“I apologize for bringing the weather with me.”
It was a tired line by the end of the week, a self-deprecating introduction to the numerous people I met at the Orvis Guide Rendezvous is Asheville, NC. Most people– guides, pro staff, other fishing managers– were native to the southeast and jokingly chided me to take it back when I go.
It was cold, is what I’m saying, even by Wisconsin standards. There was a bit of concern on all sides about the planned fishing outing at the end of the week, a day when temperatures were to struggle to reach 20 degrees, one day ahead of another major snowstorm. Some guys dropped out, disappeared, heading home before roads and airports shut down.
I threw on another layer. Like I said, Wisconsin weather.
I was partnered up with Jason, fishing manager at the Orvis store in Carmel, IN. Our guide was Jamie Oxley, as much of an entertainer as a fishing guide. Not an Orvis-endorsed guy, he apparently just showed up the day of the trip ready to help out. A former owner of a greenhouse, a now part-time real estate agent, he carried a bottle of twenty-year-old scotch with him and told stories of how he got into guiding– a buddy of his in Colorado, himself a full-time guide, tagged him to lead a group of customers when the friend was overbooked. At the time Oxley had never even fly fished, much less guided.
He definitely knows what he is doing now, calling the shots from the center of the boat as we drifted downstream. I forgot how annoying it was to clear iced guides, and I wasn’t used to throwing that much weight on a double-nymph rig to keep up with the flows on the South Holston tailwater. Once the Tennessee Valley Authority cut the flow and water levels dropped fished began rising, and that’s when I nabbed my only two fish of the float: a lovely brown and beautiful rainbow, vibrant colors unlike anything I’ve seen in the Driftless. Either that or it’s been too long since we fished up here.
The South Holston is a beautiful piece of water with beautiful fish, even on the coldest day. If you’ve never considered fishing eastern Tennessee for trout, you are missing out. I was. I see another trip in my future, maybe a dual Civil War/trout tour around the state. Maybe I’ll see you out there.