Watauga River Lodge (Premium Trip) Report
Oct 26th-30th, 2014
ENUF is ENOUGH; I am buying stock in Dr. ENUF
I had been waiting all summer to finally get back to fishing and what better way than to start than with a visit to Watauga River Lodge. Often I am asked why host Premium Trips? The answer is very simple; for it is a time to give back to those whom have always been willing to assist the chapter in our fundraising efforts. Years ago when I was vice-president of the chapter, I invited Brownie Liles of what was then Blue Ridge Anglers down to host a program for the chapter. After the program that Brownie surprised us all with a recommendation to conduct a drawing for a trip to be given away after the presentation that night. Our attendance that evening was close to 40 people and one lucky person out of that 40 won a trip to fish with a mighty fine and generous fellow in Brownie. Quite frankly the donation took us all by surprise and we were even more astonished when he (on the same evening) donated a second trip to assist with our chapter banquet.
A few years later, we spoke about an opportunity regarding a new employer Watauga River Lodge. It was an exciting opportunity for he and his buddy Ollie to start a true and blue fly fishing lodge featuring a master plan to host fishermen desiring a total package in fly fishing. He invited Sherie and I to take a trip to this newly founded operation and with our anniversary of January 22nd fast approaching, Mrs. Cloud asked if we could visit at that time. Certainly was Brownie’s reply and it was on that trip that Sherie was able to take one of her favorite pictures of (yours truly) as I stood on the front porch of the lodge gazing at the beautiful Watauga River located a stone’s throw away.
Our last Premium trip to WRL late June 2009 was a blast as we had 6 attendees catch large numbers of trout and smallmouth bass for the 3 rivers (Watauga, South Holston, and Holston) slam. The fall of 2014 would bring us back to Watauga River Lodge (WRL) and it was with a total of 8 attendees that we would call this place home on what would be another picture perfect week at WRL. My buddies Mel Maurer, John Pressly, Ted Tsolovos, Bob Peterson, Rich Gale, Ted Kalutz and Bob Grimm accepted the challenge of a premium trip and were chomping at the bit for some excellent Tennessee Trout Fishing. The trip featuring four nights’ accommodation, three days of guided fishing, and the famous SRTU family style meals would be a great experience for those who participated.
The lodge is located on the trophy section of the Watauga River and as we arrived on Sunday with desires of fishing, we were brought down by a thing called reality. Although the generation schedule for the river was at zero, the water flow was very swift. Later we were able to find out that water was flowing over the dam due to heavy rains occurring North of the dam. Naturally this was an unusual occurrence and not foreseen and it made for tough fishing on our first day of arrival. Our gang was a bit discouraged and I knew of one thing that would help our feelings so to speak. Seafood Tetrazzini would soon be served and if one does not know by now, your SRTU outings coordinator is serious about the business of eating, especially on our Premium Trips. To sum up our first evening; although the water level was not forecasted, the smiles on the faces can be predicted with 100% accuracy regarding Seafood Tetrazzini.
Monday morning several of the guys snapped pictures of a beautiful young screech owl observing us as we partnered up with the guides for a float down the Watauga. We put in at the dam and sure enough, we could see the water flowing over the spillway. It was a hold onto your hat day. The wind was howling and the lower temps made our morning a bone chiller. Ted Tsolovos and I partnered up with our guide Brown, who was a young go getter and highly recommended by my buddy Brownie Liles. The day would mark a day of first for Ted, for it was his first guided trip and first Premium Trip. As we began our float, Brown reassured us that the area at the boat ramp was a very windy area and that once we rounded the bin, our issues with wind would be over and it would be time to catch trout. We had two rods rigged for fishing, one would feature two nymphs’ and the other would be a dry dropper set up. As our boat drifted, we would cast out and begin mending our lines in various directions with the goal of obtaining the proper drift on our fly’s. Any type of movement on the indicator should result in a lift of the rod with the intent of setting the hook and hopefully bringing Mr. Trout to the net.
As we broke for shore lunch our gang was all smiles as we had all caught fish and had a successful morning so far. Mel and John had the opportunity to fish with Ollie Smith whom is a bundle of energy and never at a loss for words. Ollie is by far one of the most enthusiastic folks and thanks to a product called Dr. Enuf (a highly caffeinated) soft drink, Ollie always has trout on his mind. If he is not talking about the next greatest fly or trout, he is thinking about it, for he loves being on the river and meeting anyone with a passion toward fishing. In fact, he woke at 2 am in the morning to start tying fly’s for the trip. Rich and Ted Kalutz fished with Brad Barnes whom has fished with Watauga River Lodge for five years. Brad’s knowledge of the river is impeccable and this young country boy was able to put Rich and Ted on many fish before our trip was over. The two Bob’s (Bob Peterson and Bob Grimm) would be partnered up with Travis France whom of all the guides has the most experience in numbers of years. Travis is relied upon heavily when the topic of river flow is discussed, for he has floated in all types of conditions and his experience and advice is commonly sought out by others. When our day one had ended, many trout were brought to the nets. As for Ted and I our boat netted close to 40 trout. Even though the after shore lunch fishing was slow and we did not catch any trout of size on this day, we had a blast fishing with Brown and could not wait for what lied ahead for day 2. But as for now, another thing that lay ahead would be a scrumptious Chicken Divan dinner back at the Lodge. With our bellies full, our evening at the Lodge would deliver a possible “Reference Point” for the trip. We all sat around and started a group discussion. I asked folks to introduce themselves and to basically talk about what they desired. As our conversations unfolded, the commonality between us was amazing. I along with everyone else learned a lot about some mighty fine folks. Mel and Bob Grimm, both from Pennsylvania, Bob Peterson and John Pressly (both lawyers) worked on a couple of cases together, Ted Kalutz was a retired pediatrician, Rich retired from professional baseball, Ted Tsolovos and I both have to work for a living.
Day 2 fishing would be a day that brought us all down to reality. The fishing was tough and the Watauga did not pass the excitement test in comparison to the previous day. Ted and I fished with Brownie and our morning began with a few misses on fish before we could actually get into the swing of things. Once at lunch, it was obvious that everyone else was having the same type of luck and baring a miracle it was just going to be a tough day and we would have to take a similar approach to our Sunday arrival. Nothing like a nice meal consisting of homemade stuffed cabbage, orzo pasta, and garlic bread to bring our discouraged group back from the doldrums. As our evening wore down, it was evident that a change of scenery would be necessary. Our gang was ready for a change and the South Holston was the preferred destination for our last day of guided fishing. The opportunity for smallmouth fishing was not in play for the Holston and reports had not indicated a promising time, so I texted Brownie and we choose the South Holston for another day of trout fishing.
Day 3 would consist of a low water float on the South Holston in the rain. On some occasions the guides would have to exit the boats to pull the boats along with crew over rocks. It would be a hard day, but Ollie (who had the heaviest boat and crew) was ready for he had plenty of Dr. Enuf’s on hand for the energy required for a day of boat pulling. For (Ted and I) fishing for the morning was good in part due to Brown’s utilization of the stomach pump. By pumping the stomach Brown was able to determine exactly what trout were feeding upon. Blue Wing olives and white midges were prevalent in the first couple of trout who volunteered to give away dietary information. By the time shore lunch had arrived, our gang of fishermen where having a pretty good day. Our spot for the shore lunch was picturesque and while the lunch was being assembled, John Pressly caught a beautiful brown and Mel followed with a big fat rainbow. Bob Grimm arrived at shore lunch with a big grin and shared a picture or two of some nice 17 inch or greater trout landed earlier in the morning float. The afternoon was like most, the action slowed down and the river flow seemed to slow down with it. By the time we got back to the cabins and said goodbye to our guides, it was time for the final evening meal. This time we utilized the grill located right on the river. Brat’s would be served and other items such as chili, cole slaw, and a bunch of extras. The sound of the river and our conversations to sum up the trip filled the air. Everyone indicated their thanks for the trip and congratulated Sherie and I on a job well done. Not one provided indication that they would not participate again in another Watauga River Lodge trip. For many this was their first trip and also first guided fly fishing trip. The guides and the lodge made our stay worthwhile. As for me I come away from the trip regretting one thing; that I waited five years before a return trip. I still can’t believe I did that, and it will not happen again that’s for sure. These are some mighty fine folks at the WRL, we need to return in 2015 or 2016.
As I look back at the trip I had several candidates for Reference Points. However, I would have to give that distinction to my buddy Ollie and his jittery and convincing endorsement of Dr. Enuf. Each day Ollie distributed a history lesson on Dr. Enuf. He spoke of the year founded (1949) and the fortified vitamins and ingredients in the ole time energy drink. It’s also good for various therapeutic effects, stomach pains, clearing of the mind and curing hangovers he said. In fact, Ollie guided the president of the company. Ollie’s message of Dr. ENUF made a lasting impression on my buddy Ted, for on the way home it was a stop at Walmart to cram 3 cases of Dr. Enuf into the back of my truck for the trip back to Carolina.
SRTU Outings Coordinator
Cost of trip: $1113.00 each
4 night accommodation for 8 fishermen
3 days guided fishing
Tips for Guides
Nantahala River Report for May 16-18thth, 2014
**Now that’s what I am talking about**
Attendees were Ed Walshe, Reuben Chandler, Rich Gale, Ricky Schell, Captain David Sarrat, Mac Brown, Chris Kaminski, Mike Waddell, Lance Gibson, Andy Rye, Fred Johnson and yours truly Keith Cloud. As I look back upon our trip, I can safely say that not all trips are alike. If one looks at our March 2014 trip, they would see that rain and sleet was a part of the trip as we made way to the Nantahala. This time for May, we got to experience the rain and the sleet while actually fishing on the Nan and with that; fun was had by all as we dodged lightning bolts for our Friday fishing.
Friday afternoon fishing on the Nan was excellent for most of our attendees and the menu for the day seemed to be Yellow Stone Fly Nymphs in contrast to our March trip which the feature was Black Stone Fly Nymphs. I was glad to have Fred Johnson as my riding buddy for the trip. As our weekend unfolded, I was taken back to a time when I first met Fred. In an effort to get out into the community, our chapter had a table set up at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Fred and his son Matt stopped by and expressed a desire to learn about this thing called fly fishing and have been fishing ever since. It has been an amazing year for Fred as he retired from the Air Force and moved from Langley Airbase Virginia to Columbia. After serving admirably, he with wife Unae’s blessing decided Columbia was the place to be. Based upon conversation with Fred, there is no doubt that his SRTU experience was a factor in the decision to venture back to the Midland’s of South Carolina. In less that a year, a new house and job with Bartlett Financial has landed him a lot closer to his friends in SRTU. Just think, this fellow used to drive all the way from Hampton VA to participate on our chapter outings, it’s quite an honor to have him back with us and on the river where it all started for Fred.
After a quick drop off and check in to Bryson Patch Cabins, it was off to the Nantahala for a half day of trout chasing. As we began gearing up, Fred asked what was I going to start with. I decided to start with my favorite fly of all time, the now famous Coffey Nymph which was recently purchased at the Fly South Open House the weekend before. The reason for the decision lay in the rain we had ventured thru and the expected storms to arrive as the afternoon proceeded. The buggy looking coffey nymph would be a perfect choice as the river began to rise from the expected rainfall. As we exited the vehicle, the sound of the rushing Nantahala was music to my ears. The plan was to fish fast water by making short and hopefully precise casts. By the end of the day, I was able to lend a hand to 17 trout and help them remember the fly that Mr. Coffey made famous many years ago. Although I would like to remember the 17 trout on this day, I would be remised if I did not mention the two things that got my attention more than anything. Those two things are called lightening and hail. Yes as our day unfolded and on a couple of occasions Fred and I had to make way back to the truck seeking protection from the elements. Prior to the final weather event, I had noticed a flash or two of lightening. I decided to make another cast before venturing back to the confines of my Tundra parked just down river. The cast was under an overhanging rhododendron and the coffey nymph landed on a rock. It was with a twitch of the rod tip that the nymph descended into the water behind the rock. Immediately the line tightened and the trout began a downstream run. With very little drag on the reel, the fish with the current began to take line from my reel and the downstream chase began. Out with my wading staff and a lift of the rod to keep the line tight as pursuit of the brightly colored brown ensued, suddenly a flash of light and an audible crackle was heard. I new what was coming next, the BIG BANG and another flash of bright lightening as I was finally landing the trout. I could literally feel the electricity in the air. With my rod tip high and metal wading staff in the water my hope was that the Lord was not ready for me yet. Hail began to fall and permeate the stream and my recently purchased raingear from Fly South proved to be a worthy purchase and passed the endurance test with flying colors. After releasing the spunky brown I finally got back to the truck, where a nice coating of ice pellets lay upon my back truck bed cover. To sum up, it was a good day for Fred and I, and with nearly 30 trout between us, the Friday evening meal at Anthony’s Italian Restaurant was going to taste mighty good.
The next morning prompted a visit to the Everett Street diner for a knockout breakfast. Three of our trout chasers would seek a little more adventure than most of us for the day. Chris, Ricky and Rich decided to venture into the Great Smoky Mountain Park and fish Noland Creek for native trout. With Chris leading the way, it was obvious these guys were going to have a story to tell at the end of the day. Chris who previously lived in the area has backpacked and fished a lot of the native trout fishery in the Western North Carolina Mountains was eager to show our Charleston crew a few secrets for native trout.
As for our group going to the Nan, it was going to be a beautiful and somewhat cooler day than normal. Fred and I along with Captain David met my mentor Bill Clary at our normal meeting spot called “The Office.” As always, it is good to fish the area where it all began for me. Bill and David worked upstream from the office; they operated as a tag team with one casting a dry fly and the other casting a wet fly as they worked pocket water located upstream from the office. There was NO DOUBT that these guys were going to catch fish. On this day several of our guys would visit “The Office” to catch a glimpse and talk to Bill and seek advice from the fellow who has had a powerful influence on so many of our past and current attendees. Meanwhile Fred and I ventured downstream for a morning of casting; for it was tough fishing and the coffey nymph strategy of the day before failed to produce for yours truly. If I had any good news to report, it would be that Fred had marginal success with the Coffey nymph and was pleased that he had finally caught a trout or two with it.
Saturday evening would be another first for our Nantahala Outing participants. It was back to the log cabin to fire up the grill for some burgers, dogs and marinated grilled portabella mushrooms. Our side items of asparagus salad, corn salad, bowtie pasta salad and homemade coleslaw would add to the menu and be sure to suppress any appetite. The fishing on the Nan had been tough and if it had not been for Captain David, I would not have hit double digits in my day of trout catching. He made me get out of the chair I was holding down (rather nicely) while taking a nap, and forced me to catch two more trout which placed me at 11 for the day. Come to think of it, I did not need that nap anyway.
Finally our back to nature guys arrived. Once back, I discovered that an all day hike for native trout can sure work up an appetite. These guys Chris, Rich and Ricky went thru food with the gusto of a hound dog and in between bites, I was able to view wonderful and beautiful pictures of their adventures. Note: some of those pic’s are already on the SRTU Meetup website. The result of their trip was definitely Reference Point material. Chris was in his element and netted 31 native trout using a size 16 tan caddis with a trailing unweighted pheasant tail soft hackle. Mostly they hit the caddis said Chris. “They wouldn't hit the caddis with just Gink as floatant, he had to use desiccant to make that fly dance on the water. Chris also covered a good amount of water, fishing a single small run with only 5-10 casts before moving on. As for Rich and Ricky, they were able to catch a few trout, but Ricky may remember the day for the jacket he left about 3 miles back in the park and had to hike back (at close to dark) to retrieve.”
As I look back on the trip, I have a lot of candidates for Reference Point material. Friday’s opportunity to become an imitation bacon bit with the lightening strike and hailstorm, Saturday’s native trout report by our 3 Amigo’s was definitely in first place. However Sunday would add the winning candidate. Andy Rye made a decision to follow Mac, Chris, Rich and Ricky to the West Fork of the Pigeon River. Although a TU member for a number of years it is this year he finally began to participate in the outings program. On the previous trip as understudy to the Master of the Nantahala Bill Clary, Andy learned how to read a river instead of a book. Although the fishing was not great on the morning of that March visit, Andy stated that he learned more by not catching fish and listening to Bill that any book could ever deliver.
This time, Mac took him under his wing and the Pigeon was set to deliver a day to remember for Andy.
Later on that day I received a call from Andy, the tone of his voice was one of sheer happiness for he had finally put the pieces together and had a great day. He now knew what folks were talking about when they share experiences about our outings program. He wondered out loud and asked himself, why didn’t I start this sooner? His appreciation of Mac and all others who assisted was evident. A total of 12 fish was the count for Andy and the largest was 17 inches and to top that, nearly all fish were caught with fly’s he had tied. It is this conversation and events that bring a smile to this ole boy and formed my Reference Point (how I choose to remember) the trip. It was an emotional conversation for Andy and his gratitude was genuine. Andy said it best when he said,” I now have a testimony; now that’s what I am talking about.”
Another Great Trip,
SRTU Outings Coordinator
Trip Cost: $81
Accommodations and “Saturday Evening Grill at the Log Cabin”
I also remember this one for my buddy Lance Gibson; it was GREAT having Lance on the trip. A triple by-pass was an earlier set back for Lance, but thanks to God and medical technology, it was great to have him back on the Nan where it all started for Lance.
South Holston Trip (SOHO): Bristol, Tennessee May 2nd-4th, 2014 *Weekend Trip*
Secrets and REAL SECRETS!!!
We now have had two previous SRTU chapter trips to the South Holston also known as (SOHO). As our third trip approached, I was very excited about the opportunity to fish it again and to wade the river this time. Last year’s visit was a washout for wade fishing and for this year earlier fishing reports provided all the indication that our 2014 visit would provide a lot of catching for our attendees. South Holston cabins once again served as our home for the weekend and folks like: Mac Brown, Reuben Chandler, Mel Maurer, Bob Grimm, Bobby Padgett, Hank Sawyer, Vernon Sawyer, Ted Tsolovos, Ed Walshe, and yours truly Keith Cloud all made the trek to the hills and mountains of Tennessee.
A short five minute walk to the river provided us with great access to private fishing on a beautiful stretch of river. As I recall from our June 2012 trip, it was this stretch of water where trout consistently busted the top of the water and were full of two things: activity and fly’s. Now as we fast forward to the same stretch of water for early May of 2014 I had to ask myself where are the trout? The area was nothing like 2012 and with very little current flow; the trout that were in the area were not interested in what we were serving up. To sum up, it was very disappointing for all that journeyed behind the cabins on our Friday arrival.
As part of the South Holston package, our meals were served on site. A good hearty breakfast (eggs, sausage, grits, hash browns, and fruit salad) each morning at the cabins and lunches (chicken salad, ham and turkey subs,) were available for our crew to take with them as they chased trout throughout the day. Evening meal for Friday was wonderful Lasagna (courtesy of The Villa Restaurant) and the SRTU Fully Loaded Antipasto Greek Salad, with scrumptious French bread also was served. Saturday evening meal featured BBQ (pulled pork and wings) provided by East Coast Smoke. Both the Villa and East Coast feature some familiar names in the world of SRTU. The Villa owned by long time chapter member John Scarborough and East Coast is courtesy of former chapter president Luke McCary who in addition to his job as an architect now cooks in competition BBQ contest during his spare time. In fact, it was quite an honor to serve up BBQ from a guy like Luke who won his last competition in Sumter SC. Side items that made an appearance (and later disappearance) with the BBQ were baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw and the SRTU famous homemade Mac- n- Cheese.
As Friday evening drew to a close, Reuben and Ed who fished with guide Blake Boyd provided much needed info to assist in our Saturday escapades. The secret was to fish a soft hackle as a dry and a dropper and to fish the pattern in fast water. For folks who are unfamiliar with soft hackles, they are actually a wet fly and are fished as a dropper behind a lead fly (either dry or wet) most of the time. The fact that these guys had caught fish (with Blake) is not surprising, for Blake is one of the best guides around and knows the river quite well. Meanwhile Bob Grimm who was on his very first outing with us managed to find a perfect ambush point (close to a sandbar)resulting in Tight Lines for my new found friend from North Augusta. His weapons of choice was a combination of a puff daddy (dry fly) and a split case stone fly nymph with a touch of yellow on the top. The split case is a must have on the SOHO.
Early Saturday morning the thought was to forgo breakfast and make way to the river for an early attack with soft hackles and fly’s tied at the cabin on Friday evening. I wonder how many fly’s have been tied at this cabin built in the 1800’s. Eventually (for those who wished), a 9:30 am breakfast would be served. The reason for our change of strategy was due to the scheduled releases of water from the dam located a ½ mile or so from the cabins. Some ventured behind the cabins while others traveled to their favorite spot on the river. As for me, it was to the private water behind the cabins for a morning of casting in slow water. After an hour or so, it was a humbling feeling as I made way to cook up a nice breakfast. Not one single bite and I was reminded of how much I hate fishing slow water. If I had to point out one positive out of the experience it would be that Mac Brown caught his very first trout on his first tied fly (Chammy Fly) and with that, it made a short list of possible Reference Point candidates.
Morning fishing was slow for all and after breakfast it was time for a tour of the SOHO in search of fast water. Mac, Mel, and Bobby took the lead as our trout tour began. Once we located what looked to be the perfect spot, it was out again for another round of casting without success. As for me, it was enough of that and I decided to venture off the South Holston and go to one of my favorites; the Beaverdam River located on the way to the Virginia boarder. Surely I would catch fish there, for it is my kind of river and it features fast water and deep pools with current. Once there, I managed to catch one trout and the SOHO and Beaverdam had indeed put a knot on my noggin and it was time to give up.
Saturday evening would lead to the Reference Point (my way to remember) the trip. Reuben and Ed had lost count on the numbers of fish caught. As the sky grew dark and while eating appetizers prior to our Saturday BBQ feast, Reuben boldly stated that once everyone was at the cabin, he would share the REAL SECRET to catching the trout of the South Holston. Therefore with everyone in attendance, he reached into his pocket and produced two small plastic 2 to 3 ounce containers. Gentlemen these two containers are the secret to keeping the soft hackle fly’s on top of the water, the name of this product is called FLYAGRA. Reuben then began to read the info on the bottle and it was quite entertaining. Fix your fly dysfunction; if this product does not keep your fly up for 4 hours, you are directed to consult your local fly shop. Once the fly is coated with FLYAGRA, it is at that point that the other bottle called fly dust is put to use. The fly’s are then dipped into the dust and cast out to hungry trout. As for me after a weekend like this; I will soon have these products and on my next SOHO trip and the trout will have the opportunity to get acquainted with my new found friend FLYAGRA.
Sunday fishing took many to the Doe River delayed harvest section located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. The thought was that it was on the way home and the fact that our old friend and former chapter member Bob Williams had provided an excellent report on this river added to the intrigue. This time, our SRTU gang of Mac, Mel, Reuben and Ed had a banner day as the wind attempted to blow the trout out of the water. Meanwhile Hank and Vernon Sawyer armed with midges laid claim to the area by the weir dam on the Holston and managed to land close to 20 trout between them. Bob Grim decided to continue fishing the Holston and the results for him on this Sunday was only a few fish to the net.
Sold on FLYAGRA,
SRTU Outings Coordinator
Cost for the trip: $134 per person, which included accommodations (2 night stay) and all meals.
Note: the Walmart is the 3rd exit in Unicoi Tennessee. Note to self: you do not have to exit off three times to get to it. Just take the 3 rd exit.
Mitchell River (April 22nd, 2014) Trip Report:
All Rise; Court is now in session!!!
This year we had a full stream of attendees and our little weekday trip originating a few years ago has turned into a very popular SRTU outing event. As I look to the future, I definitely see the desire for additional day trips and feel the need to at some point provide options for those desires. However there is this little thing called TIME and for someone (like me) who is a working man, I only have a certain number of vacation days to dedicate toward our SRTU outings program. With that being said; I am actively looking with hopes of finding someone to host a trip (like the Mitchell), for it is definitely proving to be a place (SRTU) should visit more than once a year.
This year fine folks like Tony Bebber, Kevin Clary, Rich Gale, Chris Kaminski, Mel Maurer, Stewart Methe, Brice Rizzetta, David Rizzetta and yours truly Keith Cloud all made the EASY trek up I-77 to match wits with the trout of the Mitchell. Once past Charlotte and rush hour traffic our next stop was to take care of our bellies at a Waffle House. After a nice breakfast I asked a very important question to gang of trout chasers. Does everyone have their license? No was the answer from Brice and his wallet with drivers license was hanging out in Chapin SC at their home. Then the thought was ok just call home and ask mom to provide the license number while he used the Smartphone to obtain a North Carolina fishing license with trout stamp. Uh-oh Mom is not home and with that, my heart kind of skipped a beat or two. I urged Tony (who was driving), Mel, Kevin, and Chris to go ahead and venture to the Dobson exit to meet with Rich Gale who would be waiting on them to arrive. Rich who arrived the day before had spent the night in the area and was to meet with us at or close to the 9am hour. As for us; once the NCDNR website was accessed; a solution (which I will never tell) was eventually found to get around the dilemma of the license.
The license process took about 15 minutes and once done; we were on our way to finally get our waders wet (we thought), but as we approached the Dobson exit, it became clear Tony and the crew had not met up with Rich at our designated meet point. Upon arrival; I began to wonder what happened and how could it be that they (leaving minutes before me) were not at the meet point? Once at the station and meeting up with Rich, he provided no indication of seeing our other attendees. Minutes later as we were leaving the parking lot (too finally) get to the river, the rest of the crew now arrives. The reason for the delay is that our cast of characters were so entrenched in conversation that they missed the exit and nearly drove to Virginia. These guys had just met each other and already, they were best friends.
Once at the Mitchell our crew begins to assemble tools of the trade for the battle that lay ahead; vest, waders, wading boots, wading staff, fly rod, reels, fly’s and etc. Pack that Rain Gear in the vest I thought, because for the day our weather conditions were going to excellent but there was 40% chance of storms. I would begin my day with Brice Rizzetta, who at age 17 was about to take his first fly fishing experience. His dad David works at my building with AT&T and accompanied us on this trip. We tied on a MMY2K (Mel Maurer) tied Y2K; for it has been a fly that has a well respected history on the Mitchell. Just upstream from the parking area we worked our way toward a bridge crossing the river. A few trout had busted the top and I had no doubt we were going to get them. An hour later and NO TROUT, it was taking a little time for Brice recognize the nature of fly fishing and what to look for and line management. With so much going on in a short period of time, I am certain his head was spinning. So what if you get a strike on the fly, how do you set the hook and once hooked, how do you get the darn thing into the net? Brice’s venture into the sport was turning out to be a hard learning experience and it was just going to take time for him to figure things out. It is one thing to cast your bran new rod in the yard; but once in the stream, things are a little bit different. Like a true trooper; Brice stayed with it and did not give up. Just as we were about to leave the spot, it happened and the indicator stopped its downward drift in the stream. Brice reacted with a nice lift of the rod and the line tightened up and a nice 10 inch Brook Trout was introduced to Mr. Net. This would be fish number 1 of 6 caught on his first day of fly fishing and the MMY2K continued its assault on the Mitchell and once again made history for a nice young man.
Eventually we made our way downstream. The cloud cover and rumble of thunder was in the area. Stewart had found a nice little spot next to another bridge. The chammy fly would be the fly working for Stewart. He took Brice under his wing and with that; another picture or two from dad (David) recorded the catch. Meanwhile I ventured further downstream with the idea to mentor Kevin and coach him up a bit. The rain was on its way and in a hurry to greet the SRTU gang. No worries from me, I had my raincoat in my vest and was ready for the onslaught of moisture. My (Pacific Coast Rain Gear) purchased from Fly South worked to perfection, as it stayed dry in the back of my pickup truck located about a ½ mile down the road. Yep always prepared; that’s my motto I thought as I took a bath with my clothes on so to speak.
Eventually back to the truck to dry off, regroup, plot strategy and eat lunch. A fellow can get mighty hungry as he chases trout and dodges rain throughout the Yadkin Valley wine country. A quick peak into the truck and once again I was brought down to reality. For in a similar way of Brice’s license dilemma, my lunch was resting comfortably at the Cloud House located at 915 Koon Rd in Irmo, South Carolina. Yep always prepared; that’s my motto, but thanks to some fine fellows, I was able to snack and fend off the hunger monster.
The late afternoon would lead to the Reference Point for the trip. Oh (as one can see) there were plenty of reference point candidates, Brice’s license, the near Virginia border encounter, Brice’s first trout, the lack of raingear, and the absence of lunch. Our little day trip was racking up plenty of memories, but the one that I choose to focus on is the day that (the judge) Mel Maurer had. Mel was in the ZONE so to speak and with his catch of 24 trout; he outwitted the wiley trout of the Mitchell. Trout after trout made way to his net and were happy to pose for a picture or two. His catch of Brooks, Browns and Rainbows represented a tri-fecta of fly fishing. Several trout measuring over 16 inches also took the time to meet with the judge and he has pictures to prove it. On top of that, a big FAT brown trout over 20 inches was actually caught twice by Mel. Anyone who catches the same trout measuring over 20 inches twice on two separate occasions definitely receives the Reference Point for any trip. For Mel, it was the MMY2K, Black Stone Fly and the Chammy that put the Whammy on some very nice trout. To sum up; my good friend Mel has been a fixture on this trip for a number of years and although his missed last year, he once again showed his mastery of the river. Yep, the judge held court and the river was his.
You are being summoned!
For a court date on the stream with SRTU,
Come join us; we would love to have YOU!
Keith Cloud (SRTU Outings Cord)
Wilson Creek (April 7-9th, 2014) Brown Mountain Beach Resort (BMBR)
Two Fly’s in a Pod (Count Chocula and Black Stone)
My trip to the Wilson started with a strange occurrence. It was the site of a Beige convertible Volkswagen pulling into the drive leading to 915 Koon Rd and the Cloud House. It was 7am and my good friend and riding partner for the weekend Ted Tsolovos exited the vehicle with a big smile on his face. Upon seeing this strange site, I wondered if I was dreaming, because Ted never makes the 7 am arrival. In fact, he is a 7:30 type of fellow. On the previous day Ted wanted to cancel for he was not well and did not think he could endure the trip. He (like everyone else) was battling the onset of the allergy season and just felt crappy. As we loaded my Toyota Tundra with all the goodies necessary for our trip Ted stated that the sights and sounds of the Wilson would aid in the healing process. I must also add that another big player serving as motivation for Ted were the nice accommodations of Brown Mountain Beach Resort and the hot tubs located at our soon to be home for the weekend.
Attendees for the trip were: Reuben Chandler, Keith Cloud, Mac Brown, Mike Ehmke, Mel Maurer, Stewart Methe, Bobby Padgett, John Pressly, Ricky Schell, Dermon Sox, Roy Tryon, Ted Tsolovos, Ed Walshe. We could not have asked for a better group of folks, and our host (Brown Mountain Beach Resort) was a perfect place of accommodation for our group. With 5 cabins reserved; our gang had the whole resort to ourselves. It was great to come home after a day of trout catching; for our cabins and their hot tubs made for a good night’s rest. The sounds of the nearby Wilson added to the ambiance as we rested for the evening. We have made this trip now on three occasions and consider the BMBR folks like family; they are committed to making our stay as simple as possible and GLAD to have us.
As part of the Wilson Creek package, our meals were served on site. A good hearty breakfast each morning and lunches were available for our crew to take with them as fished throughout the day. Chicken Salad, Ham, Turkey and Pastrami Subs with plenty of snack items helped take away the hunger during mid day after a morning of catching trout. Evening meals for Friday featured Lasagna and Chicken Alfredo, steamed broccoli and the now famous SRTU style Greek Tossed Salad, Garlic Toasted Bread. For the Saturday evening meal we decided to utilize the nice grilling facility located in the courtyard of the Twelve Gates cabin. This year, we decided to grill brats and hot dogs. Our side items featured Baked Beans, Chili for the dogs and brats, Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, and a nice five bean salad dish.
Friday afternoon after arrival it was off to the stream and the delayed harvest section of the Wilson. The (DH) section is actually about 5 miles upstream from the cabins. The Wilson has lots of opportunity for fishermen of all levels. Plenty of open space and pools for newbie’s and beautiful bends with undercut banks and rapids for more seasoned fishermen. Ted and I concentrated on fishing one of his favorite areas located at a small parking area just upstream from one of the bridges crossing the DH. I located a deep pool and sat and studied the water before deciding on what to tie own. After a few moments the decision had been made, it would be the Count Chocula fly purchased from our good friends at the Chattooga River Fly Shop on our February outing. The first cast was made and immediately a fish had my Winston 5wt rod in the bent position. After a few moments a nice fat Brook trout had been introduced to Mr. Net. It was going to be a good day and I managed to pull about 10 fish out of the pool by fishing the Count Chocula alone. Just downstream from me a couple was fishing; the lady was not having much success and just before I left for my upstream adventure, I invited the couple to come and fish where the fish were. They were very grateful and I hope they were able to have as much fun as I.
Most who know me, know I am not crazy about fishing slow water. I had fished a nice pool and although successful, it was time to get to the quick stuff. So before fishing fast water, I decided to tie on a Black Stone Fly Nymph (size 18) with a touch of orange on its noggin. The Black Stone was a dropper fly to my already hot Count Chocula. Once at the fast water, again another cast and again another fish to meet and greet Mr. Net. Before the day was done, 21 fish would be caught by yours truly and the Wilson was exceeding expectations and I could not wait to see what lay ahead for Saturday.
Despite the fact that it was the first Saturday of April and the hatchery supported section of the Wilson would be open, we trudged our way thru the bait fishermen and poachers who were out to catch all three meals worth of trout in one day. Hopefully the game wardens will be collecting idiot fees from folks who decide to help out the economy by breaking state fishing regulations. It’s sad sometimes that we have to depend on stupid people to help fund budgets for law enforcement.
I started my Saturday at another area with fast water leading to a deep pool. Although completely opposite of my Friday strategy; the tactic worked beautifully. A quick 7 or 8 in the fast water while fishing seams and eventually working my way toward the far reaches of the river on the other side. Eventually I had made it to a small area of the river and a small pool just in front of a rock that was dug slightly into its bank. As I studied the clear water and the slight bend in the stream I noticed a submerged seam in front of the rock. Little did I know that I was actually studying the Reference Point (how I choose to remember) the trip. The rivers current over the years had formed a perfect ambush point for trout to lie (with a little bit of cover) and eagerly await their snacks for the day. The combo of Count Chocula and Black Stone continued to pound the area and some 40 to 50 fish later I began to tire and feel a little lunchy. It was time to visit my truck for a lunchtime snack; but before turning and loosing site of the river, I looked back and it was at that point I discovered I had only fished a less than 100 yard stretch of the river. It was truly amazing that many trout was in that little of water. I love the Wilson.
After my lunchtime snack and re-energized, it was upstream to hang out with and Roy and Dermon. Their day was going pretty good and like me they had just re-charged their batteries so to speak. We were fishing just downstream from a place called Betsy’s store. The fish up in this area seemed to have a little more size and once again I stuck with what was working for there was no need to change. Suddenly I heard a yell from up stream and looked to see what was going on. I could see Dermon was fishing in fast water and knew he had a nice big fish on and by the bend of the rod and look on his face, I could tell it would soon be picture time. I watch this pro of a fisherman land a nice big hook jawed brown which looked to be 20 inches. Dermon provided the camera to me explaining what buttons to push for one of the largest trout he has ever caught. Ready I asked? Dermon’s reply of YES as he grabbed the trout and attempted to lift the trout for what WAS to be a great picture. Noticed I said a THREE letter word; WAS. The trout was able to escape the grip and swim slowly back to its favorite place in the river. It was at this point that I was thinking (just thinking) of a FOUR letter word, but decided to hold back for my friend and retired Lutheran minister. OK; so I will now go ahead and say it. DARN.
Saturday evening the grill was fired up and the fishing reports from our trip participants were nearly as hot as the grill itself. Ted relaxed in the hot tub and took in the beauty of the Twelve Gates cabin patio area. Ed and Ricky had a banner day and Dermon lost count around 50 fish. Reuben and John Pressly had a decent day venturing to find a few out of the way places to fish. Although the fish I caught were not of size, I believe I could be safe saying I had a 60 fish day. Meanwhile some of our other fishermen caught some very nice fish and some even caught the so called tri-fecta of brown, brook and rainbows. One of the highlights for the evening would be Roy’s attempt to become the NOW FAMOUS REFERENCE POINT for the trip. He had a slight cut on his finger and with that he had some blood on his fishing vest. Once he showed this to me, he wanted me to ask how did this happen? Well, I obliged and ask the how did this happen question? Roy then goes into this made up story of attempting to rescue Ted who had fallen in the river. It was a valiant effort by Roy to persuade me to believe his story, but it did not go well. For I have been watching the news lately and have heard a lot of politicians making valiant efforts to get me to believe erroneous stories. Looking back, I guess some folks will do anything to become the Reference Point for the trip. We certainly had a good laugh and I respected Roy for his efforts.
Sunday fishing was a little slower and the action was no where near our Saturday experience. I fished Count Chocula and a midge type of fly. By the end of the day on Saturday there was nothing left of the little Black Stone, it had been destroyed by the shear numbers of fish caught. To sum up for me, probably 20 on the day for Sunday and at 3pm it was time to make way to Columbia with pleasant memories of another great trip with a great group of folks.
Counting Blessings with Count Chocula,
SRTU Outings Cord
Cost of the trip: $158
Two nights accommodations including all meals at cabins located directly on Wilson River. Brown Mountain Beach is a great place; I hope folks will give them a call (828) 758-4257 and experience a wonderful time, just like us.
Nantahala River Report for March 7-9th, 2014
**Heroes to the Rescue**
Attendees were Phil and Ann Smith, Ted Tsolovos, Mike Ehmke, Mel Maurer, Rob Baker, Ed Walshe, Rich Gail, Reuben Chandler, Roy Tryon, Kyle Altman, Andy Rye, and yours truly Keith Cloud. Our trip began like all trips this year 2014; with a cold rain. Although a beautiful weekend was in the forecast, we had to endure a hard rain with a little sleet as we ventured to the snow covered North Carolina Mountains. Arriving at Waynesville, we were on the backside of the cold front and as Forest Gump would say, “a blue clear sky” would be with us for the whole weekend.
Friday afternoon fishing on the Nan was excellent for most of our attendees and the menu for the day seemed to be Black Stone Fly Nymphs. Reuben Chandler was my riding buddy for the trip and as always, it’s great to hang around Reuben for he has a tendency to find a good spot and hunker down on it for most of the day. This time we fished in a newly developed area of the river. The area featured a nice gravel parking area with easy access to the river where a newly created observation deck would allow folks to enjoy the beauty and sounds of the Nantahala. Reuben quickly made a bee line to a prime fishing spot next to the observation deck. As I observed from the truck while gearing up; instantly he caught a fish and my thoughts turned to question will I be able to get him back in the truck if he decides to stay and fish till dark. Eventually I was able to catch up to him and thinking he was slaying the trout, I ask how it was going. Not good was Reuben’s reply, I only caught one. Naturally I could not believe what I was hearing, but it was true. The area was not as good as it looked, but we gave it a little while longer and managed to catch six fish between us. A little frustrated, we left the area for Mike and Ted to figure out. Maybe they would have better luck than us.
Up the river in pursuit of trout, Reuben and I ran into Ed Washe and Rich Gail. They were having a good day and streamers seemed to be working well as they fished deep water pools at one of the bridges crossing the delayed harvest section of the Nan. We decided they were good company and while hanging out with them, we netted a few more fish and eventually decided to move on. Next up on our way upstream we met Mel, Roy and Rob. It was at that point I noticed a strange site. Roy and Rob were looking mighty comfortable in their waders, but my buddy Mel was not in his. In fact, Mel was wearing his fishing pants with his wading boots on. My thoughts turned to a familiar acquaintance named Mr. Gravity. Oh no I thought, not Mr. Gravity. Could it be that Mel has made friends with Mr. Gravity and filled up his waders with the cold water of the Nantahala?
As I asked Mel about his attire and quickly learned of his dilemma. No, it was not a Mr. Gravity thing. Yes, his waders were fine and his (bran new out of the box) wading boots were in excellent condition. Mel’s problem was that his new wading boots were too small and would not fit if worn with waders. He needed a size 13 boot. Oh the fallacies of ordering online, on many occasions’ great deals are found and on some occasions; well you guessed it, there is a price to pay.
As our Friday was ending and the sun began to sneak down the mountain, Reuben eventually found the spot he was looking for. As I fished downstream from Reuben; I began to pick up a few fish, but every time I looked up toward Reuben, the rod was bent in a likeable manner and a big GRIN was looking back at me. Our day was ending on a grand note and before it was over, I had finished with 10 and Reuben had netted 17 fish in this one little spot.
Friday evening I made the call home to talk to the (in charge) person of the house. Mrs. Cloud was interested to hear of the results of the day. I informed her of our catching experiences and also explained Mel’s situation to her. After the conversation ended, a few short minutes later she called back. I’ve got it she said, the answer to the problem is to call Bill Clary and ask him if he has a size 13 boot. He can bring it on Saturday morning and Mel can fish without missing a beat. Therefore with a directive from Mrs. Cloud, I called Bill and asked if he had a size 13 boot? As a matter of fact; I do said Bill and in fact, it is an extra pair that I was trying out for wintertime wading and I’ll be happy to bring them in the morning. It was with that answer and the circumstances leading to the question that this event will be known as my Reference Point (how I choose to remember) the trip. I broke the news to Mel and upon doing so; it reminded me of the 2013 Nantahala trip. Back then it was (Smartphone to the Rescue) for Mel and this year; it was Sherie Cloud and Bill Clary to the rescue. I guess some folks will do anything to become the Reference Point for the trip.
Saturday morning it was off to the Everett Street diner for a nice breakfast before a full day on the Nantahala. The day was going to be a picture post card day, with a high Carolina blue sky. I knew where Reuben wanted to go to start the day; it would be back to his catching spot from the day before. In conversation the night before, Andy Rye indicated he would welcome the tutelage of the one and only Bill Clary who is my mentor and master of the Nantahala. We met Bill at the area called The Office, which is where Bill has mentored folks for many years. As usual, Bill met us with a smile on his face and a warm hug as a greeting. He presented Mel with some much needed wading boots and took Andy under his wing for a little fly fishing 101. As for me, I started a little downstream of the office and by lunchtime; I had caught only two fish. Surely I was having a bad day and knew that everyone else would be having a banner day. Hopefully at the shore lunch I could get some tips from some of our trout catchers.
As I fired up the stove for the “NOW FAMOUS SHORE LUNCH” folks began to follow their nose and venture to the newly created parking area on the river. As our attendees arrived, the fishing reports were bad at best. It was not the type of day I had envisioned. In fact, Reuben had only caught 4 fish with only 2 coming out of the area where success had been the day before. Mel (who now is in full fishing attire) and Kyle were the only folks that were having a banner day with 9 fish each. The day was still ahead and Bill urged us not to be afraid to throw the dry.
Action for the afternoon did increase; we began to pick up a few on the dry fly. I had the opportunity to finish out my day with the person whom I began trout fishing with several years ago. It was truly a blessing to get to fish with Bill, for usually he is tutoring one of our many attendees for the trip. But for this afternoon, he was without a student. As we ventured upstream from “The Office”, Bill and I fished the pocket water the Nantahala is famous for and when the day was over, we had delivered a knock out to the fish. We were able to land many trout with March Browns, Parachute Adams and Quill Gordons, for the dry fly action did indeed pick up.
On Sunday, we arrived at the Tuckaseegee for what we thought would be a banner way to end the trip. A check of the flow early Sunday morning revealed we should be able to fish without any problems. As I arrived to the river, I noticed a sad site for it was the site of fishermen standing by their vehicles and not in the water. During the drive over from Bryson City, the release of water had begun. The river was not going to be wadable. Therefore it was off to the West Fork of the Pigeon River for an afternoon of frustration. We did not have a good day and no one really set the woods on fire (so to speak).
To sum up the trip we had a grand time, it was truly an honor of fishing and fellowship with our attendees. I have high hopes of even better fishing with our May 2014 return back to the Nantahala. It was great to have two new attendees on this trip in Andy Rye and Rich Gail. Great folks whom I hope to see on future outings. Also a big thanks to all those who made our newest attendee’s feel welcomed. Once again a big shout out to our friends at Bryson Patch Cabins, they are always willing to work with me and our chapter in our travel plans. As the vacation season approaches, I encourage folks to give Bryson Patch Cabins a call if traveling to the Bryson City area.
Surrounded by Heroes and loving it,
SRTU Outings Coordinator
Trip Cost: $73 with Accommodations and “The Now Famous Shore Lunch”
Chattooga Trip Report February 7-9th 2014
*Lick Log creek; it’s just left down the road*
Wintertime fishing on the Chattooga can be a daunting task. It seems as though weather is always a factor and water levels always have to be taken into account. Too much water results in unsafe wading conditions and too much ice can make for unsafe transportation and a risk to all. This time, we once again timed this one right and the end result was a wonderful time by all. Speaking of all; our attendees for this trip were: Mike Ehmke, Owen Forsman, Fred Johnson, Roy Tryon, Mac Brown, Reuben Chandler, Keith Cloud, Mel Maurer, Mike Waddell, John Pressly and Kyle Altman.
As with any Chattooga trip, we must make a quick and informative stop at the Chattooga River Fly Shop. A visit with Karl and Karen Ekberg is a must for anyone desiring the latest and greatest on the river and those still hot Carolina Peach and Count Chocula fly’s. I encourage folks to visit the shop and sign up for Karl’s updated fishing reports on streams in the area.
Our weekend residence was the barracks at Oconee State Park. Many of us ventured to the Hwy 28 Bridge to fish the delayed harvest section of the river after a drop off of goodies. Reuben and John booked an afternoon trip with Karl to fish on the Chattooga. For this trip, my riding and fishing buddy was Owen Forsman. It is always fun to fish with Owen; he is one of our younger bucks in the chapter and an avid fly tyer and excellent fisherman. As we crossed the river, and began our trek down the path on the Georgia side, we came to a spot named Curtis’s Log; it’s aptly named after Curtis Carter whom christened this log. The log lays above the path at about the 4 foot mark in altitude. If one is walking down the path and they do not duck their noggin below the 4 foot level, it is at that point an immediate impact is made and one could be like my friend Curtis and be found lying (flat on the path) with (well) you guessed it; a knot on their head.
As fate would have it; just after explaining this event to Owen, I had the opportunity to develop my first battle scar of the trip. Yes, the ole knot on the head had occurred. Although not on Curtis’s log, it was just past it. Apparently another much smaller tree had fallen and although Owen missed it, I did not. In hindsight I am glad to have found my own little spot on the path and managed to avoid Curtis’s namesake. If I would have damaged Curtis’s log, I would feel guilty and probably never be able to get over it.
After regaining my wits, we (Owen and I) made way to the river for what started out as a slow day of fishing at the area where Reed Creek meets the Chattooga. Finally Owen was able to pick up a quick 3 on a red midge used as a dropper behind a hares ear. Just as he began to pick up fish, I was able to start receiving activity on the Carolina Peach which is very similar to a standard wooly bugger fly and when the day ended, Owen and I had pick up close to twenty fish. It was indeed a great start for the weekend.
As we returned to the barracks our bellies looked forward to the meal consisting of Baked Ziti, Green Beans, Garlic Bread, and a wonderful Greek Salad. Our fishing reports from the day were not what I had expected. The belief was that if we (Owen and I) had a good day, the odds were that others were also reaping the benefits of an excellent day of fishing. However as fate would have it, the trout were kind to us, but not so kind to Mac, Mel, Roy and Mike Ehmke. Although a few trout were caught, it was a slow day for these fellow trout catchers. Reuben and John had fished with Karl and the result was much of the same. Looking back, Owen and I had the hot hand for the day.
Like all mornings, the smell of coffee permeates the barracks as our sleepy heads began to wake up. On this morning, some folks were more awake than others. Mac poured a freshly brewed cup and for creamer, decided to use the buttermilk that Reuben uses for his famous homemade biscuits. Of course once the discovery of buttermilk in the coffee was made, there was another item that permeated the barracks. It was this thing called laughter and if anyone was not awake; they were awake now.
Soon after a good hearty breakfast and more freshly brewed coffee (without buttermilk) our participants began the day. Mike and John hired Karl for a (full day) guide trip on the Chattooga. Meanwhile for the rest, it was off like a heard of turtles to begin the day. The SRTU gang had decided to venture to different areas of the river. The strategy was simple, the Chattooga is a large river and we decided we would attempt to cover it all. Some made way to the 28 bridge; others made way to Burrell’s Ford while a few others decided to try the area where Lick Log Creek runs into the river. Earlier Kyle had spoken about Lick Log Creek and the remoteness of this picturesque portion of the river. Oh, it is very close to the barracks and as we leave the park just turn left and the first right will lead toward Lick Log. Once at Lick Log, it is a small lot with room for about 8 vehicles to park. Owen and I followed Kyle’s direction and we quickly figured out we were not going to locate Lick Log very quickly. In fact, we may not find it at all. After attempting to turn down every road south of the park, we finally (after nearly and hour) saw the first sign for Lick Log. As we turned down a little road that looked as though it was going to take us off the mountain, we began to see some of the spots Kyle had addressed in describing the place to us. Eventually while driving, I needed to get rid of some of the coffee from earlier in the morning. I pulled over (in the middle of nowhere) and sure enough (in midstream) so to speak, it looked as thought the morning rush hour was on. About 6 vehicles whizzed by and now I was last in our little traffic jam. Once to the parking lot you guessed it; all the spots were taken and with that I was not a happy fisherman for there was nowhere to park. An hour wasted so I thought. Finally one of the vehicles (Ford Excursion) began to turn around and with all the drivers of the recently parked cars inside, he indicated I could park in his spot. The passengers were just hiking for the day and were being ferried back to their starting point. Finally Owen and I had caught a break and our fishing day could begin.
We hiked the trail down by Lick Log Falls (about a mile) making way to the Chattooga. The sight and sound of the rushing water created excitement, for we were ready to get in the water and catch a trout. Just downstream from where Lick Log creek flows into the river was the place to start; Kyle had indicated this was a good run and urged us not to pass it up. As we began to venture into the river thankful all the folks in the parking area were not fishermen, there sat two fishermen in the area we were told not to pass up. What are the odds of this, I thought? Of all the places on this river, after all the dang searching for Lick Log creek; a traffic jam with no where to park, there sat two fishermen in the one spot we wanted to fish. To top it all; one of the fishermen had a fish on at the time. A closer look at the characters reveled their true identity, yep it was Mike Ehmke and Kyle Altman and with that; the events of Lick Log Creek became the (Now Famous) Reference Point for our 2014 Chattooga Outing.
Owen and I decided to fish a little upstream from our (miss directional) friends and on the first cast, Owen caught a pretty rainbow. As I looked downstream Kyle was having great success in the run he previously described, for he was fishing a hare’s ear and before the day was done, the hare’s ear was almost destroyed. All kidding aside, it was great to see him fish and really work the run below Lick Log. . As for my day, I stuck with the Carolina Peach and finally began to feel the rod bend and caught a picture perfect brown on a Count Chocula as the day proceeded. After Kyle and Mike ventured on, Owen and I checked out the river downstream and ended up having a decent day as we fished as hard as we could to make up for lost time on our morning adventure.
Saturday evening dinner featured homemade Salisbury steak and homemade mashed potatoes with steamed broccoli and French bread. It was great to have special guest for the evening in Karl and Karen Ekberg of the Chattooga River Fly Shop. Karl had guided our guys for the past two days and as a result of our trip; the chapter benefits. CRFS donated a nice box of Chattooga Fly’s to give away at a future opportunity (like our June giveaway) at Saluda Shoals Park. Fishing reports for the day were mixed and the end result was that the SRTU guys did OK.
Sunday fishing took Owen and I to Burrells Ford and with that, we had covered a good bit of the river for the weekend. The Ford was a little tough and actually performed like a YUGO. The Carolina peach was not peachy and I spent most of the time working on my casting skills and tying on different fly’s. Owen pretty much achieved the same results. Later our trip would serve up another Reference Point. For it was on the way home Owen discovered he was now officially a Doctor, he had passed the exams and test required to obtain his license to practice physical therapy. This young fellow from Washington State who ventured to a place he had never been (South Carolina) was indeed a happy fellow and it was an honor to be the first person to address him as Dr. Forsman. Congrats also to wife Barnabi for her support of Owen’s efforts over the years.
Think I will celebrate the occasion with a nice cup of buttermilk coffee.
SRTU Outings Coordinator
Cost of the trip: $75 per person
2014 Blackhawk (Premium Trip) Jan 10th-12th, 2014:
*Endeavor to Persevere*
Another Blackhawk (Premium Trip) was booked and at capacity as we began our quest for big fish. For those who do not know, a premium trip is a trip including some of the following additional fees, such as guides, fishing rights, rod fees, travel fees, accommodations, and prepared meals. It is on occasion that I am asked why a premium trip? It has always been my belief that we (as a chapter) always make attempts to reward the many fine folks who support us in our fundraising adventures. Quite simply, it is good business and represents our time for giving back to others who help us. For this trip, we acquired two guides (Andy Brackett and Marty Waschak) and split the cost evenly between all fishing participants. As always on our first day we allow those who are new to the river to start with guided fishing and throughout the weekend we alternate guides and swap fishing locations between the upper and lower end of the river.
Attendees for this trip were Reuben Chandler, Mel Maurer, Chas Murphy, Mac Brown, Mike Ehmke, Ed Walshe, Phil and Ann Smith along with yours truly Keith Cloud. As usual Mrs. Cloud did her normal thing by preparing wonderful meals for our trip participants and guest. Our first evening meal (which has become a tradition) featured Chicken Divan, Green Beans, Saffron Rice, a wonderful Greek Salad, and Garlic Bread, followed by Blueberry and Apple Pie for desert. Sherie likes to say “if Chas is on the trip, then it’s time for chicken divan.” So in this case a big shout to Chas because the chicken divan was excellent. Lunches for the weekend were Ham, Turkey and Pastrami for sandwiches, along with Chicken Salad. Saturday evening meal featured BBQ Brisket, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, Hash Brown Casserole, and Pies for desert. We also had a very hearty breakfast featuring eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fruit salad, and Reuben’s homemade biscuits with Smuckers Red Plum Jelly. It’s a must for Reuben’s biscuits.
As we venture onto the fishing, our weekend was going to be remembered as a battle of the elements. Right on Q, the rain (heavy at times) began while loading my truck for the 7:30 am departure time. In fact; I had to change clothes before leaving the house for indeed, I was a walking sponge. Sponge Keith Trout Britches would be an appropriate connotation for this event.
As we arrived at Blackhawk, Andy and Marty were anxious to get us in the water and the process began on rigging for the day. Our 6 weight rods were going to get a workout for the weekend and fishing with 2X and 3X mono leaders with 2X and 3X floro tippet would make up our reel combination. With the water level up, the Soque was a coffee color and flowing at a good pace. It was not a day to wade out and explore the river. Hang close to the bank and make good use of the ole wading staff, because safety was going to be very important on this day. Our guides recommended big dark wooly’s with hares ears and pheasant tail nymphs as droppers. I was pleased to be paired with frequent Blackhawk attendees Chas Murphy, Reuben Chandler and newcomer Mike Ehmke as we fished with Marty our guide and chief. With this being Mike’s first visit to Blackhawk he quickly began to experience what we had all been talking about for years. Get ready for the pull and let um run is commonality on the Soque. Finally Mike was experiencing a wonderful opportunity and it was quite pleasing to see the smile on his face as we snapped a few pic’s of our day on the river. He was definitely experiencing the so called Kodak moment. As for me, I managed to land 12 rainbows with only 2 under 20 inches as we fished the lower end of the river. Obviously I was tickled with the results of my first day.
A hard rain fell on our Friday night and as we gathered for supper we all knew the weather forecast would not be in our favor. Severe storms were a 100% possibility and immanent. I still had one fisherman who had not made it to the lodge and it would be the events leading up to Ed’s arrival that make this my Reference Point for the trip. Ed Walshe a first time visitor to Blackhawk was driving up from Orlando, Florida and would not make it until late Friday evening. I was worried about Ed, and as the evening progressed he had not made it to base camp. Driving around in the mountains with the nasty conditions while trying to make it to a place you have never been was going to be a tough accomplishment. Oh and no cell service on top of all that. Fact is Blackhawk fly fishing lodge is not a place to venture to if it is dark, rainy, and terrible conditions exist. It sits off the road a bit and is very easy to miss.
I decided to park my (Toyota Tundra) truck as close to the road as possible. Maybe it would serve as a visual indicator for Ed to spot. As Friday night began to turn toward Saturday I ventured toward the road and decided to sit in my truck and look for Ed. Finally around 11 pm a set of lights were shinning into the cab of my truck. With the rain pouring down I notice a figure and a white vehicle. I recognized Ed and noticed the vehicle backing back into the road. Ed, your car is going down the mountain without you in it I said. He said, “Its ok I caught a ride.” Naturally I was confused and with that Ed indicated that he pulled over (to check his phone and GPS) about a mile from the entrance and upon doing so his white Suburban became stuck in the muck and mud on this monsoon of a rainy night in Georgia. God was looking out for Ed, because on a lightly traveled road in the middle of the night he provided a Good Samaritan. The fellow stopped to assist and asked Ed where he was going. Blackhawk was the destination and the fellow, said I can get you there with no problem, you were almost there.
The important thing was that our lone lost fisherman was finally at base camp. Now was time to venture to the suburban and retrieve gear and see what we were up against regarding retrieval of the vehicle. Upon inspection it was an easy decision, get the gear and the next day would hopefully be a time to extricate the Chevy. Once the truck was loaded it was back to the lodge for a cold beer and a heat up of supper at 11:30 pm for Ed.
What an eventful evening I thought as I relaxed with the knowledge that all participants were at the lodge. It was at that time I had a sinking feeling enter my mind. Where is my cell phone? I asked myself. Uh Oh, I can’t locate it. Therefore with the rain continually pouring I ventured outside the lodge to where my truck was parked while trying to give a visual indication to Ed. A shine of the light revealed my cell phone lying face down on the edge of the road. Oh boy, I have really lucked up on this one, I thought. Oh but only if I could have been so fortunate because my cellphone was severely damaged. In the meet up with Ed, the phone had fallen out of my pocket and as I drove down the mountain, the Toyota Tundra smashed the phone while leaving the parking area in front of Blackhawk. After arrival back to Columbia the end result of the phone issue registered as a $160 mistake on my part. It was indeed a big OUCH.
As Reuben’s biscuits began to wake some sleepy heads Saturday morning we awoke to more rain and flood conditions. Our guides arrived and the decision was made to attempt to fish before a major storm with possible tornado’s and severe lightening. It would mean forgoing breakfast, for we at best had maybe two hours before the major storms would hit and it would possibly be the only time we could fish for the day. Our time was really shorter than anticipated. Gearing up for our crowd takes a little time and with my bad back; gearing up isn’t as fast as it used to be.
With Marty, it was to the upper end of the river in an attempt to catch one before the storm. As usual it was no sooner as we ventured into the water that the crack of lightning and white light was prevalent. Time to go Marty said and as we made our way in the driving rain with our lightning detectors (fly rods) as close to the ground as possible, we knew our fishing was done and that the elements had won this round. Hopefully the trout will not drown in all that water, I thought.
Back to the cabin for our day and it was going to be a day. Breakfast was served and our laying around time was beginning. We passed the time with a little fly tying courtesy of Marty and Ed and thanks to those guys several of us added to our fly box collection. Later during the day Andy presented a nice program on his recent one month hike in the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain. The mountains form the boarder between France and Spain and the scenery via Andy’s excellent photography was impeccable. It was an excellent program and very interesting to hear the history of that part of the world.
Finally the front had passed for this Saturday afternoon and we would have a couple of hours to venture back down to the Soque. Many of us thought with all that water, we would not be able to fish. We gave it our best shot and we did not give up without a fight. A few trout were landed; but with a great forecast ahead for Sunday, Andy and Marty assured us that there would be some HUNGRY trout eager to get their pictures taken the next day. That is if they had not all drowned or washed downstream in all that water.
Sunday did not disappoint as most of us concentrated on the upper end of the river. Andy and his crew (Ed, Mac, Mel and Reuben) had discovered the hot fly to be a prince nymph. He hurriedly shared the message with Marty, but Marty told Andy that he had not had success with the princes and he would not be following Andy’s advice. Andy sat around for a few moments watching us (Chas, Mike and I) not catch anything. He and Marty bickered about different use of fly’s. Eventually Andy left and immediately once gone, Marty called us over and began tying prince nymphs onto our lines and with that, the catching began. The big boys came out to play and as for me, several hook ups and a couple of fights with the fighting 25’s lead to a smile or two as I made the best of my 2014 trip to Blackhawk. As our day finished and naturally sworn to secrecy no fish were caught on the prince and per Marty, we never ever considered fishing with it.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it,
Great times with Great Folks,
SRTU Outings Coordinator
Blackhawk and the Soque River is 181 miles from Columbia; it is small, easily accessible, wades easy and a joy to fish. Blackhawk features great guides and its owners John and Abby Jackson have always been loyal supporters of SRTU. With a visit to Blackhawk; you will experience the very best from dedicated folks who desire to make your trip all of what YOU want it to be. When you go, please mention SRTU and thank them for their loyalty.