As I sat looking out a window at the tapestry of fall colors blanketing the surrounding mountains, I reflected on the events of the day. My image of the locals had been confirmed in a small, ancient general store where we met a couple of gentlemen dressed in bib coveralls, loggers boots, and sporting long hair and beards. But, they didn’t spit tobacco juice on our shoes and neither had a blue tick coon hound at his feet. And, they were downright friendly. Then, in my first day of fishing I was skunked by two older locals catching trout using cheap fishing rods and a can of night crawlers, while I was dressed in the latest, expensive trout fishing fashion and armed with the, supposedly, best flies. To add insult to injury, I chucked a rock at a duck swimming and preening in what looked like a perfect haven for trout and spooked every fish into not feeding for the next month.

Now, fishless and despondent, attempts were being made to coax me into dressing appropriately to attend a play that evening in Abbington, Va. How could I be expected to go from cussing a duck to being refined in the same day? Finally, after an agreement was reached to allow me to take a book on trout fishing techniques along to read between acts, I dressed for the presentation of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The Barter Theatre is well known for its presentation of live performances by professional actors, some of whom have moved on to leading roles in Hollywood and television. Not surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and didn’t find it necessary to refer to my trout fishing book at any time that evening. And, there wasn’t a single pair of bib overalls present.

However, it was time to prepare to get down to serious business in the streams the next day. The next morning Jerry, my brother-in-law and chauffeur drove me toward a spot that he thought would produce fish. In the distance, a huge mountain soared upward, its top coated in white. “Why does that mountain have a white top?” I asked. He looked at me with sympathy and explained that that mountain was over a mile high and while it rains down here, the liquid turns to something called snow at that altitude during this time of the year.

I know us flatlanders aren’t savvy to mountain ways, but that hurt.

After struggling into my gear, I looked at the perfect trout habitat. A swift, cold stream flowing under a bridge which offered shadow and deep drop pools at its supports. Trout are finicky critters and can be found wherever there is a ready supply of food and cover. Quietly slipping into the stream I began casting the fly upstream and letting it float over the pools under the bridge. Suddenly, a large yellow dog ambled down the bank, splashed out into the pool I was fishing and laid down, his head the only thing showing above the surface.

“Giddoudahere” I hissed. He responded by partially standing and shaking violently. Then he began lapping at the water with his tongue and again, laid down. I decided to try a different approach.

“Com’ere boy. C’mon, get out of my fishing hole you walking carpet remnant.”

“Look. If you’ll come with me I’ll introduce to a duck. The two of you should get along just fine.”

He responded by lazily swimming across that pool into the next one I had intended to try, wallowed around in it for a minute, then slowly exited the stream and disappeared. I stood in resignation and waited for someone to drive a herd of cattle through the stream. Grumbling about fishing in a zoo I waded downstream a couple hundred yards and finally caught and released one of the elusive little creeps.

When I explained the scenario to Jerry he asked if I had ever considered taking up a different hobby.

“Yeah,” I answered. “Trolling for alligators with yellow dogs and ducks.”

The next day we drove to Damascus, a little quaint little village nestled in the mountains. Stopping at a grocery store to let the ladies shop, Jerry informed me that the south fork of the Holston river flowed behind the parking lot of the small shopping mall. Desperate by now, I grabbed my gear, ran across the parking lot of the Dollar Store, struggled through the undergrowth by the stream, tied on an especially delectable looking fly and began flicking it into the fast water underneath a huge rock cliff. On the third presentation (that’s what fly fisherman call tossing a fake bug into the water) a fair sized trout sipped it off the surface. After a rod bending good time and admiring the colorful fish, I slipped it back into the stream, picked up my gear and walked back to the waiting vehicle in the Food City parking lot. So much for finding the quarry in remote mountain streams. Just go to the mini-mall in Damascus, Va., and fish off the back side of the Family Dollar store. Who knows? They might even give you 25 percent off on a non-resident fishing license.

Now ain’t that something.

Watch for Dan Graves’ column Wednesdays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at

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