I have a confession I need to make. I’ve had a mistress since the 1990’s. I’ll occasionally slip off for a trip with her and leave my mainstream life at home. My mistress is fly fishing, or better said…my fly rod. My beautify temptress companion who fulfills all of my worldly desires (well, almost?!?). I’m going to level with you, I’m not some fly fishing purist. I don’t have the patience to tie my own flies. I don’t have a closet full of $1000 rods and reels. I don’t even own waders??? There’s just something about casting a fly rod and little fly towards a spot on the creek bank that gets me excited.
This relationship started out way back in my high school days. I lived to wade the warm water creeks in East Alabama and just see what I could catch. With my long slender lady by my side, I would pull off by a bridge and wade until I got tired or, due to my ignorance, a landowner escorted me back to the road. Bluegill, green sunfish, longear sunfish, bass and pickerel were all fooled regularly by foam spiders and various poppers. Fast forward to today’s middle aged guy. Though my secret visits have been come less and less, I still long for a rendezvous with my mistress on a quiet creek.
I still have the Berkley Hunter Rod and Martin Reel in the closet that spurred my desire. However, now I have upgraded to a little higher class of indulgence. A Redington Crosswater 8wt. and a Hobbs Creek 5wt. I always have them in my truck. Keeping them close ensures I can slip off in a moments notice on some clandestine adventure.
The love for fly fishing my local warm water creeks has pushed me to open my mind and gas tank in order to find new water. Online mapping has made it much simpler to find those out of the way creeks. I spotted one a few weeks ago and decided to give it try. I zeroed in on Shoal Creek in the Talladega National Forest hidden in the foothills of Cheaha Mountain. It’s public land in my home state and a pristine mountain stream.
Once I got there and saw the water, I felt as if I had stumbled upon an untouched stream. A virgin water eagerly awaiting for my arrival. The water was cool but not too cold to wade. I started throwing a Stealth Bomber that a buddy of mine tied for me. I did get several eats but was not able to stick anything. I kept working from pool to riffle, trying every place I thought might hold a fish. I saw several Golden Redhorse working in the creek. I tried drifting a nymph by them, but they had spawning on their mind and weren’t concerned at all with eating my flies.
I finally came up near a small log lying in the creek adjacent to a deeper pool. I tied on an Ugly Bug Beetle and staged myself for my next move. I made a roll cast in the subtle way only a creek rat from Alabama can. The fly glided down and as soon as it hit the water a redbreast sunfish hammered it like it was the first bug he’d seen since the fall. I played him for a bit, snapped a picture and let him go back to his log. I kept fishing, but that ended up being the only fish of the day.
Some people might say that my day was wasted. Others might consider it a loss and not worth trying again. In today’s hero-shot angling world, they might be right. Not for this guy, not this time anyway. I didn’t catch “mass quantities” of large fish on this trip. I have probably caught hundreds of those little guys over the years, but this time it was the first from a new creek. The first from public land in Alabama. One small fish, new water, and a date with my mistress made the trip worth every minute.
As we grow older sometimes we lose our wonder. The wonder of fly fishing is what drove me to brave snakes, beavers and landowners to catch one small fish on an uncharted creek. The adventure is still there to be had. We just need to recover the wonder that drove us to fish in the first place. Go and create your own adventure. It doesn't have to be to some exotic locale with record size fish. It can be as simple as a shallow creek and one small bream.
Ben Williams grew up fishing the rivers and creeks of East Alabama and West Georgia. He is an avid kayak fisherman and a certified sport fishing instructor with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. He makes a living as a Professional Forester, husband and father of 4 children.