(April 9th, 2019)
**Never too late**
By: Keith Cloud
After missing the Mitchell trip for 2018 due to my aching back, I was looking forward to this year’s return to the Mitchell. Once again this year, I thought I may have to miss this one as well. On the Saturday before this trip, I fished the Nantahala and my back (once again) decided to venture toward an area called PAINVILLE. Fortunately I was able to recover and host this year’s trip to the Mitchell. Attendees for this year were Mac Brown, Mel Maurer, Reuben Chandler, Dee Wright and your’ s truly Keith Cloud. We met and departed from Sportsman’s Warehouse at 5am which is customary for this one and it was a fantastic day as we 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 Bob Evans restaurant and after that; it’s about another hour to the banks of the Mitchell and trout country.
Arriving at the Mitchell, a bright brilliant sunshine along with a beautiful Carolina Blue Sky greeted us. The forecast for the day featured a small chance of an afternoon thunderstorm but for the most part, it was a picture postcard type of day. I had the pleasure of meeting Dee Wright who was participating on his first Saluda River Trout Unlimited outing and it was also his first time fly fishing in a mountain stream for cold water trout. I am always encouraged when folks who are new decide to get their start by participating on one of our SRTU outings for its how I got my start many years ago. Dee who at the ripe age of 77 had decided now was the time to use his retirement gift which was a 7 ½ foot St Croix fly rod presented to him 25 years ago. Fast forward to today; this former paramedic had the goal of catching his first trout on a fly rod and it was my job to help him achieve that goal.
The area I decided to start Dee fishing was an area with a bend in the river and little overhead canopy. It was a perfect spot for right handed fishermen and the idea was to assess what his capabilities were when it comes to fly fishing. Plenty of room and little or no overhanging limbs would give Dee an added chance of not catching something other than trout. After a quick lesson and rigging up a purple squirmy wormmie and adding a dropper fly; Dee was now in pursuit of trout and seemed to be doing fine, so I felt comfortable in venturing back to my truck to rig a second fly rod (my own) and eventually get into the action myself.
While at my truck I heard a familiar phrase “I got one; I got one” Dee shouted. Quickly I grabbed my net and sprinted in an effort to net his first trout. Sure enough I was able to net the SNIT (standard nine inch trout) and unhook the fish for a picture perfect photo of Dee and his first fish. The phone comes out and at the same time; the fish jumps out of his hands and safely swims back to his hiding spot in the river. The smile on Dee’s face said it all. He was quite a happy fellow and with that, my Reference Point (the way I chose to remember the trip) had already occurred.
Oh well let’s get that fly back in the water and catch some more as I congratulated Dee after a quick check of his line and inspection of the fly’s. We were into only 10 to 15 minutes of fishing and I thought we were going to have another fantastic Mitchell trip. Later after couple of hours Dee had hooked 3 trout and brought two to the net. In fact, our day had not turned into a day of catching and I was struggling to catch fish as well. Soon I began to wonder how our other attendees were doing and the shore lunch would be the time and place to get reports from our veteran anglers.
The Mitchell is one of those trips where participants are encouraged to pack a shore lunch. It almost never fails that someone forgets to bring their lunch. In fact, I think I’m in the running for first prize on the amount of times I have left my lunch back at Sportsman’s Warehouse or at the Cloud house. This time my ole buddy Mel Maurer had what I like to call lunchheimers and by leaving his lunch he also proved Mrs. Cloud to be spot on in her comment the evening before the trip. She prepared two large sandwiches for me. I informed her that I could eat only one; but she kept on preparing a second sandwich and said “someone always leaves their lunch and the 2nd sandwich will feed that someone.” Once again Bride 1, Keith 0 as Mel enjoyed his freshly made sandwich from courtesy of the Cloud House on the lovely banks of the Mitchell.
The lunchtime fishing report from Reuben, Mac and Mel was not good. In fact, everyone was struggling to catch fish. Mel was the high man with 8, but it was a tough 8. Reuben and Mac had about 5 or 6 to add to the count. Although the river was stocked the previous Tuesday, the fish had dispersed and were not in the pooled water of the Mitchell. Looking back over the year’s we’ve experienced these type of day’s; but it seems like for the most part, we somehow find fish before the trip is over with.
Soon after our lunch ended we were able to speak with someone who witnessed a fellow catch about 15 or so in an area upstream of our little lunch spot. So for the after lunch fishing I decided to venture to that spot with Dee. It would be quite a hike; but upon hearing the fishing report from the fellow angler, I felt the need to go where the trout were. Dee was wearing hip waders made out of a heavy canvas type material and it wasn’t long before we needed to stop on a few occasions to have Dee catch his breath before hopefully catching a trout. We finally arrive to the spot and quickly spent time catching rock trout, tree trout and just about anything that had nothing to do with actually catching a fish. I ventured to the area where a green dock overlooked the river. It was there that the fellow was catching trout. I cast up along the dock and was able to pick up a couple of fish. I had Dee make several cast as well, but it was very clear that the fish wanted nothing of what we had or had dispersed from their previous spot in the river.
Soon it was time to make way to Columbia but before doing that; we always reward ourselves with a bit of ICE CREAM from the Dairy Queen on Exit 93. To sum up the trip; it was a tough day and the Mitchell was not what I anticipated it to be. However one thing about the Mitchell that I can count on is that it is still a beautiful place to fish on a Tuesday while everyone is at work; it’s quite peaceful and like Dee said “it’s a little bit of heaven on earth.”
Keith Cloud (Saluda River Trout Unlimited) Outings Chair