Sunday, November 28, 2010


It’s amazing that a trip that started out so badly could end up so well.  Ten miles from Lebanon my windshield wipers lost their minds.  What had been a monotonous swish, swish, swish became a violent struggle for dominance as each blade sought to overpower the other in a death match that ended with them wedged together in a teepee right before my eyes.  Well, at least it wasn’t a pouring rain.  The final ten miles involved periodic stops to clear the view but eventually I arrived for my third adventure on Big Cedar Creek.
John Bass had invited me to join him, Billy Davis and Shawn Dejean for three days of fishing on that marvelous piece of water in southwest Virginia.  We were joined by John’s intrepid guide, Bill Nuckols, and one of our old buddies, John Flannigan.  I arrived just after noon on Friday.

The guys were already fishing when I pulled up to the stream.  John and Bill were plying the depths of the Sycamore Hole to no avail while Billy, who had been assigned to Shawn, was trying to teach the finer points of fly fishing to that crazy Cajun.  “Billy, You got any more bait?  I just lost mine in that there tree!”  If you’ve ever seen the TV series, Swamp People, you’ve heard the accent.  Shawn and John Bass go back a long ways, to circumstances that are still not clear to me, but just know that Shawn would have been much more at home catching thirteen foot gators than he was on a trout stream.

Another unexpected treat was the opportunity to meet Phil Balisle, (see photo below) a retired Admiral and current EVP of DRS Technologies and supporter of Project Healing Waters, who was down for a day of angling from his home in DC.  Phil was kind enough to impart some of his extensive Big Cedar knowledge, which served me very well in the coming days.

I thought I had prepared well for the weekend.  Remembering that the stones were just a bit slippery from my previous trips there, I had attached some lugs to the felt soles of an old pair of wading boots.  The verdict is still out on the wisdom of that exercise, because as I had walked downstream to one of the lower pools for my first venture into the water, I immediately slipped and went in up to my chest.  Off to a good start.  Since I was there anyway, and fighting the temptation to go back to the car, I cast out my crawdad imitation and got an immediate strike.  A few minutes later I beached one of the larger trout that I’ve ever caught.  That guy completely wore me out…had me wishing for a fighting butt on my rod as he fought for survival in the swift current.  He would have easily gone eight pounds.

OK…now I’ll go back to the car.  One fish like that is enough to make my day…heck, it’s enough to make an entire season! Seeing that my line was tangled, I slung it back into the current to get it straightened and what happens, but the fishes twin brother jumps on it.  Another five minutes of two fisted fighting and he too was in the net.  Thus began the most amazing three days of fishing that I have ever experienced.

Saturday morning was cold.  The temperature gauge in the car told me that it was 26 degrees when I arrived at the stream.  Not a problem.  Although I swore off winter fishing forever last year after a day on Duke’s Creek in the north Georgia mountains, after the two fish I caught yesterday I wasn’t about to lay out today. 
As I dug into my gear bag I realized that there was a problem.  Everything…gloves included…was frozen solid.  Yes, there was a perfectly good heater in the Super 8, but my gear did not experience it for even a minute.  I managed to get into the waders and the boots, but the gloves were a problem.  Thirty minutes later, after running the car nearly out of gas, they were wearable.  Note to self:  Share the overnight heat with your gear.

I won’t bore you with a play by play of the days fishing (well, I will in a minute), but let me say that the day was magical.  By three o’clock I had caught seven trout …all between eight and ten pounds.   All except one were caught on a brownish Woolly that had two ostrich herl “pincers” trailing off the tail…what they called the “crawdad” pattern.

Late in the day I met up with John Bass and Bill Nuckles at the low water bridge.  As long time followers of the blog know, John is the Regional Manager for Project Healing Waters and is somewhat limited in the waters that he can fish.  John is wheel chair bound.  He was casting downstream from the bridge.  We shot the breeze for a few minutes and I mentioned to Bill that it was time for me to tie on the Nub Worm.  I told him that on every outing I do my best to land a fish or two with it to honor its creator, my oldest and bestest buddy, Jerry “The Mad Cheese Scientist” Felts.  Bill, who happens to be a bit of a purest when it comes to trout flies laughed when I showed him Jerry’s creation.
The Nub Worm
I walked a few steps down the bridge and cast it upstream.  Billy Davis, who was standing on the bank, told me that there was a nice fish in the area.  Indeed there was.  The trout gave his best imitation of a Great White slamming a hapless seal and took off for the headwaters of the creek with the Nub Worm firmly implanted in his massive jaw.  We later measured his run and it was nothing less than 150 feet.  He plowed through the water in a perfectly straight line, throwing a size-able wake behind him before stopping for a few head shakes and a top water pirouette or two.  

By now, Bill had seen what was happening and came running with his net.  With one expert stab…the fish was mine.  Bill, who has landed many a trout on Big Cedar, estimated his weight at 12 pounds and snapped a photo of the proud angler before releasing the beauty for another day.   It was the largest trout I have ever caught.

John and Shawn, with long rides ahead of them, left early Sunday morning.  Billy and I went back to the creek.  We fished the lower holes where I had done so well on Saturday and did just fine.  Billy landed this nice one and I managed to net three others of equal size.  The weekend ended with a couple of more before Billy and I headed for home.

Billy Davis with a nice Big Cedar Rainbow
It is only fitting that it was Thanksgiving weekend.  On Wednesday Shirley and I enjoyed the grandkids…along with a great meal prepared by our daughters.  Thanks were given.  And as Shirley had to work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, she allowed me to have an unforgettable weekend away from home with the guys.  Thanks were given.  And as John Bass, through his friendship and generosity,  had made the entire thing possible, thanks were given again.

And as God had blessed me with three unbelievable days to enjoy His creation and a ridiculous number of His creatures…just saying thanks seems so insufficient.

(Oh, and one other thing…that crusty old guide Bill Nuckols, asked me to tie up a few Nub Worms and mail them to him.)

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