I have been fly fishing pretty passionately for about fifteen years up here in New England. I say “passionately” because while I have been at it for far longer reaching back to the late 70’s on Little Sewickley Creek downriver from Pittsburgh, it started to mean something to me somewhere just after 2005 when one of my closest friends introduced me to the Greater Moosehead Lake area just a little above Greenville, ME. I don’t mean to be secretive but I can’t just blab openly about my haunts but if you have a minute to explore www.bluelinesflyfishng.com, it will take you almost no time to discover for yourself the pools, runs, riffles and landscapes that have worked to shape my past 15 years.
Can you imagine, then, our loss that comes with the close of the fly fishing season every year? We are spread out a little across New England making casual dinners impractical so we have relied heavily on fly fishing adventures to guide us into each other’s company when winter (and spring… It’s New England, they’re kind of the same) permits. Our “home” rivers begin closing down on September 30th every fall to rest the water and to protect the beds (Redds) in anticipation of Landlocked Salmon and Brook Trout spawning. Other “local” favorites close down at various times during October with the last to close, the East Outlet, sealing the season on the 31st. Fortunately, the upper mile of the East Outlet does stay open year-round but would YOU be eager to stand in a river in north central Maine into winter? Actually, yes.
We have made a tradition of that these past several years but it is a commitment and not for the faint-of-heart or anyone without an internal furnace to keep them warm.
So, what then?
The Romantic aspects of these spaces speak for themselves and the peace I feel while on the edge of a forest surveying an isolated but far from lonely expanse of open water (ever read The Deerslayer? Think of the Glimmerglass) or the giggle of a trickle or the overused and well-described, or as James Fenimore Cooper again put it, “[the] extolled by a thousand poets,” babbling brook to the enrapturing robust symphony of sound of the East Outlet of the Kennebec River from first-light to last is only enhanced – and that’s too weak a sentiment – but feels almost empty without sharing it with those closest to me. I could have a life-moment with my wife out on the water at 3:30 am but the black flies and mosquitoes are not for her. However, I am fortunate enough to have had a few chums by my side for just over 30 years who share their own version of this passion and awareness so every opportunity to share a moment with them is priceless. I think that we all have begun to understand Thoreau when he said, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” We have had a lot of those wilderness-moments over the years but I am greedy for more.
As it turns out, I grew up in Georgia and my parents are semi-retired nearby and had long heard about a couple of rivers in the Western North Carolina mountains that held trout from time to time. I assure you, very few other New Englanders had heard much about the fly fishing in NC so I had to do some digging on my own but I quickly discovered – you know what, it wasn’t that quick because the information was a little scattered – that an entire world opens down there just as things are closing up here and then closes down there just as the ice is melting on Moosehead. So, with a little prodding, I was able to convince my emotional support to join me in the greater Brevard, NC area for a very long weekend in mid-March just as the bitterness towards the persistent Winter was hitting its crescendo. Little did we know just how timely our first trip was to be.
As Will(iam) Wordsworth described in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, “Several of my Friends are anxious for the success of these Poems (or in this case, fly fishing,) from a belief, that, if the views with which they were composed were indeed realized, a class of Poetry (or WNC Fly Fishing) would be produced, well adapted to interest mankind permanently”. Or at least interest the avid Angler permanently.
But, whom to call?
Cynthia Harkness of Fearless Flyfishing, obviously...
No need to go into those details here but suffice it to say, after several incredible March trips down south with my friends, my new dream for my fantastical lottery winnings (I have yet to play the Lottery) was to lure New Englanders to my newly purchased / established dedicated destination Fly Fishing Lodge just off the Blue Ridge. Not just any mountain Lodge, but one modeled after a Relais & Chateaux guest ranch where I once worked in Colorado, the Lake Placid Lodge in the Adirondacks that I have read about, a Catskills farmhouse where I have visited and any number of Maine Sportsman Lodges that I have coveted. Though, as I mentioned, no Lottery, no Lodge.
Unless, however, a team of successful restauranteurs transform and revitalize an historic Inn, building upon their triumphs with the Wilcox in Aiken, SC and reintroduce the Greystone Inn on the shores of Lake Toxaway to those New Englanders eager extend the fly fishing season in the fall, get a jump on spring or just escape the winter for found time on the water in the comparatively mild WNC winter. Well, that happened. But how to tell the provincial New Englander – it’s ok, guys, I’ve lived there for over thirty years and we are – that there is a full six-month undiscovered fly fishing season waiting just a couple of hours away by plane or fifteen hours by minivan – my preferred mode of travel.