other fishermen. Either we should rejoice because we had this river to ourselves, or we should be a little peeved because we were advised to fish a river that wasn’t worth fishing to those knowledgeable of it.
After shedding some jackets and having a little powwow, Doover2 and I decided to go back upstream to the larger pools, while Doover1 and Waymore wanted to work the smaller pools. After a couple of hours of intense fishing, we gathered again by a long deep pool not far below one of the waterfalls.
Doover1, Doover2, and myself hadn’t caught a thing. Waymore had picked up a few in some of the larger pools, but it had been slow by his standards. As we stood there trying to decide what to do, we each took turns casting into this long, deep run. I managed to roll one from that pool and Waymore had caught one there earlier, but it was such a fishy looking spot, after pounding it for a while, we all concluded that if this river was worth its salt, there would be a lot more action out of this pool.
We all decided that we’d give the river another hour and then head home. I had given up hope, and I followed D1 down to the shallow run where he had started from just because I hadn’t fished it yet and I was ready to try someplace different.
I had made the mistake of starting out the day with a dry dropper setup, which meant my tightline rod was stowed in the back of Waymore’s car and inaccessible once we got started. To add to my consternation, the trout, if there were any in the river, were not following the guide’s advice and eating the small flies that I was using as a dropper.
When we got to the skinny water, Doover1 caught two rainbows almost immediately on his tightline setup. I left that section to him and went downstream and was pleasantly surprised to find some decent-looking pocket water. But nothing was interested in my dry/dropper presentation. Not long after I started fishing the pocket water, Doover1 showed up and noticed some fish rising downstream in a featureless, placid stretch of the river.
D1 didn’t want to change his tightline setup, and since I wasn’t getting any action with my dry/dropper rig, I decided to torture myself by fishing dry flies for rising trout. I know how this game is played and I’m not very good at it: cast to rising trout, no interest from the trout, change flies, no interest from the trout, change flies again, and repeat.
But recently, I’ve had consistently good luck with a Mole Fly. I put one on and after the requisite passes where it was either ignored or sniffed, a 12” rainbow jumped on it and soon thereafter I was happily netting my second fish of the day. I tried to resuscitate the Mole Fly, but once those flies get trout spit on them, they won’t float again. Frogs Fanny desiccant doesn’t faze a wet Mole Fly. I had one more dry Mole Fly and that, too, produced a feisty rainbow.
By this time Doover2 and Waymore had joined us and the rising trout. Right after we had left them upstream, for some reason Doover2 put on a red Mop Fly and caught three in a row out of that deep run that had discouraged us earlier. Waymore followed suit and caught two rainbows out of the same run with a tan Mop Fly. To their credit, they tried to call us to share their intel and offer the pool to us. I absolutely hate to answer my cell phone when I am fishing, so I didn’t even check to see who was calling, this time to my detriment.
The mark of Friendship is not that help will be given when the pinch comes (of course it will) but that, having been given, it makes no difference at all.
– C.S. Lewis, Four Loves
But Doover2 loves to fish with dries and when he saw the fish rising in the pool, I knew we would be staying there for a while. I let him step into my spot, and he could not get any interest from the trout that were rising frequently in front of him, which made him all the more determined as he put on fly after fly.
Meanwhile Waymore moved down below D2. Waymore has a magical way of choosing flies. He just looks in his fly box, and says, “This looks like it would work.” And lo and behold, it does. He immediately caught a trout. When he lost his fly to a tree, I thought, “He’s done for the day.” But he looks in his box and pulls out a different fly, ties it on, and catches another fish. He soon loses that fly to a bad knot, looks in his box, says “this one looks good,” ties it on and catches another fish. The man can do no wrong. He caught finicky trout on three different flies while Doover2 couldn’t buy a rise.
The contrast between the anguish of D2 and the ease of Waymore was painful to watch. I needed a diversion, so Doover1 and I went back upstream to the skinny water where D1 had done well earlier. Immediately he caught two more rainbows on Mop flies. I had given up on my dry/dropper strategy and also decided that the fly shop guy’s advice to fish with small nymphs was keeping me from catching fish.
I put on a pink squirmy wormy and tried to fish it as if I had my 10’ tight-line rod, even though I was using a standard, tapered leader on my 8’9” five-weight TFO rod. Two 11” rainbows approved of my decision to throw junk flies. About that time Waymore and Doover2 joined us in the skinny water. Doover2 had finally had a couple of trout make connections with his dry fly hook and Waymore had a hard time remembering how many he had caught on the dries.
As we began to put our fly rods in their tubes and get out of our gear, we tallied our day. Waymore had caught somewhere in the neighborhood of 14, Doover1 fooled six, Doover2 netted five, and I pierced the lips of five. Most were less than a foot long, a couple might have reached 14”. I guess you can’t complain about catching 30 trout on a river we’d never fished before.
Conversation shifted to where we would meet again. Colorado again? Pennsylvania? Montana? Wherever it would be, three things were for certain: Doover2 would be looking for rising trout, Waymore would catch way more fish than the rest of us, and the bonds of friendship forged from fly fishing will follow us.
The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.
— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves