Fishing a high country Smoky Mountain stream in August is akin to fishing in a string of bathtubs scattered across a boulder field, only with more pleasing aesthetics.
While my wife took a seat on a stream side boulder, knitting and novel in hand, I scrambled upstream from the falls with the hope of plucking a brook trout or two from the pools that swirled around the rocks, most of which were baked a chalky white from the summer-long drought.
It was difficult but satisfying fishing and by the time I’d worked my way upstream then down to below the falls I caught a few fish, missed several and not seen another fisherman.
The creek sluiced down and around a dining room table size boulder then flatten into a large pool. The best way to fish the pool would have been to exit the stream and follow the trail. But the light was fading and it has always been my habit to overreach and fishing is no exception. I headed across the rocks, fly rod in hand.
The fall didn’t fracture my knee but for a moment I thought it had.
I had moved beyond my wife’s line of sight but when I hobbled back to the bridge she was waiting for me, unconcerned, being well familiar with my habit of milking the last sliver of casting light from the day.
“Are you okay?”
By the time we reached the parking lot my knee resembled an overripe grapefruit, the result of a silly and foolish mistake. I felt silly and foolish for having made it but knew it wasn’t the first time and probably wouldn’t be the last. Guys never learn.
“Sure you’re okay?”
“Need something for your knee?”
“Not now. I’ll wait until we get back to the motel.”
By the time I got out of my waders and broke down my gear the park was bathed in full darkness. We started down the mountain.
“Do you still enjoy it?” my wife asked.
“Enjoy what,” I said, trying to ignore my aching knee.
“Scrambling up and down a stream like that?”
It was a good question, not simply answered. We drove through the darkness.
“I do,” I said. “But even if I didn’t I’m not sure that I could stop.”