Sometimes, things just don't go your way. It happens to everyone and there's often little we can do about it other than try to adjust our plans and our attitudes. Take my friend Hal for example...
Hal was the kind of friend that always had a positive outlook on life. He took each day in stride and if things went haywire, he'd simply adjust his tactics and press on. Hal was into several things when I knew him – kayaking, fly fishing, computer games, and riding his Harley. He was always ready to try something new, and once I heard a tale about Hal that involved skinny dipping with someone other than his better half. (I never talked to Hal about this because I didn't want to embarrass him.) It seems that he may have had a few too many around the campfire one night.
Well anyway, like I was saying - Hal was all about taking everything in stride and one day while we were fishing the Nantahala River and catching almost nothing, Hal decided he'd had enough. I was right there with him because standing in a river hoping for a fish wasn't exactly my idea of a good time either. Hal wanted to go watch people rafting though, and I thought that was a bit odd.
“So, you just go watch them come down the river, then?” I asked.
“...and that's fun, is it? Just watching people who are rafting?”
“Yep. You'll see.”
So, fifteen minutes later there we sat – on a big rock overlooking the biggest drop on the Nantahala. It was a class 2, which isn't much by whitewater standards, but we had a ring side seat to the action and sure enough – it actually was fun. It wasn't fishing, although had we been supplied with a short length of twine and a few chicken wings perhaps it could have been! Rafts everywhere and a cool breeze off the tail-water portion of the river made a muggy late-spring day without fish much easier to enjoy.
The rafters came, and thoughts of fly fishing soon left my head. It seemed they were all in a hurry to get to where we sat. A raft would round the bend, head for the drop (and the hydraulic, a kind of whirlpool hole below the big drop) and tumble over, sometimes spilling out all it's occupants into the water. Girls screaming and men throwing ropes to them and rescuing their canoes. Whole families sometimes fell prey to the carnage of the hydraulic pool and spun around like socks in a washing machine a few times before it let them continue downstream. Some people would make a few quick strokes of their arms and swim out of it – while others were terrified and would be baptized by the whirlpool several times before figuring out they had the power to save themselves. Every time they'd pop back to the surface, everyone around us would yell in unison “ SWIM!” It was more than entertaining and I had to admit that Hal was right.
After all, looking back on it – we weren't really catching anything and another three or four hours of going through the motions wasn't likely to change that – so what was the point of fishing with no hope of catching? This “watching rafters” stuff had literally saved the day despite the fact that it was anything but fishing.
Just goes to show you that if you aren't too stubborn about it, there are situations where giving up on fishing is the best thing you can do. The dog days of summer and the bitter cold of a February day come to mind...or late spring perhaps, when the tubes and rafts are hatching heavily under a bright yellow sun. Be willing to adapt to conditions, even when that means putting away the rod and reel – and you might just save the day in a way you never expected.
Owl Jones is the owner and artist behind “Zazzy Pops” and OwlJones.com. In his free time, he can usually be found stalking wild trout in the GSMNP, or tossing poppers to bass somewhere in Georgia or NC. He is currently working on his first book, entitled “How to rig a 0 wt. For Nymphing.” He hates the beach because it's salty and things there always try to bite or pinch you.