American Fly Fishing

Never a River So Appropriately Named
By Bill Chiles

In my early days of fly fishing, the number of fish I brought to hand was the major benchmark of a successful day.

            As the years passed, though, such an arbitrary measure of fly-fishing success waned. In its place, other parts of the sport became more important, such as the vivid color on a 6-inch brook trout, the unusual spotting pattern on the sole brown of the day, or the way the rays of sun beamed through the fog early one morning on what would be a fishless day. Sometimes just standing knee-deep in a trout stream is all the measure of success one requires. And then there are days like May 23, 2011.

            Matt Canter and I were fishing a remote stretch of the Whitewater River in North Carolina. From the moment we hit the water, the fishing promised to be good. Every conceivable holding spot produced a nice brown trout eager to gobble dry flies. All of the fish were healthy, with their bellies sagging over our palms. As we moved upstream, the fishing got even better. Although I believe I was, at the time, emotionally mature enough to appreciate how special such a day is without the aforementioned arbitrary measures of success, it occurred to me about two hours into this trip that it would be interesting to know just how many fish we caught that day. I began counting.