Archive for the ‘Staff Blogs’ Category

Charles Sowell

It’s a fish story, for sure

by Charles Sowell

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Aug
22

You have to go a goodly distance these days to find a good fly tying table – a place where lies take on legendary proportion and are told with a Mark Twain kind of panache.

The atmosphere is important. Trendy, upper end fly shops usually don’t have a good tying table. Oh, the flies might be OK, even superior. But it’s hard to get in the mood for a whopper when you feel like you’re sitting in an Abercrombie & Finch.

Racks filled with high end clothing, peppered with posters of hyper-thin almost dressed female models facing belly on to a set of male six-pack abs tends to cause the mind to wander into zones not usually associated with good fish stories.

It doesn’t matter how many racks of fly rods are coupled with it.

Greenville used to have two good tying tables. One was at Spider Littleton’s shop on Augusta Road; the other was across town at Foothills Fly Fishing.

Both are gone now. Greenville’s only fly shop these days fills a corner at Luthi’s Pawn Shop on Washington Street where you can find good fishing gear and hock your stereo at facing counters.

Spider showed up one morning at the Chattooga River Fly Shop in Mountain Rest – arguably proud owners of the one remaining perfect tying table in South Carolina.

It was the stuff of which legends are made.

A coffee pot hissed in the corner where the cash register is illuminated by a much-used old table lamp. The tying table located between the corkboard feather racks and a specially imported hickory trunk that’s decorated with nets and has a rubber copperhead poking its head out of a hole at the base.

If the snake doesn’t give you a clue that odd things happen frequently here – nothing will.

Jason Galloway, part owner of the shop, just finished his story about a guy who won a one-fly fishing contest with a piece of red yarn tied to a hook – to the uninitiated, that fly’s known as a San Juan worm – when Spider launched into an epic.

“I was sitting around the shop and I got a call from one of my customers,” Spider said. There were sirens howling in the background and you could hear a motor roaring.

“Spider, they tell me I’m not gonna make it,” a muffled voce said – barely discernable over the racket.

“What happened, Jack?” Spider asked.

“Line got wrapped in a laurel,” Jack said and groaned. “When I tried to pull it loose I scraped up against a hornet nest and they swarmed me.”

“Dang,” Spider said. “Why you callin’ me?”

“So you can call my wife,” Jack said. “She won’t take it well that I lost my new fly rod.”

“Can I sell you another one?” Spider, ever sympathetic, asked.

“Dang you Spider!” Jack shouted into the phone.

In the background Spider heard a medic ask if Jack needed another shot for pain.

“Anyway, I was so swole up they had to cut me out of my waders before they put me in the ambulance… must have got stung 50 times,” Jack said.

“You want me to order you another pair?” Spider asked.

“Dang you Spider!” Jack shouted into the phone.

Spider heard the medic holler to the driver to step on it and the line went dead.

Two weeks later Jack walked into Spider’s shop dressed in beekeeper’s togs – complete with a net helmet.

“What you up to, Jack?” Spider said.

“Gonna go back at get that hornet’s nest stuff it in a garbage sack and bring it back. I want to hang it in my office,” Jack said, holding up two cans or hornet spray. “Wanta go?”

Spider poured himself another cup of coffee and looked at Jack. “Naw, I’ll pass on that one.”

“Suit yourself,” Jack said and headed for the door.

“Hey,” Spider shouted as the door was closing behind Jack. “Be sure to dose that nest again with bug killer before you open the bag. Hornets have a way of coming back on you.”

“He must not have paid me much attention, cause he got swarmed again at his office,” Spider said to Jason – who was wiping tears of laugher from his eyes.

“Never did sell that boy another rod.”

Charles Sowell

Ever seen Bill Kimball?

by Charles Sowell

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Jan
21

Don’t mess with Bill Kimball when it’s cold; you’ll likely get an icy reception.

No matter how you slice the Coldspring Branch/Bill Kimball loop trail it is murderous and recommended for experienced hikers. But it is a cobweb cleaner for those who want something more challenging than just a walk in the woods.

The biggest photo op on this roughly five-mile loop trail is a massive rock formation known as El Lieutenant, named for its resemblance to El Capitan at Yosemite National Park.

The Coldspring Branch Trail starts in the Raven Cliff parking lot on U.S. 276, about a mile north of Caesars Head State Park.

Start early on a clear winter day and you’ll likely see the Shining Rock Ridge and Mount Pisgah glowing in the early morning sun from the trail. If you’re lucky that 6,000-foot ridgeline will be glowing pink with a fresh coat of snow.

Coldspring Branch starts on the south end of the parking lot at a kiosk with trail information and signup cards. The trail uses orange blazes.

Day hikers are required to fill out the card, put the white copy in the box. When the trip is done hikers must deposit the pink copy that they carry with them on the trail.

It seems like a lot of trouble, but considering the remoteness of the trails at the upper end of Jones Gap and the level of difficulty it can be a lifesaver.

It’s about a half mile from the parking lot to the junction with the Bill Kimball Trail (pink blazes) and this is the first real decision hikers face.

Continue on Coldspring and it is a moderate 2-mile descent to the intersection with Bill Kimball and a murderous 1,000-foot ascent back to the junction. Most of that 1,000 foot elevation gain comes in a few tenths of a mile.

Either way, Bill Kimball is the road less traveled. Most hikers on Coldspring Branch stay on that orange-blaze trail and hook up with the Jones Gap Trail at the Middle Saluda River.

This adds about 1.5 miles to the loop, but it is far less strenuous than Bill Kimball.

On this day it was the road less traveled, first.

From the junction Bill Kimball climbs moderately for about a half mile to a high point with spectacular views of the northern side of the Middle Saluda Valley.

After that, like a freight train beginning a run through a mountain pass, hikers begin an ever increasingly steep descent to the base of El Lieutenant.

When it’s cold this is where the first signs of trouble on the trail become apparent.

Entering into a dense laurel and rhododendron thicket the ground is frozen as hard as concrete. It rings hollow underfoot. Then the first seeping rock outcrop appears covered in a six-inch sheet of ice.

Normally, these seeps are not a problem for through hikers since they seldom produce enough moisture to form more than a damp spot on the trail.

After scrambling down through a quarter mile of thicket, in one spot Jones Gap officials have strung a chain handhold to keep hikers from falling, you come to the base of El Lieutenant.

And here is where Bill Kimball gets his revenge on unwary hikers.

Normally this section of trail is dry. The seeps high on the side of the rock face mostly evaporate before they reach this rocky ledge.

In cold weather they form great sheets of ice that break off in the slightly warmer daytime temperatures out on the rock.

Those sheets of ice tumble down to the trail and pile up like broken dishes, effectively blocking the trail.

Nothing to do but have lunch and listen to the croaking of ravens high above; then starts the murderous 500-foot climb back up.

At the top a crow-sized pileated woodpecker drums on a branch as he hunts for his supper in a decaying hardwood. Lunch for him, but not for the ravens, at least not today.

Charles Sowell

Grim, grinning ghosts

by Charles Sowell

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Dec
6

The black bear’s jawbone was just sitting there on a rock beside Chattooga; a beacon of white against a moss-covered background.

It was one of those double-take moments that leave you wondering is this real?

Ellicott Rock Wilderness on the North Carolina end of the river is a place where things like the bruin’s jawbone shouldn’t come as a surprise, but does.

How did this critter meet his end? Why is only the jaw left? What’s it doing on the river; did the bear drown?

The bone doesn’t give details, but it speaks volumes about a precious resource just 90 minutes away from Greenville.

In a world that’s rapidly filling up with people, and this jawbone was just yards from a heavily used campsite where the Chattooga Trail veers away from the river to connect with Bull Pen Road, these kinds of natural moments are increasingly rare.

You have to go farther and deeper today to encounter that cold hand on your neck kind of feeling. Partially, at least, those kinds of things are what keep people coming back and what draws so many to this tiny corridor of wildness plunked down between Charlotte and Atlanta.

The wild and scenic river’s protection extends a scant quarter mile from the river’s center. For much of its length Chattooga has a pretty broad buffer of Forest Service land and Ellicott Rock’s 8,000 acres was preserved in 1975, a year after the river was designated a national treasure by an act of Congress.

If American Whitewater wins their lawsuit this stretch of river will have kayakers on it on days like the one where the bear’s jawbone was discovered. It isn’t likely that kayaking will hurt the river, but it is almost assured that the river will take a toll on those who challenge it; especially when it’s up and of a mood.

The water was rising on the river when the bone turned up. A few more minutes and the river would have been lapping at the edge of the rock.

At first it seemed likely the bone was a hog’s. A week previously, while fishing with a partner many miles downstream, a wild boar stared us down at the close of the day.

When I picked the bone up a massive canine tooth gleamed at the tip. Nothing but a bear carries that kind of equipment in this part of the world.

It had been a fruitless day of fishing to that point. Cold, wet and rainy; it should have been a perfect day on the water but things like good fishing conditions often don’t translate into good fishing.

With the bone safely tucked away in my fly vest, I changed lures and began working a streamer across and down with the current as I headed back to the trail.

It didn’t take long for the first rainbow to hit the streamer. She made a lovely picture before being put back in the water a little worse for wear.

Patting the bone through the fabric of the vest and fishing on, the second rainbow came a few yards downstream; then the third and a fourth and I was out of time. It is more than three miles from the river to Bull Pen Road and most of that is uphill.

While slogging up the dripping trail, it struck me that the bone was something of a gift from the river as were those four fish.

Nature is always red of fang and claw. The bear met its end somewhere on, or near, the river. That’s the reality of the natural world.

Things like catch and release fishing are man’s way of preserving a rare resource, but catch and release is also as artificial as the flies I use to fool trout.

That jawbone is real; it sits on the credenza next to my desk. The fish remain only as pixels in the computer.

Charles Sowell

A bear, a wilderness

by Charles Sowell

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Dec
6

The black bear’s jawbone was just sitting there on a rock beside Chattooga; a beacon of white against a moss-covered background.

It was one of those double-take moments that leave you wondering is this real?

Ellicott Rock Wilderness on the North Carolina end of the river is a place where things like the bruin’s jawbone shouldn’t come as a surprise, but does.

How did this critter meet his end? Why is only the jaw left? What’s it doing on the river; did the bear drown?

The bone doesn’t give details, but it speaks volumes about a precious resource just 90 minutes away from Greenville.

In a world that’s rapidly filling up with people, and this jawbone was just yards from a heavily used campsite where the Chattooga Trail veers away from the river to connect with Bull Pen Road, these kinds of natural moments are increasingly rare.

You have to go farther and deeper today to encounter that cold hand on your neck kind of feeling. Partially, at least, those kinds of things are what keep people coming back and what draws so many to this tiny corridor of wildness plunked down between Charlotte and Atlanta.

The wild and scenic river’s protection extends a scant quarter mile from the river’s center. For much of its length Chattooga has a pretty broad buffer of Forest Service land and Ellicott Rock’s 8,000 acres was preserved in 1975, a year after the river was designated a national treasure by an act of Congress.

If American Whitewater wins their lawsuit this stretch of river will have kayakers on it on days like the one where the bear’s jawbone was discovered. It isn’t likely that kayaking will hurt the river, but it is almost assured that the river will take a toll on those who challenge it; especially when it’s up and of a mood.

The water was rising on the river when the bone turned up. A few more minutes and the river would have been lapping at the edge of the rock.

At first it seemed likely the bone was a hog’s. A week previously, while fishing with a partner many miles downstream, a wild boar stared us down at the close of the day.

When I picked the bone up a massive canine tooth gleamed at the tip. Nothing but a bear carries that kind of equipment in this part of the world.

It had been a fruitless day of fishing to that point. Cold, wet and rainy; it should have been a perfect day on the water but things like good fishing conditions often don’t translate into good fishing.

With the bone safely tucked away in my fly vest, I changed lures and began working a streamer across and down with the current as I headed back to the trail.

It didn’t take long for the first rainbow to hit the streamer. She made a lovely picture before being put back in the water a little worse for wear.

Patting the bone through the fabric of the vest and fishing on, the second rainbow came a few yards downstream; then the third and a fourth and I was out of time. It is more than three miles from the river to Bull Pen Road and most of that is uphill.

While slogging up the dripping trail, it struck me that the bone was something of a gift from the river as were those four fish.

Nature is always red of fang and claw. The bear met its end somewhere on, or near, the river. That’s the reality of the natural world.

Things like catch and release fishing are man’s way of preserving a rare resource, but catch and release is also as artificial as the flies I use to fool trout.

That jawbone is real; it sits on the credenza next to my desk. The fish remain only as pixels in the computer.

Charles Sowell

Wadakoe, what a place

by Charles Sowell

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Aug
17

It is almost as if the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources doesn’t want people to find Wadakoe Mountain Heritage Trust site; their maps of the area leave a lot to be desired and the directions listed on their Web site do, too.

And, perhaps, that is with reason since Wadakoe is one of the Upstate’s premiere biological hotspots. There are at least seven species of plant that are thought to exist nowhere else in South Carolina including a specie of goldenrod unknown to science until it was found by Clemson botanist Patrick McMillan not 10 feet from his parked car a few years back.

That at your feet discovery makes for both the beauty of the mountain and its peril.

Wadakoe is technically part of the Jocassee Gorges as well as a stand-alone Heritage Trust preserve, but development eats away at edges of the 900-acre site perched atop a low range of mountains that frame Eastatoe Valley.

Natives know the hidden trails though the site and can often be found illegally riding their ATVs over the mountain for fun or as a shortcut to fishing on Eastatoe Creek at DNR’s fishpipe stocking point.

But fish aren’t the reason to visit Wadakoe; plants are, especially in spring when the mountain’s secret coves are home to an explosion of rare plant species that live in a series of ecological hotspots scattered over the north face of the mountain.

None of these spots are easy to get to and DNR hasn’t built the kind of well-marked trail system that neophyte hikers are accustomed to on Wadakoe.

Getting in is easy enough. Take Roy F. Jones Road off state Route 11 and go about a mile to the Peach Orchard fishing access point on the right.

This is the last sign even remotely giving directions to the mountain. Follow an old logging road in.

Bear right at each fork in the road (there are several) and go on past fishpipe (a long plastic tube that stretches from the logging road to Eastatoe Creek).

DNR personnel regularly flush fingerlings into the creek from here in season.

From there the trail will start a long series of switchbacks. Keep your eyes glued to the borders of the road, especially in wet spots. You’re likely to see trillium in season and more uncommon species of plants at other times.

Hikers will pass under two power lines. One is fairly small, the other major with massive steel towers and a good view of the mountains ringing Lake Jocassee.

At the spot where the logging road starts to drop back down the mountain is a very obscure logging trail on the right.

Hikers are on their own from this point. A good topographical map and the ability to read it are highly recommended.

You must bushwhack your way over the top of the mountain and using a topo map pick out drainages the lead down to Eastatoe Valley and Wadakoe’s secret coves.

Some of the cove plants, like the Plantain Sedge, are supremely unimpressive but rare. Others, like Foam Flower, or Nodding Trillium are gems both in their uncommonness and floral passion.

The roots of this profusion of rarity are sunk into the singular geology of Wadakoe. The discovery of the mountain’s uniqueness happened one day while Dennis Chastain was out hunting.

“I happened across this deer trail that had been worn hip deep into the side of the mountain back in 2000,” he said.

“Being a hunter (he is also a talented amateur botanist with books on mountain wildflowers to his credit), I followed the trail to see why so many deer were using it.”

What he found was an exposed rock face made up of amphibolite – a metamorphosed rock rich in calcium and magnesium, a poor man’s marble. The deer had, quite literally, licked the face of the rock smooth and were eating the dirt at the base of the rocks.

Wadakoe alone in the region is built on foundation of amphibolite; deer crave the minerals for their nutrient value. So do the plants.

However, for plants there is the additional benefit of calcium and magnesium making the mountain’s dirt basic versus the normally acidic soil of the surrounding mountains.

On Wadakoe there is almost no mountain laurel, or rhododendron – both acid loving species. The soil is “sweet” and many species of plant, like Sweet White Trillium (Trillium Simile) and nine other species of trillium thrive on it. Some species are not common anywhere else along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. On Wadakoe one can stand hip deep in rare Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), while surrounded by troops of white trillium, under a canopy of titanic hickory and poplar spiced with rare Butternut trees (Juglans cinerea), a variety of walnut.

The coves on Wadakoe’s north-facing slope are part of an intricate system of “nutrient sinks” that funnel food and water down slope until they hit an obstacle and concentrate there.

Cindy Landrum

Goodbye, Wilma

by Cindy Landrum

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Aug
1

eagleFor each of the past three summers, I’ve participated in the Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography Weekend.
For those who don’t know, Grandfather Mountain, about 70 miles from Asheville near Boone and Blowing Rock, is a 720-acre privately-held nature preserve, the only privately-held property to be designated as an International Biosphere Reserve.

North Carolina owns 2,500 acres of the mountain’s undeveloped backcountry and operates it as a state park.

Part of the attraction is the animal habitat area. The habitat provides as wild a setting in which many of the visitors will ever see such animals live.

Wilma, a bald eagle who came to Grandfather Mountain in 1981 after being shot out west, was one of the habitat’s residents.

Wilma was at least 34 years old and had called the Grandfather Mountain animal habitat home longer than her habitat neighbor, Morely the golden eagle, the cougars, the bears, the deer and the river otters.

She was also one of the first subjects I photographed on each of my trips to the mountain.

I’ve always though there was something majestic about bald eagles. And Wilma, even though her injury left her without a wing and unable to fly, spent a lot of time sitting on one of the many perches in her habitat looking as majestic as any other.

But Wilma won’t be there the next time I visit Grandfather Mountain. She had to be put to sleep last week because of bad arthritis and declining health.

Sure, there will be other wonderful images to get on the mountain. But I know one I’ll miss.

Melissa Blanton

Oh come on, tomatoes?

by Melissa Blanton

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Jul
29

Well shoot, someone stole the produce. A victim told police a white male broke into his car at Stone Plaza Pharmacy and took the following from his vehicle: A cell phone, sunglasses, maps, and, sadly, the tomatoes.

So that’s why the house has been so hot. A man called the HVAC repair guy last week after his air conditioner stopped working. When the repairman got to work he discovered the cause – someone had ripped off the copper from inside the unit.

Someone stole a laptop computer out of a Roosevelt Avenue home. They attempted to drag a mattress and box spring as well. But they must have gotten tired because the resident found the tough to tote items lying in the front yard.

Well thanks for leaving your grimy fingerprints all over the truck you robbed. Police responded to Drury Inn and Suites where a Ford F-150 had been broken into. A GPS, TV, stereo system, digital camera, camcorder, iPod and briefcase were stolen. And yes, the thief really did leave their fingerprints visible, all over the driver’s side door.

The police report of the week occurred on Laurens Road:

AN OFFICER WAS ON ROUTINE

PATROL WHEN SHE SAW A

SILVER MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE WITH

THE INTERIOR LIGHT ON AT

SUZUKI OF GREENVILLE. THE

DRIVER’S SIDE DOOR WAS AJAR,

KEYS WERE IN THE IGNITION AND

THE ENGINE WAS RUNNING. NO

SUSPICIOUS PERSONS WERE

FOUND IN THE AREA. THE

BUSINESS CONTACT CAME TO

SECURE THE VEHICLE.

Charles Sowell

In the woods you learn about people

by Charles Sowell

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Jul
29

Spend enough time in the woods and you’re bound to learn something about human nature.

It seems counterintuitive, but is true nonetheless, and the more time you spend out there – trying to get away from the trappings of civilization – the more you will come to know about civilization, your fellow man, and about yourself.

The first thing I started to notice after a few years stomping over the mountains is that many (not most, but a lot) of the people to take off to the trails and trout streams have no idea what they’re doing.

One fine spring day in the middle 1990s Laura, my fishing partner of the hour, and I were enjoying lunch on a sandbar at the Chattooga River.

It had been a marvelous morning on the river, one of those days when nearly every cast seemed to bring a fish.

Between the two of us we’d caught and released more than 50 rainbows and browns and were looking forward to an equally productive afternoon.

Laura and I were interrupted in mid bite by a voice calling from the laurel hell at our backs.

“Excuse me, could you help us?”

You could tell by the accent that he wasn’t from around here; turned out the man was from Cleveland, Ohio.

He was one of the most bedraggled humans I’ve ever seen. “I can’t seem to find the trail,” he said. “Could you point us in the right direction?”

It was the “us” part that got my attention.

“Who all is with you?”

“Just my wife and her mom,” said the man, stepping out of the way so we could see two women who looked as if they’d gone through the Bataan Death March.

“Oh my,” said Laura.

Hobbling out of the laurel hell the husband told their tale of woe. His wife helped her mom out into the sunlight and I noticed the older woman was wearing a bright pink pair of rubber gardening boots; the kind that have little daisies in a ring around the tops.

They’d started the morning walk at Pigpen Branch about three miles away and worked their way upstream on Foothills Trail.

About a half-mile from where we found them Foothills takes a hard right and goes up and around the steep gorge below Big Bend Falls.

Instead of following Foothills, they’d followed an old fishing path, which had quickly petered out. They didn’t try to retrace their steps and find the trail, they just pushed on and spent the better part of four hours lost in the murderously steep laurel hell that separates Foothills from the river.

At no point during this time were they more than 100 yards from either the river or the trail.

We shared the last of our food and water. The trio had not thought to bring any since they’d only planned to be gone for about an hour.

While they ate and drank I noticed the older woman seemed to be in considerable pain. I asked her what was wrong and she pulled off one of the boots.

She wasn’t wearing any socks and her feet were a bloody mess.

At this point my partner leaned over and whispered fiercely in my ear. “If you tell them I’m a nurse, I’ll kill you.”

To her credit Laura did a bit of first aid for the older woman and let her use the tennis shoes that lived in Laura’s fly-fishing vest for hikes back up from the river.

My partner managed to slog along in her wading shoes. Not the easiest thing to do since they were felt-soled; which is great in a stream but horribly slick on dry leafy ground.

The fishing was over for that day and we started to guide the little family up the side of the mountain and back to the trail.

It only took a few yards for it to become plain that the mother was not going to be able to make it back to Pigpen, so I offered to give them a ride in my truck, which was parked at the top of the mountain.

Laura gave me a look that spoke volumes to the breadth of my stupidity.

As it worked out, Laura was right. The husband and I had to carry the mother to the top while Laura superintended and the man’s wife carried the rubber gardening boots.

It took three times as long as it should have to get them to my truck.

While they were loading into the back, Laura asked the wife where the mother’s gardening shoes might be.

“Don’t know. I must have left them while we were taking a break,” she said.

I went over our path on a later trip to the river and never did find those boots. They’re probably still in the laurel hell where they should finish decomposing sometime around the middle of the century.

Cindy Landrum

Take a walk on the photo side

by Cindy Landrum

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Jul
29

shadow for web

There are times when photography is all about overcoming obstacles.

And that’s what 37 photographers had to do during Greenville’s version of the 2010 Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk this past Saturday.

Kelby, who is president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals and editor-in-chief of Photoshop User magazine, organized the first walk three years ago as a social event where photographers would gather, walk an interesting part of their city and take photographs together.

This year, 1,111 walks were held throughout the world. Nearly 35,000 photographers participated.

The Greenville walk was held from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.

Harsh light and even harsher temperatures – the high that day hit 99 degrees – made it a tough two hours.

But if you’re going to be soaked in sweat, you might as well get some good images while you’re at it, right?

I tried to put the harsh light to work for me, concentrating on the shadows it produced.

I looked for images in the open shadows.

And, as often as I could, I sought the solace of the shade.

Charles Sowell

The art of fly fishing

by Charles Sowell

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Jul
22

Fly fishing is a thing seldom done well; the knowledge and experience required come much too dear for the sport to be classed as common.

Seldom does a weekend pass without either getting wet, or tying flies, but this does not make a good fly fisherman. It takes a good teacher and those are rare.

Mine was Joe Humphreys. Twenty years ago, when I first met Joe he was in his 70s and had more than 60 years of experience on the water. Joe taught me more in three sessions spread over as many years as I learned in my previous 10 years of chasing trout.

Humphreys would trek down from State College, Pa., to the old Foothills Fly Fishing shop on Pleasantburg Drive and hold court at the fly tying table and school out back at the casting pond.

The first thing Humphreys always mentioned was his teacher long ago on a stream in Pennsylvania. “Mister, would you please teach me to fish like you do,” Humphreys said as a child.

He’d seen the man making effortless cast after cast that brought in fish. Humphreys even as a boy had no patience with simply flailing about in the river, but he could be infinitely patient with his pupils.

The idea is not to chase a trout, but to catch one, and in order to do that one is required to develop skills that simply do not come naturally. There is lore involved, too, that date back to Roman times where the first mention of angling using “flies,” red yard tied on a hook, to fool a fish is mentioned in several places in the surviving literature.

Through the discipline required to learn the casts (presentation is everything in fly fishing) there develops a love of the species and a devotion to their preservation.

Something else happens along the way that changes run of the mill fly fishermen into something profoundly different from the weekend guys. Something as different from the fast boat crowd of bass fishermen as Picasso is from finger painting.

For most, the epiphany strikes one day on a crowded river; a place where “you have to bring your own rock if you want to fish,” as Chuck Patterson at Foothills used to say.

“There has to be more to this sport than standing in line to catch the same old tired fish that’s been caught 10 times today,” is the usual thought process.

Even if the fish is a 25-inch brown his pickiness is based not so much on instinct as a sore mouth. Then the fly fisherman starts to seek out places where other fishermen are not.

This takes the fly fisherman into the territories of fly tying and topographical maps. The good spots are not necessarily the ones that are written about. More often than not, if a stream has appeared in print, or online, it is a place too popular to be good.

Over time the fisherman develops the ability to read a topo map and make a good estimate of the fishability of any stretch of water. How good the fishing might be is an intangible that can only be solved by visiting the place.

The best streams are all at least an hour’s walk from the road. All of them are small.

It is at this point that obsessive behavior becomes compulsive and the transition completes from devotee to a good fly fisherman; someone who is just as happy with a 6-inch native fish as they are with a brown best measured in pounds.