Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The garden was (and still is) a fun idea, and we learned a lot of lessons this spring and summer. We're going to expand on it next year, but have decided to focus on the vegetables we actually enjoy and can get the most bang for the buck on. Corn, watermelon, cucumber, squash, and zucchini come to mind. There may be a couple more. Hopefully we'll see more success.
Posted by JJB at 7/14/2010 06:13:00 PM
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
He floated by me in the river and spent a few minutes chatting the Saturday of the 4th of July weekend. He was floating down on a large, singular piece of foam that he had crafted into a fishing float. It is a simple creation, but remarkable nonetheless. He had both a fly rod and spinning rod on there with a cooler of drinks and a tackle box with a good mix of lures. A couple of hooks held supplies like his stringer, and a metal bar inserted through the open portion of the U-shaped craft offered a place to rest his feet in shallow water. He gave me two flies to try on top water and offered a few tips on the stretch I was casting in.
I asked him if he had caught anything (dumb question) and he pulled up a whole stringer full of bass. He said he was keeping them to give to a friend of his that was not able to fish anymore. I told him my father was Earl Bryant, and he told me he was sad to hear of his passing a few years ago, and missed seeing him. I thanked him for that and wished him success for the rest of his float. He told me to call him the next time I was up and he would show me some great holes not many people fish. I’m looking forward to it.
I snapped this pic about 30-minutes later as he floated in front of our house.
Posted by JJB at 7/10/2010 04:27:00 PM
Dave is a fountain of wisdom, so I am always sure to ask him what the trout and smallmouth bass are biting. Over the 4th of July weekend he strongly encouraged me to buy a couple of #8 poppers in yellow to try on the top water after I told him I'd like to get in to some bass. He didn't disappoint. I went to a good hole near our family home on the South Fork of the New River just south of town and put the popper a couple of feet off the bank under a big shade tree. There were two teenage girls swimming and splashing no more than 15' feet away, but on the very first cast I watched a 14" smallmouth hammer the popper and drag it down. I landed it in a few moments and reveled in the catch while the two girls exclaimed they couldn't believe I caught a fish so close to all of their noise.
For the next four hours I fished a number of holes in a 200-yard stretch and landed a good twenty smallmouth, ten rock bass, and 3-4 bream. The biggest smallmouth was 15" in length (though a bit thin and maybe about 2 lbs.), which I haven't seen on that particular stretch of the south fork in a good five years. Two others were 13-14 " and there were several in the 10-12" range. I couldn’t believe the success I was having.
At the bridge that leads to our family home I was fishing with my middle son, Ethan, around 5:00 PM when I cast into a still pool of water near a pipe bringing water down from the top of the mountain. I knew fish liked to hang near the pipe looking for treats to float out, so I thought to give it a try. Within a second or two my fly rod, a 7.5 footer, instantly went from about five feet above the water to tapping the water with the tip of it. I pulled the rod up hoping to see a monster on the end of the line, but all I saw was the flash of a large fish and what was left of my tippet come flying back at me. Whatever it was had snapped my line. Ethan stood there in shock, exclaiming, “Did you SEE that, Dad??? It was HUGE!!!” Feeling quite deflated I said, “Yep. And that was my last popper!”
About that time a man came walking across the bridge. I said, “Howdy” to the gentleman and he returned the greeting.
He asked me, “Are you Earl Bryant’s boy?”
Surprised, I responded, “Yes, how did you know that?”
“Your height gave it away. I’m Darrell Phillips. I used to fish with your father before he died.”
Well, I was dumbfounded. I had just met three fishing legends in the West Jefferson area in the span of 24-hours. Like Jack O’Brien, I had heard of stories about Phillips since I was a small boy from both my father and my brothers. I had heard he knew every inch of the New River like the back of his hand, and he proved that as I scrambled out from the river and talked fishing with him for a good 20-minutes. He asked me to come up to the car with him and, as I have had happen many times over, gave me five flies to try from his assortment of what appeared to be about 500 flies in three boxes. I told him I had just lost my last popper (which he saw happen and agreed it must have been a whopper) and asked him if he had ever heard of Dave Pickett.
“Of course I have. I picked up some flies from his house just a couple of nights ago.”
“You know Dave???”
“He let’s you come to his house to get flies?”
“Heck, he loves it. Give him a call. He would love to see you.”
Phillips wrote the number down on a scratch piece of paper and bid me farewell, letting me know that I need to go fishing with him the next time I’m up that way. It would be an honor, I told him, and I hope to fish with the man who fished quite a bit over the years with my father very soon.
Ethan and I walked back to the little mountain house and I eagerly dialed the number Phillips had given me to see if Dave Pickett was home. Dave answered on the second ring and I quickly introduced myself. He remembered me (6’7” is hard to forget in those parts) and let me know that he would be glad for me to come up and pick up a few poppers from him.
We (Stacie, Ethan, and I) followed Dave’s directions right up the small mountainside where his 1918 farmhouse was located. Set on 54-acres it was a beautiful little white home with a wrap-around porch nestled between a couple of grassy hillsides. As we pulled in to the long gravel driveway Dave and his charming wife Linda greeted us on the front porch. She was busy crafting a couple of baskets while Dave stood grinning widely and seemingly eager to make us welcome in his home.
Dave invited me into the front door while Stacie and Ethan sat on the porch with Linda. The house is very tidy and well kept with minimal decoration, much like it was in the early 1920's, I'm sure. We walked into a middle parlor type of room where I encountered the most amazing fly-tying setup I had ever witnessed. Having worked in and retired from metal fabrication (in Lillington, NC – just below where we live now, of all places) for nearly 30-years, much of the equipment he worked with he designed and crafted himself. There were cabinets and drawers full of feathers, fur, corks, thread, paint, hooks, and every material imaginable all throughout the room, perfectly organized and neatly stored. Several tubes holding high end fly rods were in the corner and a few fishing vests, landing nets, and other gear adorned the walls, as well. The view from the window offered an amazing look at the beautiful flora Linda has placed all throughout the property. She must have thirty or more different types of plants set throughout their farm.
As we sit down to dig out a few flies Dave begins to spin an array of tales of fly fishing throughout Ashe County, things I would have never known of or discovered in 10-years of fishing and researching on my own. His experience and knowledge of the streams in Ashe County seems unparalleled. I particularly enjoyed the stories of the more remote places such as one area he could only describe as “right out of the film ‘Deliverance’” and dangerously close to life threatening in its nature. He recommended a place to park my truck but cautioned me to leave a 12-pack of Busch Beer on the tailgate to insure “I don’t get blocked in” by the guy who lives by there. Apparently it would be more costly to pay for him to move his own truck. Crossing a long abandoned train trestle you hike a good stretch down a rocky cliff and jump into some of the toughest fishing he has seen, but nonetheless pays handsomely in large, wild water trout. I certainly can’t wait to try it.
I quickly thought I needed a picture of Dave at his work table. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera, so I pulled out my LG EnV2 and snapped this somewhat poor quality picture of Dave moving a few items around as he showed me how he created his poppers.
After talking for a good while I asked Dave if I could see some of the house. They moved there back in 1983 after making an arrangement with the landowner to help care for the property and to fix up the house. And fix-it-up he did. Walls were repaired, attic space was closed off, and new plumbing was added while several coats of new paint covered the old walls. They quickly made it their home.
In 1985 a local crook set fire to the back of the house where the kitchen was located. This was a diversion as all of the neighbors came to help Dave with the fire until the local fire department could arrive. While the neighbors were distracted the thief went to another house over the hill and stole several firearms. He was later apprehended, but the damage had been done. Dave repaired the kitchen himself, adding two sections that weren’t there, building cabinetry that they had been lacking, adding a half-bath, and routing the water from a local brook to use as their water supply (it was cold!)
We went out on the porch with Dave and Linda and heard about the brutal winter they had just experienced, including the loss of several trees. Hummingbirds buzzed with inches of our heads and the coolness of the mountain air reminded us that, even in July, the mountains are the best place to be to escape the heat of summer.
Dave produced several poppers for me and refused to take my money when I reached for my wallet. “You’re a good customer. Any man that is willing to come all the way out here for a few flies deserves to get a few free ones from time to time. I hope you catch a mess of them!” I never tire of meeting fly fishermen. Just like pipe smokers they are always generous, thoughtful, and very giving. I have a fond appreciation for every one of them I meet. There's always something new to learn.
With that we offered our good-byes and returned to the mountain house, glad we had been able to have such a treat. Dave urged us to come back and visit them again. I can't wait for that opportunity.
Posted by JJB at 7/10/2010 04:26:00 PM
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Check the meanness and determination on his face! Grrr! He is big time.
Posted by JJB at 7/08/2010 08:06:00 PM
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Posted by JJB at 7/07/2010 08:36:00 PM