A pink woolly bugger. I can’t believe I’m throwing a pink woolly bugger. And it’s not just pink. It’s HOT pink…with red sparkle ribbing…and crystal flashing in the tail. Someone shrank a child’s fairy princess costume down to fit a size 8 hook and I’m trying to fool a fish with it. Pink. Perhaps I should go add some nice accent lace to my waders and trade in my floppy fishing hat for a glittery tiara. Heaven help me, I’m throwing a pink woolly bugger.
It all started innocently enough. Mike P. and I headed out to Ashe County for a couple days of mid-week floating and wading the south fork of the New River in pursuit of smallmouth bass. Our departure from the Triangle coincided with the arrival of a cool front from the west so we drove for the first couple hours in a constant downpour, prompting concerns about what water conditions we would find when we arrived in the mountains. Fortunately, the rain drizzled out about Winston-Salem and had apparently passed around the Deep Gap area for the water we found was clear, almost too clear, and at a very manageable level. We dropped our bags and gear at Mike’s cabin overlooking the New, a homey little cottage, perfect for anchoring our fishing excursion, and headed out for the closest fly shop, River Girl Fishing Company.
River Girl is actually Kelly McCoy, a fish biologist-turned outfitter/fly fishing guru, who once almost fished with Lefty Kreh (she had to work and couldn’t accept his invitation) and who now owns and operates her outdoor adventures facility out of the old railroad station building in the middle of Todd, NC. If you’re anywhere in Todd, you’re pretty much in the middle of it. We found River Girl, seven months pregnant, surrounded by tubes, kayaks, canoes, bikes, a couple of goats, a wide variety of small, happy dogs, and a very content pot-bellied pig. We chitchatted about the weather and our recent travels, arranged a float drop-off for the next day, and then asked the eternal question, “What were they biting on?” Without cracking a smile, River Girl replied, “pink woolly buggers”. Yes, pink wooly buggers. She pointed to her fly selection and there they were, a small sparkly pile amid the Elk Hair Cadis and Adams Parachutes. Now all I could think was that this was how she had her fun; selling us greenhorn flatlanders these fruity, fluffy concoctions while belly laughing inside. But she was insistent (and belly laughing at seven months probably wasn’t very comfortable), so I grabbed a few of the frilly things, making sure to also take a few olive ones to assure her, or myself, that I was indeed a serious fisherman. After a quick “see you tomorrow”, we headed back to the cabin to get a little afternoon time on the river.
On the way out of town, we made a quick stop for a bite to eat at the Todd General Store where we found the proprietor lying motionless on a bench with a lighted candle sticking through a paper plate and into his ear. Something about fending off colds and extracting earwax, though it seemed to me that the process was going in the other direction. But Mike and I figured that in the land of pink woollies this must not be odd behavior so we wandered about the store until the treatment was complete. Once “fixed”, our storeowner made us up a couple of Rueben sandwiches, discussed the merits of catfish angling by hand, Florida scuba diving, and the Philadelphia mafia, and sent us on our way. We definitely weren’t in Kansas any more, Toto.
We finally dropped our float tubes into the River about ¾ of a mile above Mike’s cabin, next to the old single lane, side rail-less bridge, currently being upgraded to modern 19th century standards. The road workers no doubt chuckled as the two of us waddling down to the river and dropping into our floats, looking like two wobbly ugly ducklings. (Thank goodness they were too far away to see the pink woolly I had tied on.) They didn’t chuckle long, though, as with my second cast I nabbed a fish. It was only a seven or eight-inch chub, but our fishing prowess was established and the workers turned back to their bridge. Thankfully, I was around the bend quickly and out of sight before I caught my first tree of the day.
We continued down the river, Mike casted a number of patterns and while I stuck with the pink princess, an approach that made more sense as I hooked a 10-12 inch smallmouth, fought him home, only to lose him in his final shake coming alongside the float tube. In the next couple of hours that we traversed the stretch, I brought in a handful of chubs and few sunfish and a couple of fingerling smallies. It wasn’t a great start, but not a terrible one either, and the near miss of the heftier bass suggested potential over the next couple of days. Maybe there was something to this pink thing.
We finished the day with a quick trip to Boone for dinner, a grocery trip for important staples (beer and some pastries for breakfasts), and a lazy hour stretched out at the cabin reading. I got lost in John Gierach’s “Sex, Death and Fly Fishing” and fervently wish that I could write, and fish, like him. Ultimately, my sleeping bag, tossed on an unmade bed, felt like heaven and I drifted off to sleep listening to the drops falling on the cabin roof from the trees overhead and thinking about the smallies waiting down below in the New.
Note: I'm new to the forum and look forward to contributing. By way of introduction, I offer the above (and a couple of other posts sprinkled here and there) that I posted earlier in the year on my local TU chapter's group. Hope you enjoyed it.