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Friday, June 25, 2010

Trout fishing with Charlie Ray

It is a sport I attempt once or twice a year. The field of competition is a clear, cold mountain stream. The opposition consists of rainbow and brown trout. There is no time limit except darkness. It is a solitary sport...this trout fishing...although I make a point of going with my long time buddy Charlie Ray when I am in Gatlinburg.

I made the arrangement phone call weeks in advance. We would spend a few hours walking "the spot"...casting, hip waders on and accompanied by his blue tick hound "Spotter."

It is good to see Charlie Ray again. I arrive at his cabin/farm around 4 p.m. I bring gifts from Louisville...his wife brings out sweetened iced tea and we sit on the veranda porch for a few moments, talking about the year that has passed since we last saw each other. Retirement seems to be treating both of them well. Charlie Ray has put on a few pounds since I last saw him...good pounds, though...and his craggy face is a dark brown. His wife has a full vegetable garden started...already red tomatoes on the vine and squash and green beans extending from the earth.

We load his pickup truck, Spotter hops in the truck bed and off we go. The drive is short and consists mostly of gravel road. To gain access to the stream, we have to walk about 1/4th of a mile. The first hundred yards or so are thru deep weeds and Spotter leads the way...dashing to and fro and letting all snakes and critters know that we are here. It is a spot that not many besides the locals know about. They keep the first 100 yards or so uncut...after that, the path is well marked and worn. There are wooden rails to help with the descent and climb to and from the creek.

We descend to the creek and spend the next three hours wading, casting, talking and watching Spotter run the banks. My casting is rusty at first but I eventually start hitting the pools and eddys I am aiming for and by the time darkness descends on us...I have caught 4 nice sized browns, a rainbow and numerous smaller trout. Charlie has done well also and since his freezer is full of previous trips..we are catching and releasing today. The time goes quickly...we discuss politics, religion and sports whle we fish. Charlie is a big UT Vols fan...he follows the Lady Vols avidly and might travel to Louisville to see them play the Cards this year. He reminds me that the Vols eliminated the Cards in softball this summer. I remind him that UT football hasn't been the same since Phil Fulmer left. We take a short break after a couple of hours to munch on turkey sandwiches his wife has prepared for us and sip cold water.

The trip back offers a few deer viewable from the road. We arrive, unpack and sip tea before I leave. Charlie is an accomplished mandolin player and he plays several songs as we sit on the porch and watch evening envelope us. I try to follow on guitar...but my playing is very rusty. I leave with the promise of getting together next year...and possibly this fall if I can work out the details. I drive back to the chalet...tired but satisfied with the day's activities. The moon is almost full and the sky bright with stars. It has been a fun and active last several hours.

All are asleep when I reach the chalet...and I spend some time on the porch...reflecting on a perfect afternoon and hearing the chirp of crickets, cicadias and other night creatures of the East Tennessee woods performing a lullabye that will have me sleeping soon. For tonight, there are no worries about bills, deadlines, commitments or issues. It is a good change.

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