White River in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area

My Last Day in the Flat Tops

This was my last day on my fishing trip to the White River, in fact this was two weeks ago today.

I woke up at 6:00 AM to the sound of heavy rain falling on the cabin’s tin roof.  When I got up out of bed, my back hurt so badly, almost to the point that I couldn’t move.  But I had to move, I had to take a pee, but every step was pure agony.  My left leg was numb, and the sharp pain in my back was to the point that I almost can’t tolerate it any more.  But since it was raining, and I love to sleep to the sounds of raindrops, I took that pee and lay back down to sleep.  But I didn’t sleep, my back hurt too bad.  I laid there in bed for two hours trying to sleep, but the sleep never came, only the pain.  I’ve had this problem for a long time, and I couldn’t understand why it was so bad today.  But whatever, I had to get up and go fishing, this was my last day.

I fished the White River upstream from the cabins near the bridge, in the rain.  The storms had not moved completely out of the area, and the river was dark, the large boulders beneath my feet shaded by the clouds.   The river was faster and deeper near the bridge, and walking in the river was much more difficult because the boulders were so big and I couldn’t see into the water more than a couple of feet.  There was this thick rope tied onto the side of the bridge, and it went out into the river about 30 feet.  I don’t know what was on the end of it, but it was something heavy enough to hold it in one place, with the rope taught and shaking from the violence of the current.  It was kind of eerie looking, especially with the dark clouds still lingering.


Bridge over the White River near Ducey’s

I did really well there, catching three nice rainbows and four big white fish in less than two hours.  The clouds blew out and it turned into a beautiful day, so I decided to head way upstream to one of my favorite places to fish on the White River.  It is about 26 miles upstream from Ducey’s White River Resort where I was staying, and it was the first place I ever fished this river 14 years ago.  The river is only about 15 miles into its existence at this place, so it is much smaller, yet much wilder as it borders the Flat Tops Wilderness area.  It is more pocket fishing, finding holes below riffles or behind boulders, and there isn’t much room to cast as most of the river is lined with trees and bushes.

Pulling off the gravel road into the small clearing felt like going home again, or seeing an old friend.  There wasn’t another soul in sight, and I anxiously put on my gear and headed into the river.  The first place I went to is probably my favorite hole on the entire river.  I have a picture on the wall in my house of me standing


My favorite spot on the White River

there with Kyle when he was 6 years old.  We are standing in about 18 inches of water, and Kyle is giving a fist pump after just releasing his first big white fish.  I eased across the river to get to a gravel bar on the other side so I could approach the hole, which had a large tree over hanging the end of the run.

On my first drift through the fast water a big white fish slammed my flies and the fight was on.  He kept trying to run towards the tree roots and rocks on the far side, but I steered him back towards me.  Suddenly I heard a loud “snap,” and I didn’t know what it was.  Playing the fish suddenly felt different and I looked at my Sage fishing rod to see that it had broken about three feet down from the tip.

I managed to get the fish in and release him, and then I just felt heartbroken.  I know it’s only a fishing rod, but I have had that rod for 15 years, we have made a lot of wonderful memories together, but no more.  I headed back to my truck to rig up another rod, and I put the Sage back into its canvas and leather Filson case for the


My broken Sage fly rod

last time.

I went back and fished that stretch of the river for three hours, going to all of the spots that had been productive in the past.  The fishing was excellent!  I caught several rainbows, a brown, a few cut throats, and a few white fish.  The challenge in that part of the river is navigating to the places to fish, crossing back and forth


Tight fishing on the White River

across the river many times to get into position for short casts into holding areas.  It was one of the best days of fishing I have had, partly because of where I was, and partly because I knew I would have to leave the next morning, so I was making the most of my last day.

I decided to head back to the truck late in the afternoon.  After I put all of my gear away I sat in the bed of my truck and had an ice cold beer as I looked at the beautiful scenery around me.  It is truly one of the most stunning places I have ever been to,

View from my truck bed after fishing

and is most definitely my favorite place on earth.  As I sat there I thought about all the past trips to this place, all the people who have come with me, how Kyle had grown up coming to this wonderful place every year since he was 6, all of my hunting trips, just so many memories.

Finally it was time to head back to the cabin, and it felt kind of sad to drive away from that place, yet I was leaving with some great new memories.  I drove west on County Road 8 as the sun began to fall behind the mountains to the west, igniting the low clouds in the sky into cotton balls of fire.

4 Responses to “My Last Day in the Flat Tops”

  1. Larry DeRemus

    Do you keep and eat fish or just catch and release? I had a customer in Florida who had a whole freezer devoted to his hunting and fishing and it was all labeled “trout”, “pig”, “deer”….whatever….

    • admin

      Occasioinally I will eat a fish, especially when I am on a long trip in the mountains. But usually I let the go, unless it is hurt too bad that it is at risk of dying.

  2. Larry DeRemus

    Also, now that I am an NC resident I can get an NC fishing license with a stamp for trout…so will be fishing soon. Michael is coming up at the end of August so maybe we can go fishing. I have all the gear.

    • admin

      Mike did mention that to me, but I won’t be able to make it, I wish I could. I am leaving for an elk hunt on Sep 15th for a week, and I can’t take two trips that close together, plus I have to fit in some turkey hunting some time before October 1st. We’ll have to work something out in the not-too-distantfuture.