The Caney Fork and The Square Room: Part 1


Part I.

Since I moved to Nashville in 2002, I have driven the stretch of I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville countless times. Whether my wife Katy and I were going to play a couple of house concerts and college shows in East Tennessee and North Carolina or Jake Bradley and I were crammed into Julie Lee’s little red Honda with an upright bass strapped to the top to go play the Blue Plate Special on WDVX in Knoxville, I have always enjoyed that stretch of highway. My eyes have wondered at the beautiful redbuds and dogwoods in the spring, lush green canopies of hardwoods in the summer, and gorgeous red and orange hues in the autumn, all painted on a canvas of rolling hills and rock outcroppings.

Woven into this landscape of trees and geology is the Caney Fork River. For years, these trips to Knoxville and back would send me over the Caney Fork near Cookeville and my heart would long for my youthful fishing adventures on the Tellico River in southeast Tennessee. Knowing that I was nearing the region where I spent most of my summers as a boy, I was tortured by the reality that the Tellico was always just too far out of the way from whatever gig I was going to play. Nonetheless, I always enjoyed the flood of memories triggered by the sight of the Caney Fork.

After rededicating my life to fishing this year, I was excited when Drew Holcomb asked me to join him this past spring in Knoxville for an acoustic show at the Square Room. Because the gig would coincide with two gigs in Dayton, OH with Over The Rhine on the following days, I needed to drive separately.  This was the perfect opportunity to explore new waters.

I did a bit of research and discovered a couple of public access points on the Caney Fork. If I couldn’t break off for another adventure on the Tellico, I would find a new adventure on the Caney Fork. Friends had told me for years that the Caney Fork was full of rainbow and brown trout, so my heart brimmed with anticipation when I pulled away at 9 A.M. in my Dodge minivan (the preferred mode of transport for most working musicians I know). I arrived at the first access point at approximately 10 A.M. As I approached the rushing waters, I was surprised at the river’s width and volume. It was a bit larger than it looked from the road. After greeting a fly fisherman or two with a long-distance wave, I first broke the waters with a # 2 Mepps  Spinner fashioned with a bucktail and gold blade. I think it is the finest all-purpose fishing lure ever made. Though I love to tease my wife about her affinity for French culture, I have to concede that the French did in fact produce two of my favorite toys in the world: the Mitchell 300 spinning reel and the Mepps Spinners.

After familiarizing myself with the pace of the current, I moved on to a little bait fishing.  Now, if I didn’t already lose them with my spinner fishing, this is the point at which I will probably loose most fly fishermen that have happened upon this blog. But before you go, know that I look forward to my day of sanctification when I can be just as self-righteous as you, the great spiritual fly fisherman. I’m sure the air breathes sweeter, the food tastes richer, and the porta-johns reek of American Beauties when you’re finished with them. However, my day of sanctification has not yet come. Perhaps it is around the corner? I will be sure to blog about it when it arrives. Anyway, I went on to Berkeley’s Powerbait “Power Eggs”. The sunrise color has always been pretty good to me, but not on this day. In fact, nothing I had was very effective. I decided to move downstream for a while, but still had no luck.

An hour or so had passed and so I began to work my way further upstream from where I had originally put in.  The conditions were almost perfect. The water level, water color, and water temperature were ideal, but nothing was biting. I began to think that either I had arrived at the river too late for the morning feeding or that I should have learned how to fly fish. Just when I was about to check my frustration and adopt the “oh well, I’m just glad to be on the water” attitude, I noticed an intermittent splash or two on the surface of the water.

To be continued…

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