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Fish Farming
A supplement to JCs Growin' Fishin' to help establish foundation
Peaks at Otter

By Jeffery A Ehasz aka jeffie, VA

The Peaks of Otter is a place off the Blue Ridge Parkway that sits more or less at the foot of two mountains, Sharp Top and Flat Top. On a clear day from the top of Sharp Top you can see seven states! Not far up the Parkway is an overlook called Thunder Ridge. As you walk out onto the stone platform, the wind will hit you as hard as the impact of view before you. The shear beauty of it all will take your breath way. A lot of people visit the Peaks when the leaves are turning. It's not at all uncommon to hear people speaking in seven different languages as they walk around the pond.

Think it was June this past summer when I was approached by two young fishermen around 10 and 11 years old, accompanied by their grandparents at the Peaks of Otter. They were intrigued by the fact that I was catching fish after fish, cast after cast and was the only one there catching any fish.

They were seasoned anglers alright, they caught fish, lot's of them, big ones too in fact! But they never caught fish like I was doing right now.

What are you using?" the younger asked.

"It's a fly," the older boy replies.

"Yup!" I said, as I swung a shiny, skittery bream onto the bank.

"Wow, he just got another one!"

"I know I saw it."

"Do you catch a lot of fish with flies?" grandma asks.

"I do pretty well most of the time."

I turned and looked to the older of the two boys who was now holding the BWO that slipped from the bluegill's mouth and found its way into his hand and said.

"They'll spit it right out, so you gotta be quick!"

"Man I wish we had our poles with us, we're just visiting!" said the younger brother.

"They like these?" he asked. We catch lots of fish but we use worms or minnows.

"Watch this" I said, then picked up the line and lobbed out a short, close cast. I slowly started dragging the fly back and a following of gills started to run down my fly like a pack of piranha. The water literally boiled, eyes were poppin' let me tell you.

Trying not to let the babies grab hold, I yanked the fly from the surface.

I heard a round of applause and laughter from behind me. Grandma and grandpa where impressed as much as the youngsters.

"Kin' I try it?" the younger one asks.

"Don't touch the pole, stupid, you're gonna break it!" shouts the older one.

I didn't say a word, just smiled, as I nodded my head toward the fly rod lying on the bank.

The younger one looks to his brother then grabs the leader about 3' from the tippet and tosses the blue wing olive to the wind. Down it comes softly riding the currents of air same as it will on the water.

Upon touch down, you guessed it, a bluegill pops at the fly as it's yanked away to no avail.

"Aw!" (heard in an echo of four part harmony).

Well, I guess it's about time to get home and feed those dogs don't you think? I said looking to my wife. I reached into my vest and pulled out my box of drys, opened it and gave grandpa a half dozen BWOs to take back with them and said, "keep one of these for a reference. You should be able to find more at a shop in your area. Take care."

The J's

Let me introduce you to the J's. There's the Misses, Peggy, and Mr. J, or Bobby. They live across the street. Peggy has long since retired from school teaching and maintains a beautiful flower garden or should I say gardens (over 3 acres of garden). Bobby says it's a "hobby gone berzerk."

My wife and I are renting Peggy's mom's house across the street, where she grew up. Bobby was active in the air force for many years and had his own construction company as well. Worked on development of the Peaks of Otter and a lot of the highways we now drive on here in Virginia. Semi retired is more like it, on the weekends you may catch Bobbie giving tours at the D-Day memorial in a golf cart. I think 83, was what he told me he was last year.

Bobby has a pond. The pond has fish. So I help Bobby mow the steep part of his lawn, he let's me fish. We're both smilin'.

Ever since May last year when we moved down here, I've been talkin' fishin' to Bobby every time I see him. Talked about the fish I've caught, fish I want to catch, showed him pictures, told him the tales. "Hey, you got a mighty nice pond there Bobby!"

Finally, finally the day comes around, think it was in July or August, I get a phone call. My wife tells me it's Peggy on the phone. "Bobby and JR are goin' fishin' down to the pond and wondered if you'd like to join them?"

"What time are they going?"

"I believe they're commencin' to go right now."

JR is Bobby's nephew from Charlottesville, up for a weekend visit. JR is, I think, around 14 or so and generally comes to visit the J's with the thought of drivin' those big tractors around more than anything else.

I hop off the lawn mower, run upstairs, grab my vest and fly rod and I'm off, kiss the wife, "see ya later hon."

"You goin' fishin' ?"

" Yep."

It was around 4:30pm, getting late for bluegills but not too late, I knew Bobby was thinkin' catfish and we already had a lengthy discussion about the best catfish bait sometime ago.

There they were all three of them, Peggy sat in a folding chair under the shade of a huge maple that partially shadowed the pond. JR was hangin' on to his pole watching Bobby slowly work his line from a big rock overhang.

I came pussy footin' in from behind. "HEY! If hunting deer down here is like sneakin' up on you all, I should do ok this year." They all jumped about a foot. It was about that time that Bobby latched into a nice cat. By the bend in his rod there was no doubt this was a nice one. He brought it in and I scooped that cat into my net. He was 22 if he was an inch.

"Just right for the pan" Bobby said.

"He sure is, nice fish Bob, you want to keep him or let him get bigger?"

"You can have him" Bobby said. "Let's see what he looks like next summer."

With that I handed the cat over to Bobby and he slipped him back into the pond. JR was standing there taking in the whole event. Didn't take a scientist to figure out how much of an impact we made on JR that afternoon.

I caught like three or four bluegill that ran from 5 to 7 inches in length that same evening. We let all the fish go.

JR came over to my house later and I started to show him how to tie a fly but the day had worn thin and before we could finish, the phone rang. It was Peggy calling to let JR know it was time to get going. So we called it night. Events like these can't be planned, sometimes they just happen.

The stories above are actual recollections of the past summers experiences in the sweet sunny south. ~ Jeffery A Ehasz (jeffie), VA

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