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Red Dots

“Before their tints had faded, they glistened like the fairest flowers" Henry David Thoreau The Maine Woods 1864

posted - July 11th, 2020

My hunting and fishing careers were short lived. As a child my mother's father took me both hunting and fishing. Because I didn't live in Stanly County those trips were limited to weekend and summer visits. I think I last fished on Curtis Creek in western McDowell County about 1974. My last hunting trip was a dove hunt around 1972.

I don't remember how old I was when my grandfather took me rabbit hunting in Anson County. The hunt was near my grandfather's boyhood home. Not long before this he gave me a single shot .410 shotgun.

That day my grandfather carried the shotgun as we walked. His dogs jumped a rabbit and the chase was through a field of golden broom sedge. We stood on a slope as the rabbit and one dog came running in our direction. They traced an imaginary contour line 50 feet below us. The other dogs in a pack followed well behind the leading dog. We could see the broom sedge moving as they came near. My grandfather raised the shotgun and fired. The first wave of grass stopped, the second wave kept moving into the distance.

We walked down the slope to the rabbit. When we got there we saw a small black dog taking it's last breath, little red dots scattered across it's side.

Brook Trout
Brook Trout by Duane Raver

I graduated from Western Carolina University in 1972. During my years at WCU I had a friend that was born and raised in the mountains.

He and his father fished for trout in the clear cold streams. I was lucky to be included on several fishing trips with my friend. One trip I remember well. We were in the Cherokee Reservation and I think on Raven Fork.

When we exited his truck I didn't have to walk far to see the stream. Not much farther I saw a boulder in the middle of the clear rushing water. It created a deep hole behind it. From the bank I stood on a boulder looking down into the still water. I saw a large trout near the bottom. It stayed in place, its tail moving effortlessly.

Using a fly rod like a cane pole, I let my line swing across the stream beyond the trout. I pulled the bait back passing it in front of the trout. Green Giant whole kernel corn on a number 10 hook was presented. The trout ignored the corn. I could see the corn move within inches of the trout's mouth as I tried several more times.

My friend was within sight fishing downstream. I got his attention motioning for him to join me. I took a step back letting him try with his rod and reel. He was able to cast well beyond the trout, reeling his bait in front of the trout. The trout ignored the bait.

After several attempts my friend began making his way to another spot. We both thought the saying, "If you can see the fish, you can't catch the fish", had been proven true.

I needed to try again before moving on. I readied my fly rod and made the same swinging motion as before. My timing was off. When I released the line the bait popped up into the air. As the bait was falling a feeling of failure came over me. It splashed down on the water as if I'd thrown a rock at the trout.

Before the corn sank a foot under the water, the trout sprang up and took it. I began to fight the trout as my friend came to my rescue. He knew how to help. He took off his light weight jacket, putting it on backwards. He put his arms through the sleeves with his hands holding the bottom of the jacket. His jacket functioned as a cloth "net" between his arms. He wadded into the stream.

Each second I expected the trout to escape the hook. I could see a line of swift water downstream and the trout seemed determined to get to it. I was able to turn the trout upstream and eventually maneuver the fish toward my friend. He scooped up the fish and walked it to the bank.

I let out a yell and walked to see the fish. It was a 19 inch native brook trout. Freshly out of the water it was stunning. The colors were brilliant. The trout struggled to breathe. Before I could finish enjoying the beauty, I watched the red dots and blue halos fade, drained of brilliance.

  1. The shotgun
  2. The Trout Outlook
  3. Bangor Daily News The Thoreau quote was stolen from this source.
copyright Phil W. Lowder