“Angling is a training in mystery,” -Thomas McGuane
Have you ever been somewhere or done something that left you with a feeling of having been changed, a place or event that, after experiencing it, you left feeling like a different person?
The Badlands of South Dakota and the Grand Tetons come to mind for me as those types of places. I left after hiking in the majesty of both of those wide open spaces feeling as though I had undergone some sort of mystical experience.
I had the same feeling last week after my first day of fly fishing Tickanetley Creek in the mountains of North Georgia with my brother-in-law, Michael Van Veckhoven, and our guide, Matt Morrison, from Cohutta Fishing Company.
On the walk back to the truck that afternoon, we relived the events of the day as we each recounted the highlights of our first day on the water and our first trout. “I feel changed,” Michael said as we walked along the field road that bordered the creek. That was it! I was just about to utter the same words as I, too, felt changed — changed, relaxed and at peace.
I started planning a trout fishing trip earlier in the year, and when I found out that Michael also had ‘learning to fly fish’ on his bucket list, we decided that we were well overdue for a brothers road trip.
During the months leading up to the adventure I had read the recommended “must-read” books about fly fishing. These books ranged from how-to manuals to memoirs that spoke to the philosophical and almost, I would say, spiritual aspects of the sport.
I have fished on and off over the years for bass and bream with a fly rod; however, since reading and later watching “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean in the early 90s, I have dreamed of fly fishing for trout in the cold mountain streams and rivers that they call home.
Maclean’s autobiographical work is one of those books that has a philosophical and spiritual feel to it. I realized this to be a common thread through all the works that I read prior to our outing in the pristine mountain waters near Ellijay and Blue Ridge, Georgia.
Other books on the list like David James Duncan’s “The River Why” and Thomas McGuane’s “The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing” aptly and beautifully describe the metamorphosis that occurs when you step into a stream or river to cast a fly.
In McGuane’s words, “The best angling is always a respite from burden.” He goes on to say, “When you get to the water you will be renewed. Leave as much behind as possible.”
I heeded his advice and did just that. I silenced my phone, let the worries of my world drift away and lost myself in the sounds of the current and the rhythm of the casting. (Thanks to G and Tate for holding down the farm and making that “letting go” possible.)
As intently focused as I was on the fishing, I seemed — after stepping into that cold, clear water — to be more in tune to all of my surroundings, not just those under the water. Case in point, the yellow monarch butterfly that fished with me during those two days.
The butterfly (or butterflies) seemed to appear in each new spot that I stopped to fish as soon as our guide Matt left. At one point, I found myself wanting to reach out, let this winged beauty light on my finger and whisper to it like the wizard Gandalf whispered to the moths of Middle Earth in “The Hobbit.”
Now, before you start thinking that I got into some mushrooms on my walk to the stream, let me be clear that while I did not actually whisper to any butterflies, I did feel a close connection to my surroundings as well as to the fish and wildlife that inhabited Tickanetley Creek. I also felt the weight of life’s burdens lifted for a few days.
Ultimately, isn’t that what we all go into nature to experience, a close commune with our surroundings and an escape from the worries of the world? I found both and more in those waters, and in the process I fell in love with fly fishing.
If you would like to experience the mystical world of fly fishing, I highly recommend Cohutta Fishing Company (www.cohuttafishingco.com) in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Our experience catching trophy rainbow trout on Tickanetley Creek was amazing. Until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.
Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at email@example.com.