Elkhorn Inn - and my next post will be on last weekend's "Dueling Dining-Car Chefs" event with James Porterfield, author of "From The Dining Car" and "Dining By Rail".
T showed the patience of a saint with a couple of newbies, with the result that Dan got several great bites, and Elisse (me) actually hooked a number of fish (that, yes, got away!) The only problem with Tony is that he is a REALLY great fisherman, and can instinctively read the water like a book, and so when he casts, (unlike us, mere mortals that we are), he hooks a fish- almost all the time! I know (from the sound of his furiously gnashing teeth when a 20" trout escaped his clutches, and the fact that he almost grabbed the rod out of my hands several times) that it had to be Incredibly frustrating for him to have a couple of neophytes let fish after fish get away! For me (since we're doing catch-and-release & not my usual fishing-for-dinner), the catching & netting of a fish wasn't as important as just hooking them- & learning how to watch for them- because unlike with other fishing I've done (such as bang-the spinner on-the-salmon's-head fishing in Kodiak, AK, or drop-reel-&-puke for yellow fin off Mexico, or Dan's Special Ops Survival Course Army fishing), you really Don't feel these guys bite! Tony hooked us both up with a double-fly combination of a wet nymph and a floating grasshopper thingee that even "Ms. Eagle-Eye NOT" could see, and while HE saw the fish take the fly, I saw & felt nothing the first three times- but I Finally saw the bobbing grasshopper go down, and so then tried to hook the fish- and the 5th time I actually did it! All by myself! And then I fought it and watched its silver back break the water, thought I had it, and finally lost it! All by myself! LOL It truly IS a magical sensation- and to do it in our very own creek was a rush!
In addition to being so sure-footed that he can literally run the rocky creek through thigh-high water (a feat which amazes me, as I am 4'9 1/2" tall and of the make-sure-one-foot-is-firmly-planted-before-you-lift-the-other-one school of creek-wading), T has eagle-eyes, topped with polarized glasses, and so can see trout where I see naught but churning water! He taught us the rudiments of reading the water and how to figure out the places where trout like to play, as well as the fly-fishing version of what is known in the military as "situational awareness" (as in "Gee, I wonder what's coming out of that pipe..."), and I even learned to tie that cool "figure-8" knot (spitting on it, as opposed to sticking it in my mouth), that now enables me to tie on a fly! By the end of the day Dan & I had truly got our fly-fishing feet wet (figuratively, not literally, as that is Not something one wants to do in the creek T fondly refers to as "the dirty little sister")! I've now a list of things (Woolly Buggers, Copper John nymphs, leaders, tippets, nail clippers, polarized fishing glasses, and yes, gold-beaded, size 14, olive soft hackles...) to buy, so we can get back out there ASAP! T's knowledge of Things Trout is truly encyclopedic, and the flies he hand-ties are fairly amazing; like me, our other Inn guest was delighted by the variety and beauty of the flies and nymphs and other small creatures T's crafted from feathers & fur, beads & thread... I cherish the Black Woolly Bugger I tied at our dining table with T & his friends, & this time he bestowed upon us his hand-tied Copper Tony nymphs (with which I caught the fish that got away). While I desperately want to keep fishing with it, as it's definitely my Lucky Fly, part of me wants to frame it... Or pin it on the cool Col. Blake-esque fishing hat I intend to get myself!
(Being a Native NYC Girl, many folks assume that I'm the Green Acres' Eva Gabor of McDowell County, & I do like to have a bit of fun with that- as you can see from the glitter-encrusted
Nawlins sunglasses I am wearing as we fish. But I pride myself on having grown up fishing with both my Oklahoma-chicken farm-born WWII WAC soldier momma & Ukrainian-born theatre actress grandmother, having been an Aggie & FFA, having worked on Kibbutz in Israel packing live fish & shoveling turkey manure, and having been an Israeli Army soldier myself! So do not judge a person solely by her penchant for high-heeled shoes! LOL)
One of the things we learned this weekend from Tony, who is a Chemical Engineer as well as native West Virginian with a passion for fishing and hunting and his home state, is the definitive answer as to why, despite all the coal mining, Elkhorn Creek isn't poisoned, and is, instead, one of the best trout streams in the USA: Our McDowell County Coal is only 1% sulphur; 60% is organic sulfur which doesn't create acid water! (By comparison, northern WV & PA coal is 4% sulphur & 40% organic, and so does create the polluting acid water). Elkhorn Creek, as we know, runs fast & cold, & couple all that with the fact that trout like poo, and now you know why we have a creek teeming with 24"-30" trout, & a county chock-full of otters, beavers, wild turkey, ducks, birds, deer, bears, etc!
I also (finally) learned what poison ivy looks like, a Very Good Thing, as Martha Stewart would say, as for the last 8 years, (even after winding up in Bellevue Hospital in NYC from a case of it so bad that I looked like the Elephant Woman and had to get early release from a FEMA deployment), I thought it was something else. Live & learn... and then get Tony Wheeler to teach you what poison ivy looks like...