“Thanksgiving, alright!! All you guys. Okaaay!” were the first words uttered by Uncle Don when he first walked in the door of the house in Bat Cave where we would spend a week in North Carolina.
Bill, myself and Uncle Don made the trip down to NC again, this time for ‘friendsgiving.’ Oh, and of course the obligatory lifer hunting. Our dear friend Chuck who was previously living in Asheville, NC, with his wife and two weiner dogs, was now homesteading in Bat Cave NC just outside the Town of Chimney rock on Bear Wallow Mountain. Those of you who read my last Carolina report will remember this house in Bat Cave as the one with the crazy huge instrument collection hanging on the wall. Chuck and Chuck’s wife are staying in Bat Cave and looking over this house for his friend while he and his wife are working in Hilton Head, South Carolina for the winter. So we were blessed to be able to stay on this gorgeous piece of property with 11 acres of mountainside and the hickory nut creek running straight through the whole lot.
The rules at ‘Inn the Trees’
Backing up a bit we drove 18.5 hours to get to Bat cave. Driving mostly through the night and only stopping to eat, pee, stretch, pee and eat. It was a great relief to be done driving in the car which had accumulated at least 4 different kinds of fart smells which was odd because only 3 men were riding/farting in the car. Those ‘little tree air fresheners’ can only keep up so much as we would later discover. Black Ice scent does not mix the best with the most odoriferous of odors. Perhaps Vanilla would have been a better choice?
We stopped at the NC state line to take a few pics and take in some sights and Uncle Don said he was so full of urine that his teeth were floating…
A cigar at last for Don
Don found the biggest leaf I have ever seen, and let me tell you, I have seen some leaves the size of which I wouldn’t even bother to lie about. Don’s leaf made those other leaves that I might have seen look puny and also weak.
Don and his leaf enjoying some ‘shade’
Bill trying his hand at the famous “Sasquatch” pose. I think he got the elbows perfect.
Photo credit: Goldberg’s photo palace
After a few more pictures it was now time to ‘leaf’ and go and meet our buddy Chuck, on the Swannanoa river and see if we could muster up a finned critter or two. Thankfully for my fanny, it was only a short drive to the park where we met up with Chuck. This park on the Swannanoa is a beautiful area with clear blue waters, good current, and just the right amount of goose poop on the grass. Enough to dodge but not enough to make me say “that’s a lot of poo.” It was here we would all convene for the first time in 8 months. It was good to see our old friend again. Pleasantries were exchanged and it was time for us to do the fishing.
Bill was very ready to fish. So ready in fact that he had started down the hill already and hollered in a poor British accent “Let’s catch some frickin’ fish m’lords!” Myself and Uncle Don just shook our heads and wholeheartedly agreed. It felt wonderful to pull my rods from the rod tubes and get out to some water!
The homeless man sleeping under the pavilion was awoken by our footsteps as we approached the river. He asked us not if we were catching anything but was more curious if we were fishing with nightcrawlers oddly enough. I said, “You bet your bottom, we’re usin’ crawlers.” He responded by lifting his bottle of vodka up as if to say cheers, took a big slug and went back to sleep. North Carolina is a magical place. This would be a good omen for the trip. We didn’t catch anything here on the Swannanoa but it sure was purty and a nice place to spend an hour or two or three in the afternoon. It was especially nice to stretch the legs and let the Hormel Fartmobile air out in the parking lot.
There was only one brief moment of tragedy here on our first fishings of the trip. Imagine if you will:
Bill casts up into a tree. He was using a 1 ounce weight. Poor Uncle Don was standing next to Bill as he yanked down on his line as hard as he could to free his rig from the tree. Well free his rig he did! As the piece of lead came back at us at Mach 9, it had an evil trajectory. I could hear the lead hitting human bone as it struck Uncle Don in the ankle and dropped him like hot snot on a sack of potatoes. He was lucky that he was not struck in the most tender of all male areas….
Don nursing his ankle pain
Below the Swannanoa river dam.
After poor Uncle Don recovered from his brief yet severe bout of lead induced ankle pain, and I had recovered from my fit of stifled laughter, we were able to slowly work our way back to the car. Uncle Don is a trooper. Never met a guy who is more bound and determined in my life. With his one leg, one eye, one lung, one arm, and one kidney he can still maneuver through even the most difficult of terrains. (Don wanted me to mention he still has two cojones) Though it may take him longer than an able bodied person, he makes his own way with inhuman determination. I have never seen him give up. As long as he is in good supply of cigars and Coffee he is a happy camper.
We got back to the cars in one piece and Chuck had a few things to do so we parted ways on the Swannanoa, we would met up at the house later after we had gone and adventured some more.
Our next stop was a spot on the Green river. Having not seen it in person yet we were still very excited to fish there due to the awesome fish sample data we found on the interwebs. Bill finds some gems in the middle of the night, I call it his “Bible reading time.”
*The Green river, which gets its name from Civil war hero Corporal Ishmael ‘Green Slacks’ Yosseff,* is a delightfully peaceful river. Not too big, not too small. It is also quite green in color despite being *named after Green Slacks Yosseff and not the actual color green which we would all have expected.*
*(not actual facts)
Scenic depictions of backpack life
The Green was totally sweet. The current was perfect, and the fish were being cooperative. We launched a few worms out into the current and before I could even begin to throw in a dip the action had already started. Billy had a good ol’ bite on his far rod. “SET THE HOOK” I hollered!
The moments that followed were frantic, and sweaty. We could see the fish fighting Bill close to shore. The color flashed as the fish turned in the sunlight. I could feel deep, deep down in my plums that this was a going to be a LIFER for Bill. I could hear the apprehension in his voice while he tangled with the critter. The fish was close to shore now, quite close indeed. As soon as I could get my hand on the leader I had the first fish of the trip out of the water and flopping on shore to greet Bil. Bill, who at this time was the jolliest angler east of the Mississippi, was smiling like a man possessed. He had his Brassy Jumprock in hand and I was almost sure he would need to subsequently shed his vestments and change his skivvies from all the excitement. Yet, he assured me the seat of his pants was clean and I proceeded to take many photos with my mobile-look-at-device.
Bill’s lifer, off the charts neat
I will say, I was pretty darn envious of Bill’s first lifer of the trip. Being that it was the very first catch of the trip, this bode very well for us. It is almost as good a sign as seeing two donkeys fighting in a hay field, which as we all know is an indicator of great fortune and luck. After all the excitement was over, and the photos were taken and the fish was allowed to swim freely back into the river, I was in battle mode. And Uncle Don was keenly watching the rod tips as he is know to do.
Don The Ever Vigilant.
Spectacular view from the sandbar
I said “hey Don I am gonna take a picture so turn around.” Don said “What?”
Only a brief spell later after some mighty fine Don pictures, yours truly got his first bite of the trip. I was doing the lifer shuffle fighting this fish. Feverishly hoping I would not lose the fish I was yelling something unintelligible as I flung the fish out of the water and into my grasp. What I saw flopping in my hands was not a brassy jumprock at all but a real-good redbreast sunfish! LIFERRRRR! I was excited, but not quite as excited as I was hoping to be. The jumprocks weighed heavy on my mind.
Heck of a purty one
I wasted no time in affixing a new worm on to my #8 circle hook. I’m fairly certain the worm was talkin’ smack when I hooked him on. Said something about my momma and how her weight affects her self-esteem. Undeterred, I flung out the trash talker into the current and sat and waited for my next bite while sharing a cigar with Uncle Don, as is tradition. It did not take long before I got my next bite. Only a few shakes of a lamb’s tail. This fish felt heavier than the redbreast. Then I saw that brassy flash in the water and before I could say “a plate of yams with extra syrup!!” Billy was at my side prepared to pounce on this Lifer like his life depended on it!
Some folks might be wondering, “did you guys bring a net with you to the river?”....no. No we did not. And it was this dramatic oversight that was currently on my mind as we tried to bring this fish to hand. Bill was in good form though, and as soon as that ol’ jumprock was within grasp he pounced on it, like a hobo who has just been offered a whole sandwich and 20 bucks in quarters. And just like that I had my lifer Brassy Jumprock.
The Green river was quite good to us this day and I know we could all have stayed until dark but
we had more pressing matters at hand, as neither of my traveling compadres or myself had eaten anything all day. Well, except some gum I accidently swallowed earlier on when I was trying to do my best southern gentleman impression. Chuck’s wife was kind enough to prepare a meal for us upon our arrival in Bat Cave. Homemade Mac’n’Cheese was just what the Dr. ordered. We started a fire in the fireplace and I burned a black walnut *which brings good luck and also fertility.* The latter I was unconcerned with.
*(not actual facts)
The next day we would set off to head back east to some fishy waters known to harbor a quarry that still remains elusive to us. The Sicklefin Redhorse. Bill, being the finest rough fish researcher this side of the Mississippi had some spots lined up for us to target and scope out.
Heading East, we had our first stop in mind. A big dam. A BIG ass dam. We had heard that below the dam there was a very large population of introduced blueback herring as well as some other finned beasts. As we pulled into the dam parking lot nearest the dam we could already see fish boiling at the surface and jumping EVERYWHERE! My hands were shaking as I tried to tie up a 1/16th oz. jighead to my ultra light. The herring where thicker than a snicker in this dam river. It was crazy. The only thing that reminded me of the amount of herring here were the huge schools of gizzard shad on the St. Croix back home in Minnesota. Bill and I must have spent 40 minutes casting out to these schools of boiling fish. Neither of us got so much as a nibble. Apparently these herring are dicks. Who would have guessed?? I put my ultra light away and grabbed a rod I had set up with a bottom rig earlier in the day. I grabbed a phat juicy crawler and impaled him, ass end first, onto my hook. I lobbed his ass out into the dam current. I let the weight hit the bottom and before I could say “where the heck did I put my rod holder” I was gettin’ a nibble. I let this nibble progress into a real bonafide bite then I put the screws to whatever had taken interest in my worm. “FISH ON” I hollered. But before we could get excited about a possible dam lifer the fish was already nearing the bank and thrashing on the surface. OH joy….OH rapture!....a….A….. yellow perch.
Scenic depictions of perch catcher life
After a few more casts at the bluebacks who were still being dicks, we decided to head above the Dam and see what was crackin’ up there.
Pretty dang big dam here. The dam view was just super! Even though Dams are pure evil they are still nice to look at from time to time, if you are into that sort of thing.
View from dam below and above.
We walked down to fish the reservoir above the dam and I had time to enjoy one of my favorite southern traditions. A can of good ol’ Vanilla Coke by the water. The Vanilla sub-species of Coca-Cola is getting harder and harder to find in the Land of 10,000 Lakes so I bought a 12 pack the second I saw some at the local grocers.
Pristine product placement
We didn’t catch anything here but it was scenic as all get out and Uncle Don had made friends with a couple of old biker dudes at the dam overlook at the top of the dam road nearest the dam bathrooms, dam it. We sauntered back up the dam hill and waved good-bye to the dam and reservoir. Dam.
More scenic depictions of backpack life
Next stop, Bill's Town. *Bill's Town, North Carolina, interestingly enough, was the childhood home of Joey Chestnut, the father of American competitive hot dog eating.*
*(not actual facts)
Hot on the trail of the sicklefin redhorse we prepare for battle on the banks of the river. We found a nice a little boat ramp to set up on for a spell. The river here was mostly shallow but we could see deeper water on the far bank from where we stood. Bill and I casted out and Uncle Don made himself comfortable on a flat concrete slab and enjoyed a nap in the sun. While I was busy making friends with a chubby duck near shore, Billy was crouched down next to his rod. Unbeknownst to me he was getting a bite. This duck had me under it’s spell so it wasn’t until I heard shouting that I was able to break free from the duck’s feathery charm and assist my compadre with whatever he had buttoned onto the other end of his line. I managed to distance myself from the duck long enough to catch a glimpse of Bill’s fish in the water as it rolled on his line. My God…. I could see a flash of red on the tail of this fish...Immediately I could feel the butterflies in my butt, er, I mean stomach. Was Bill about to reel in what I thought he was about to reel in!??! The fish fought hard in the cold water. Bill and I stood waiting to get another glimpse. Uncle Don was hard on the nap in his patch of sun on the boat ramp. As more line was retrieved the fish was inching ever closer to where I stood on the bank, at the ready. What happened next was all a blur. I grabbed the fish, bill let out a triumphant shout of glee. Next thing I knew I was looking at a sickefi------wait…..
I don’t think either of us were ever that ‘un-excited’ to see a river redhorse. It’s just like waiting all week at school to meet your secret admirer. The one who has written you notes all week in class. Leaving them in your locker and tucked into the pages of your books. When you finally get that note that says “meet me in the parking lot after school at 4:15 sharp...” You get so giddy you can’t contain yourself. Palms sweaty, brow moistened, you walk to the parking lot and see a familiar van parked in front. Out steps your mom...she couldn’t be happier to see you. Yes, it was your own mother writing you those notes all week. The same feeling came over us when we met this river redhorse. Yes we love our lovely river redhorse, but we wanted to feel the thrill of the new and the unknown. Instead we got a sloppy, too much lipstick kiss on the forehead by our mothers. Alas, it was a good adrenaline rush for a minute there. Undeterred, we fished for a while longer. I contunited my riveting discussion with my new duck acquaintance. Bill watch his rods more intensely than ever. Poop, we would not catch any more fish here. But we had a good stretch of river revealed to us and we will most assuredly be back. You can bet your opossum we will be back.
Nice. Soon after this picture I got snagged. Twice.
The anglers re-grouped at the car. Made a quick decision to try another stretch of river and took off for Adam's City. Adam's city is a lovely town. Quirky and quaint it reminds me of the little river towns in SE MN. Not dissimilar to Lanesboro or Preston. The folks were nice and the town was clean and bright. Good vibes all around from this area. First, we stopped at a gas station where Billy purchased 2 packs of Newports and a snickers bar for only $9… (those of you with nicotine addictions can attest to how cheap this was). Billy was able to find a park for us to fish in. This jolly little area open to fisherman, was complete with a nice walking path along the river.
Soon after this picture I got snagged again. Twice.
The current at this spot was swifter than the previous spot. Deeper as well. Sanggy also. For me anyways. The moral was high though and we were ready for anything. It took us no time to set up and have lines in the water. The first bite was awarded to Bill. A medium sized rainbow trout was an eager beaver and took the bait within only a few minutes.
This picture reminded me of a cigarette ad. “Newport. Because aww Hell, your fishin!”
Next to show up was this spunky northern hog sucker. Do them call them Dixie Hogsuckers down here? They do now.
Goth chicks rock.
No other fish dudes came out to play this evening so we decided to reel up and head back to Bat Cave to unwind from the day. The following day would be Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving/Litsgiving and we had much to do and even more to eat.
Dusk. Yes I was snagged during the taking of this photo
A neat cricket I saw at night with the longest antennae I’ve ever seen. He must be head honcho with the ladies...
Bill and myself awoke early on the morn of Thanksgive. We had to buy food stuffs at the local grocery emporium. (Ingles) Not another soul did we see on the way into town, except early dog walking person. We arrived ‘at market’ and the smell of hams and baked goods was wafting over us as we walked into the store. We needed the essentials. Pancake mix, syrup (Maple not Tazmanian), the fixins’ to make cheesy hashbrowns, and baked pheasant, and a dish called “Mormon Jello.” Which is a fluffy, pudding like concoction of tapioca pudding mix, orange jello, mandarin oranges and a glut of cool whip. With our sacs full of food stuffs we huddled to the rental whip and tore off back to the house. I had brought pheasant breasts with me that I had had recently harvested in South Dakota during opening weekend of pheasant hunting. These would go great with that big ol’ ham that Chuck’s wife was cooking and the Mormon Jello.
We made our preparations at the house. Mixing bowls were everywhere, foodstuffs were being poked, prodded, whipped, mashed, and peeled. Nothing makes me more hungry for fishing than preparing food. And nothing makes me hungrier for food than preparing for fishing. So, considering we had a long day of eating ahead of us we fingered we might as well fish for most of the afternoon. Why the heck not?! BUT first we would need to burn off all the pancakes and bacon we had for breakfast this morning by scaling a face of Bear Wallow mountain in the “backyard.”
Long story short we made it up the hill Bill, Chuck and I. Your’s truly found out very quickly that his large frame was built for comfort, and not for speed. I felt like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest by the time we arrived at the overlook. I wonder if Jenny Craig is still enrolling through the holidays? The view at the top was worth it though I tell you what!
I tell myself that it was worth it
Several mild cardiac infarctions and many ounces of sweat later we had climbed down the mountain face and were back at the house. TIME TO FISH!...Or perhaps lay on the ground a while and beg God to let me live after that hike... I think Little Feat said it best ‘’I’ve been warped by the rain, driven by the snow, I’m drunk and I’m dirty but don’tcha know, I’m still...Willin’!” So after I picked myself up off the comfortable ground and dusted myself off I was ready and definitely willing to hit the water again.
We were so darn close to Hickory Nut Creek and the Broad river that we dedicated the afternoon to fishin’ ‘round town. Hickory Nut runs through through a few towns as it makes its inevitable journey into Lake Lure. We fingered we would make our way down to the lake and fish as many little spots as we could along the way (only a few miles) Our first stop was at a nice looking hole. The rocks looked wet and slippery and upon my first step towards the river I slipped and stumbled around like a drunken monkey. I was quick to find another route down. Bill was already fishing while I was picking my way down the steep bank. Don stood above the hill and looked on as the slope of this bank was a little steep for his repertoire.
Scenic as heck
The Vikings were playing today so Bill, or as he is known throughout the land “William the Superstitious” had on his Jersey and was listening to the game via FM radio as his superstition requires. Your’s truly could give a rat’s tuckus about football but I really enjoy listening to Paul Allan so I don’t complain.
Bill doing the fishing
We spent a half hour or so here but didn’t catch anything. I’m sure in the springtime this hole is loaded with a whole manner of finned residents but nobody was home when we came knocking. Then, Bill fell into the creek, so we’re off to the next spot.
We found another approach to the river a ways down the road. Pretty spot but again, nobody was home.
Renty McRentAcar (aka the Hormel Fartmobile) chilling next to the creek
Fishin’ ‘round town was proving to be quite unsuccessful. The water may have been too cold perhaps? Or were all the fish over at their kinfolk’s houses eating Thanksgiving day turkeys as well? No matter, off to the next spot which was another short drive down the road.
We fingered we might as well give ol’ Lake Lure a try considering it was a nice day and we hadn’t caught diddly squat yet. So we made our way into the little city park and set up for a spell.
Enjoying the view and NOT being snagged
It was a beauty of a spot to fish in for a spell. We saw a school of fish, perhaps trout, milling about in the shallows but they were uninterested in our offerings as sexy as they were. Once again undeterred, we would keep on keepin’ on and try another side of the lake.
Other side of the lake = bigly sucked. But was purty as heck!
The anglers were getting quite hungry at this time and it was time for feasting and making merry back at the house. Off we went back up the mountain to where our feast was awaiting us. I never ate so much Mormon Jello in all my life. The Ham was succulent. The potatoes were prime. The salad was boss and the pheasant was keen. Very full were we after the gorging. Chuck’s wife made the best homemade caramel apple pie to ever grace my taste buds…stuffed to the gills I still made room for a slice...two slices. Uncle Don was enjoying a post gluttony nap on the couch. We didn’t want to wake up the slumbering Old Man River so we quietly snuck out the front door to head to the Green river for some night fishin’! God I love night fishin.”
Fishing as night is my favorite, did I mention that?. Bill would agree with me as well, that nothing is more exciting than casting out into the that inky blackness of night and waiting for something to creep out of it’s dark hole to find your bait. There is a certain mystique that overwhelms me when night fishing. The whole world slows down and you hear the sounds of the night creatures. The only view of your surroundings is within a thin beam of light put out from your head lamp. The rest of the dark night inveloples you, with its comforting shroud of night-ness. A guy can really let it all hang out at night. Though I would not recommend fishing in the buff at night...a mosquito (or worse) might bite your bird.
Our array at night
Luckily for us it was cool enough after dark that the mosquitoes were a non-factor and we were able to fish comfortably on the bank fully clothed. We did notice the river was substantially lower than when we fished here during the non-nighttime hours. They must have cut the flow from the dam for some reason or a VERY thirsty Sasquatch or Wood Ape family came down to drink after their own feast. The current was almost non existent now so it was a heap of a lot easier to keep our baits holding in the deepest spot of the pool we were fishing in.
It wasn’t long before I noticed a tapping on my rod tip. It started out low and then it started to grow!! I picked up my rod and swept back swiftly. There was weight on my line but not much. The fish was skimming across the surface of the water as I reeled his arse in. I flipped him up onto the bank and it was then that I was staring face to face with another LIFER! The flat bullhead!! What a super cool looking fish, reminds me of the baby flatheads I’ve caught back home on the Croix.
The flat bullhead sure is a purty little critter
I was able to wrangle a couple more of these guys before a late night after hours Brassy
Jumprock came to hand and this neat little minnow was angled tenkara style while I was poking around looking for darters.
The bullheads were being illusive for Bill and I could feel all the Ham and Mormon Jello in my guts making me tired and sluggish. Billy suggested we wander up towards the dam and just have a look see. We were able to work our way upstream and we saw many tasty riffles where darters like to hang out. I was just telling Bill to keep his eyes peeled for darters when he spotted on near shore. Neither of us had our micro hooks handy and we were very fatigued from the days events. So we just enjoyed watching the young fellow chill out in his little spot on the river bed. I regret not fishing for him but it was cool to be an impartial observer for once and not a crazed lunatic micro-fisherman, hunched over, sweating and swearing under my breath whispering voodoo curses and the like. We bid our new darter friend farewell after we watched him a spell and tramped off back to the car. I was excited to hit the hay once we got back. I’m sure Billy was as well. We got back and Uncle Don was right where we left him. Snoring away while visions of swisher sweets danced in his head.
The next day our anglers awoke and once again found themselves in hot pursuit of their begrudgingly frustrating quarry. I finally remembered to pack the Goddamned cooler with the sandwiches this time! Nothing is worse than being balls deep in a lifer journey when suddenly you realize your starving and would easily eat the next small child that crossed your path. Luckily for the small children of North Carolina we had sandwiches at the ready to nosh on today.
The Catawba river was our focus of the day. We scoped out a few dead ends and some odd roads we thought would bring us to fishy haunts until we stumbled upon a nasty little dirt road that led down to a legitimate boat launch! Well as legitimate as a boat launch can be in this rural part of the state. The Catawba river is finally within our sight and what a glorious river she is.
Gorgeous cool blue waters tumbling down rifles to this unbelievable pool just above the boat ramp. Bill and I were frantic to get set up and get lines in the water. Uncle Don was as cool as a cucumber in Yellowknife in the winter time. (shout out MikeB) We made our way, sandwiches and all, down to the water’s edge. Bill and I were feverishly staring into the pool with our *Cool Dude Polarized Shades. Get you a pair for the low low price of $19.99 or in two easy installments of 9.99!*
*(not actual products or prices)
We saw nothing swimming about upon first glance but it did not stop us from fishing here because MY LORD it was stunningly beautiful. It was like being kissed on the eyeballs by the very lips of God himself. Most of North Carolina gave me this sensation but this area was especially pleasing to my balls. Eye balls of course.
Worms at the ready we flung our rigs out into the current and we waited. And we waited. And we waited. Then we waited some more. Nothing was nibbling, gnawing, chomping tasting or even smelling our baits except for some very odd one-two taps that never resulted in any hook ups. Billy and I ate sandwiches while Uncle Don has a lunch of cigars and coffee. After lunch we decided to leave this spot which was bitter sweet. Such a fishy looking area, it was hard not to stay but we had bigger fish to fry so we loaded up and hit the road.
We scoped out another stretch of the Catawba which looked fishy and decided to give her another go. We set up along a sandy bank and set up our array of rods. This spot was the same as the previous. Oddly calm and quiet and no action on the rod tips. It wasn’t until I started inspecting the waters edge did I notice some micro fish swimming about. I scream-whispered (the way your mother would scold you in a public place) at Billy to get out the micro hooks! We fumbled about with the tiny hooks and next thing you know we were both happily photographing our very own Tennessee Shiners!!
TN shiner without his red Bill Dance hat with the “T” on it.
These would be the only fish we caught on the Catawba but we caught a mess of um! We fingered it was time to leave after we caught some micros because it sure was gall danged slow otherwise.
The next day we had a bug in our butt to fish the Green again, maybe even two bugs in our butts. Man I love the Green river! Today it would be the four amigos on the river. Me, Don, Bill and Chuck! We set up our array of rods and got comfortable for our afternoon of fishing. Little did we know it would be a historic afternoon. Bill could do no wrong today as he was catching fish left and right! Smallmouth bass, more jumprocks and getting bites like a mofo. I sat on my fanny and watched all the action. Don and I were sharing a cigar when I saw the rod closest to him get whacked. I hollered at Don to set the hook, and set the damn hook he did! From his sitting position he grabbed the rod with his good arm and gave ‘er HELL. Fighting a fish with one hand is quite difficult if not nearly impossible. I was reeling while Don was expertly working the rod to keep the fish out of the debris near the bank. “Come on you Sucker!!” roared Uncle Don, as we fought the beast in tandem. After some quick shuffling and some excellent swearing we were able to bring the fish to hand and Don had his very own Lifer Brassy Jumprock. Never was there a more excited senior citizen on the river.
Don’s handsome jumprock
Handsome Don’s jumprock
Even Chuck was getting in on the action with a spunky bass who was not as excited to see Chuck as Chuck was to see him.
Charles and Bass, like lamb and tuna fish
Yours truly hadn’t caught diddly shit this afternoon apart from tag teaming with uncle Don on his jumprock. This would change however.
I found myself once again sitting on my tuckus enjoying the river and the smiles on my friends faces as they caught fish...I was quite happy yet trying very hard to resist the urge to tell them to lick a certain part of my anatomy (my butthole for those who were curious) with gumption. I was being indecisive with my casts. I just wasn't feeling the current seem I kept landing on. I remember thinking ‘awww hell I’m just gonna leave her sit, I’m over thinking again’. So again, sitting on my fanny, was watching my rod. It’s times like these when I like to channel my inner Zen master. Becoming one with the river and really letting my tuckus soul-bond with the patch of ground I laid claim to.
The view from my sitting position
It was during this moment of enlightenment that I saw my rod tip bounce, and bounce again, bounce a third time. Holy Moley I was getting a bite. I stood, hiked up my britches and grabbed my rod. I put the screws to whatever was snacking on my worm. CONTACT!! I had something on. It didn’t feel real big or too powerful. Wasn’t fighting like the jumprocks or a bass and that’s when I first saw it. A silvery elongated fish rolled in the current. OH MAN this is something new! The fight didn’t last long and soon I was staring at a real honest to goodness bonafide V-LIP REDHORSE!!
A good lifer is “better” than “sex”.
Oh Joy! OH Rapture!! What a an absolutely thrilling moment to be a rough angler. I had to check my own skivvies this time to see if I had soiled my vestments. Thanks be unto the Lord of Underpants my skivvies were clean! Well, no new skid marks that weren't there before anyway. The Green River coughed up yet another gem and superb lifer. I was on cloud nine and It took me a while to get my line back in. We didn’t catch any more V-lips but we did get a few more spunky jumprocks. One was the subject of a very quaint ground-shot.
After our session on the Green we decided to go scope out another tasty looking spot Billy had found on the map. The guy is the world’s premier navigator. He could get his way out of a corn maze blindfolded with nothing but a broken compass, two ‘cirgrits’, a peice of gum and a butterfly net. He found the coolest road ever that took us down into “The Gorge” This road was the steepest, curviest, scariest, and most exciting road I have ever driven on. The switch backs were ultra sharp and very intense and I’m not talking about camping! (get it? intense - in tents?...maybe that joke is funnier when spoken) Anywho we finally made it to the bottom of this road and my ears must have popped eleventy billion times. Don kept saying “FARRRR OUT” as he is know to do as a man who never truly left 1969. The bottom of the gorge was superbly splendid. Cooler air temperatures greeted us when we stepped out of the car. The smell of the river was overpoweringly decadent. It looked, smelled, and even tasted fishier than hell! Bill and I grabbed our rods and took off lickety split to the water's edge and set up on a sandy bank. Chuck was checking things out upstream and noticed some fish swimming in the riffles above the deep pool Billy and I were setting up in. I affixed a big plump juicer onto my hook and flipped it out into the pool. Bill did the same. I was trying to set up another rig when I looked up and saw my rod doubled over and heading straight into the drink! I grabbed her just as she was about to nose dive into the river and gave the onions to whatever was on the other end. Soon I would enjoy holding a fine looking brown trout.
Some real purty scenery in this neck of the woods.
Squatting depictions of scenic life
Yes, I was snagged.
We were running out of daylight and we were all pretty tired and hungry from the days fishings. So we trod back to the homestead for some night caps, something to nosh on,and a good sleep. Tomorrow would be our last day in NC.
On the way back up from ‘The Gorge’ it is worth mentioning I almost killed three skateboarders who were coming down the switchbacks at a speed to ludicrous to behold. Never have I ever seen anyone moving so fast on such a dangerous vehicle. (except for the time I saw a guy on a motorized bar stool in Sturgis but that is a story for another time) The skateboarders came around a sharp turn at the same time I did and all I could imagine was having to scrape a road pizza out from underneath the rental car… Luckily the skateboarding teens perfmored evasive maneuvers worthy of Tony Hawk and none of us were going to have to fill out police reports or scrape out any road pizzas. *Road pizzas are the technical term for anything living which succumbed to the squishing and running over type forces associated with getting ran over by a vehicle on the road or otherwise.*
Those of you who read my last North Carolina report know that we spent a good chunk of time last trip fishing Lake Julian for Blue Tilapia. Lake Julian is unique because of the power plant that dumps a warm water discharge into the lake making it the perfect habitat for the normally tropical Blue Tilapia. There is one particular spot on the lake where a railroad bridge crosses at a narrow channel. This is where we saw the tilapia last time. Our day today would be spent chasing these critters and their compatriots.
We got our day passes to fish Lake Julian and we took off for the railroad bridge immediately.
As Bill and I stood atop the bridge looking down into the water we couldn’t believe our eyes. A whole goddamn school of tilapia was feeding in the shallows near the bridge. My hands were shaking as I tried to tie up a bobber rig. Stupid size 12 hooks were making my life difficult. I had tied these damn things on a hundred times before but all those tilapia mocking me from below made my hands clammy and useless. I finally got rigged up and put a little crawler nub on and chucked it out to my quarry. My bobber landed right in front of the school. I could almost see one of them stick his fin out of the water and flip me the bird as soon as my bobber hit the water. OKAY MR. Blue Tilapia I guess you want to play rough!! Drift after drift I was getting snubbed. These assholes were eating something microscopic on the bottom. They were feeding like MFing carp suckers those bastards. I could see them turn vertical and peck at the bottom. They didn’t like me. They were furious with me and would scatter when I casted closer to them now that they knew what my end game was.
Bill was having the same problem. We got snubbed for at least 2 hours. Nothing is more infuriating that sight fishing a fish that is giving you a massive middle finger. Almost as infuriating as standing in line at the DMV waiting for them to take a shitty picture of me for my new driver’s license (on which I lied about my weight...and my height...and my eye color.) But that is neither here nor there. These tilapia were making me thirsty. I took a slug of water from my water bottle and I was just about to ask Don to pass me his cigar when I saw a few smaller tilapia finning close to shore. I picked up my rod and sulked down to the waters edge expecting to be snubbed worse than before. I wasn’t wrong. Snubbed again. I was about to give up when I made another cast out to these picky little b-hotches. My bait landed on the opposite side of a boulder from the fish I was intending to cast to. I was just reeling in when I saw a fish dart out from behind the rock and give my crawler nub a look. A look of lust and hunger. I could tell she wanted it and wanted it bad enough to let me make another cast. This next cast was right on the money. I let my work sink to the bottom and I stood ever so still. I stood more still than when I was frightened by a goat at the petting zoo when I was 6. That tilapia, against her better judgement, picked up my crawler nub. I was in such frenzied state I almost forgot what the hell I was doing here. I set the hook gently but firmly. (like asking someone to politely leave your BBQ when they asked for their steak well done) and I hooked this mofo!! I reeled her in with ever so much caution. I remember saying Oh my god about 15 times as I brought her in. I flipped her up onto the bank and she was mine. I let out a roar of victory! Which most likely sounded like the squeal of a 16 year old girl when she got a shiny new VW bug for her birthday. But I had it. I had my Blue Tilapia.
So freakin glorious!
Bill was now more engaged than ever seeing that one could be caught. He stood exactly where I had and tried for his own.
After the pressure was off I was able to take in the beauty of The Lake Julian channel. There is a slight current that moves through the channel and it harbors a whole manner of other finned beasts. Spotted bass, sunfish of many flavors, and a glut of mosquito fish and other micros. None of these fish were even given a double take as they moved thru the channel. We had tilapia fever and the only prescription is a fish in hand and a right-good photo shoot. Billy didn’t get his tilapia... and I think he is still suffering from a mild touch of the tilapia fever to this day. *Symptoms include irritability, saltiness, and a general malaise. Red eyes and swamp ass are two other possibly related symptoms.*
*(not actual facts)
Lake Julian would give us our last fishing session here in North Carolina. We had to head back home today and it really sucked the big one to have to leave. We gathered our things and jetted back to the house in Bat Cave to pack up and say our goodbyes. We had the rental car packed much more efficiently this time around so the ride home would be more spacious for the guy who would be in the back seat sleeping/resting/farting/eating while the other two drove or stayed up to be the ever vigilant co-pilot. Uncle Don is typically in the co-pilot position as he can stay awake for hours and hours on end but cannot (legally) drive. He is famous for pointing out mildly interesting things along the way. He once drew my attention to a gentleman driving a semi who apparently looked suspiciously like gary coleman. I never saw this man but Uncle Don was completely convinced that the aged childhood star was driving a big rig now and was still convinced even after I said “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout Willis” about 100 times.
We stopped at Steak N Shake in Tennessee as is our tradition. Billy only spilled half his shake all over the center council this time so it was an improvement since our last Steak N Shake rendezvous. They have a burger called the “Wisconsin Buttery” which for some reason is hilarious to me. With our bellies full and most of the ice cream mopped up we continued our travels home. The ride home was uneventful and I slept for a solid 10 hours in the back seat while Billy drove thru the night. I took over driving somewhere in Illinois and the rest is history.
All in all it was a spectacular trip with incredible weather, excellent company, and real good fishin. What more can a guy ask for?? Well a guy could ask for a night with a….nope. let's just leave it at that.