If you read my last column about the suicide rate among young people, you probably surmised it was off course from my usual jovial self. But something happened between then and now that has me feeling like my old self.
I took a vacation.
Many of you living in one of the top vacation spots along the East Coast no are saying, “Why on earth would you go anywhere else? This is paradise!”
I totally agree that the Lowcountry is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But, the oppressive heat and humidity during these dog days of summer finally got to me. This year in particular has been brutal.
The thought of lying on one of our white sandy beaches when it is 95 degrees outside doesn’t appeal to me one bit. It’s hot, there are too many people, and I got to the point where all I could think about was grabbing my wife Karen, my beagle Butterbean, and my trusty fly rod and heading to the mountains in North Carolina or north Georgia.
Thanks to a friend of mine who graciously said I could use his house overlooking Lake Toxaway in North Carolina, I loaded up the car and headed for the hills.
A few days before departing, I was chatting with my sister Grace who lives in Florida, and when I told her about my vacation plans she instantly asked if she could join us because she, too, was struggling with this summer’s higher than average temperatures.
I said “Sure,” and I believe it didn’t take her but a minute to pack a bag and her dog Woobie and head to my house in Bluffton. The three of us took off the next morning. As the miles melted away, we would occasionally crack the car window and stick a hand out until we encountered the blissfully cool mountain air – at which time all the windows were rolled down and we took turns hanging our heads out the window much like a dog would do.
Arriving at Lake Toxaway, I phoned my brother Dan who lives nearby in Saluda, North Carolina, and suggested we get together at some point during our stay. Living in different places and with different lifestyles, it is rare for us to gather together, as I am sure most of you know.
Surprisingly, there was soon a knock on the door and there stood my brother. It had been some time since the last gathering with my siblings, so this spur of the moment trip was starting out better than I could have possibly imagined.
After an evening of swapping stories and raucous laughter, I made it clear that come sunrise I was going fly fishing for trout whether anybody else cared to join me or not. That declaration came as no surprise to my wife or sister, since it is usually my M.O. if water is within spitting distance anywhere I go.
Though not an avid angler, brother Dan expressed an interest to join me. Knowing he wasn’t at all familiar with a fly rod, I rigged up an ultralight spinning rod for him to use. We fished quite a lot together when we were young but as the years passed, his interests headed elsewhere. Maybe, just maybe, I could reignite that dormant passion he once had for angling.
Up early, we hit the Davidson River near Pisgah National Forest. The temperature was at most 70 degrees and, combined with a delightful breeze and the sound of fast flowing water, it almost put me in a trance. “This is heaven!” I thought as I slipped into the cool water without waders and nothing but a pair of ratty sneakers on.
Instead of grabbing the rod I had rigged for him, Dan announced that he preferred to follow me along and watch, and possibly learn, the basics of fly fishing.
Having done this for years and years, it didn’t take me any time at all to land one rainbow trout after another, along with a few nice brown trout. Taking a break, Dan and I sat down and I could tell I had stoked that dormant fire because he was ready right then and there to buy his own fly rod.
There is an art to fly fishing that took me years to perfect but living so close to these trout streams, Dan was definitely up for such a peaceful and bountiful style of fishing.
Every day I limited out and released most of the fish I caught, but I did keep enough for a family trout meal that got rave reviews – making it even more attractive to my brother.
All I can say is those five days were just what the doctor ordered. I had family, fishing and the cool mountain air refreshed my heat-damaged psyche. I may live in paradise, but during these dog days, another paradise is only four or five hours away.
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. firstname.lastname@example.org