Appalachia Fishing

Fly Fishin’ At Horsepasture River

Today’s entry in The Week Of The Fish was written by Kenneth Roper

Curtis Mease-The Deer Hunter's Grandfather


Curtis Mease-The Deer Hunter’s Grandfather


Fly Fishin’ at Horsepasture River written by Kenneth Roper

School had been out for two weeks, I had just turned 14 and we had a Kennedy in the White House. Life was good, and the morning Sun was peepin’ in and out as we rode through the shadows to the Land of the Jellies. We were nearing Cashiers, heading deeper into the mountains of Transylvania County.

Suddenly the road turned into gravel, dust was so thick you could hardly see our lead Jeep in front of us. It only took a few of those “meet yourself a coming” curves and I was hanging out the truck window, gaging like a dog. (And today, if I’m not driving, I still get carsick.)

Finally we pulled off the road a piece and stopped. I noticed the Jeep, and Ralph and Ted walking around just like they owned the place. We had arrived at Horsepasture. I poured out of the truck, grabbed a heavy quilt, and threw it in the grass and briars. By the time I woke up they already had a big tent set up and the chores were mostly done. Ted saw that I was a bit sad for not helping so I got to clean most all the fish for supper. Now since Ted was a Deacon in our Church, and daddy’s best friend, my brother and I had to watch our colorful language when he was around. But he taught us the art of tying flies.

Those he made he called “skullbusters.” They looked like a Grey Hackel with a Yellow Body, but his were much better than the storebought kind. And he taught us how to use our ole three piece bamboo rods, how to roll the flies across the water as if they were Mayflies about to be supper for a big ole Brown. (I think those Hollywood Dudes in the movie “A River Runs Thru It” could have learned something from our technique!)

My brother and I had caught lizzards and saved enough money to order our own Fly-tying Kit. Harold was much better at making flyhooks than me, but I’ll bet our daddy wondered what was happening to his prize Dominecker Pullets, with those fine feathers a missin’ around their necks and glory holes, but that made excellent hackel. Just a few years ago, my brother went on to a Better Place, I still have our Fly-tying Kit.

Ole Ralph, had been to Horsepasture and even on over to White Water many times before, and he shared with us what to expect. So about an hour and a half before dark we scattered up and down the river. That evening I went upstream and was really charged, getting to fish a new stream, fishin’ in places that most would pass on by. Horsepasture is a darker water and much slower than our beautiful Nantahala, but the six of us caught 46 trout that evening. I’m sure we threw back many “stockers” and were probably illegal on the limit, but guess who got to clean the fish?

The next morning just as the sun was beginning to touch the water, I was making my way downstream. I just had to see “Windy Falls” and “Rainbow Falls” ole Ralph had talked about. Someone long ago had blazed a trail along the river, kinda like our Liquor trails back home. I had walked the trail for some time and noticed we were getting farther and farther from the river. All of a sudden it opened up, the wind was a blowin’ and my brother and I was wet, just like being in a misty rain. It scared both of us at first, then we remembered Ralph telling us how the water just followed the falls a long way, before spraying into a large pond. We made our way to the river and caught a bunch of Brown trout that day, never making it on to see Rainbow Falls, but what a thrill it was for a couple of country boys.


Hope you enjoyed Kenneth’s post as much as I did!



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  • Reply
    Haley Runion
    August 15, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    I really enjoyed your post. Reminded me of old stories my Nanny used to tell me. You are a great writer. Hope to read more in the future.
    Haley Runion

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    August 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    What a treasure. Ken is so typical of the storytellers who make Blind Pig and the Acorn such a valuable site and magazine. He talks like he’s talking to me, like it’s a conversational story. I don’t know of any other internet site or on-line magazine that can boast such a display of expository writing and storytelling skill. Ken is a great story teller. Reckon people know what a dominecker rooster is?

  • Reply
    sandy kueng
    August 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Uncle Kenneth – loved the story. You have a fine way of painting a picture. You should definitely put more of those fine stories down on paper – those little ones coming up will love reading them (I know I sure do). Thanks Tipper for letting him share! xoxo Sandy Kueng

  • Reply
    August 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    What a great post!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you, Ken for a story well told. Men and their fishing stories are a longstanding entertainment in Appalachia. I spect they will go on as long as there are men and fish. lol
    That is a fine picture of my dad in his younger days, I don’t know what he was sticking his tongue out about.
    In addition to the nice boots that is a nice car but I have no idea what it is.
    My dad was a fine looking man and the Deer Hunter looks a lot like him.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    August 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I enjoyed the story once again. Such realy wonderful fishing memories are being shared. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    August 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I really enjoyed Kenneth’s story about fly fishing. What an adventure for teenagers. He did a great job writing this story.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    August 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Reading Jim’s comment and his reference to Mark Cathey’s “Dance of the Dry Fly” reminded me of another Mountain Sportsman who could amaze me with his skill. I have watched my wife’s late uncle “Monk Watson dance a fly with such skill that even though I knew it was inantimate I could almost believe that was going to rise from Deep Creek and fly. Sadly we have lost many of these ‘Artists with the Bamboo”.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    August 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I don’t know where the place mentioned is but I would love to go there. Very well done and wonderful photo!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I’m enjoying all the fish stories 🙂
    The part about the hen feathers reminded me of the flashy but evil-minded rooster I tried to rehome a few years ago. I emailed his picture to everyone I know who ties flies!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2012 at 10:24 am


  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    August 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Grandaddy used to take me down to fish in Buck creek. Would love to take a fly rod down the bluff and try it now. I don’t know if there are trout, but there are still lots of fish to try to catch. Sunfish are fun to catch on a fly, too. Grandad has been gone many years now so I doubt that I will fish there again.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 4, 2012 at 9:38 am

    great story — he writes well! Are there anymore “gems” available. I particularly liked his feeling bad because he missed the chores 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Tipper and Ken–First of all, I enjoyed the tale told by Ken, but since I know him and his ability to weave a fine web of words, and since I long ago lost a corner of my soul to trout,that’s no real surprise.
    What interested me most, and I suspect most folks would not notice it, was his mention of a fly pattern known as a Grey Hackle Yellow. That was the favorite fly, in fact the only one he ever used, of the most legendary of all mountain fly fishermen, Uncle Mark Cathey. He was famous for the “dance of the dry fly” and for being a genuine character. Maybe you’ll let me share some of the many tales of Uncle Mark I’ve gathered over the years with your readers one of these days.
    I think I can offer some help to Uncle Al on the boots being worn in the picture. I’m almost certain they are what were simply known as “Bean boots.” Made by the L. L. Bean Company in Maine, they were the standard for outdoorsmen across the country for a couple of generations. They are still made today, although I don’t think they come with a lifetime guarantee the way they once did. Archibald Rutledge, the most prolific outdoor writer of the 20th century, wore them all the time.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    August 4, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Getting to see Windy Falls and Rainbow Falls would have been almost as exciting as catching 46 fish. I can just see the boys sneaking around to pluck feathers out of the pullets. Hope that fly-tying kit gets passed on to the next generation of fishermen. Loved the story!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 4, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Kenneth Roper gave us a wonderful story of fishing in Horsepasture River! And for people not of the mountains who read this blog–yes, we do have such descriptive, picturesque ways of identifying our streams, mountains, hamlets and wayside places! We’re rich in Indian names, too, still lingering long after the earliest inhabitants of these hills lived here. Thank all of you for the fish stories and the reminders of the rich respites from hard work in the fields that a little fishin’ trip provided as both pleasure and fresh food for the table!

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    August 4, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Very well written. Must be some schooling in that country boy. I remember those fishing trips of youth. At the time I didn’t appreciate sleeping in the back of a truck, wading black water at 2am, or much else other than the adventure of it all. Wish I could visit that time again. Thanks for the well written reminder.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    August 4, 2012 at 8:19 am

    That was a real good story. I could imagine being there. I was really interested in the photograph of Curtis Mease. The outfit was a dandy and I especially like the boots. I can’t recall the name for the britches or the boots, but I know it’s somewhere back there in my old brain cells. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    August 4, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for the story, Kenneth. Sounds like you and your friends really nailed the browns on that trip. I wonder if the fishing is still that good there. All I ever hear about when in Brevard is the Davidson River, but I don’t want to forget Horsepasture when I start fishing up there.

  • Reply
    kathryn Magendie
    August 4, 2012 at 7:37 am

    I’m enjoying your series on fishing, even if I haven’t left a comment until now!
    I’ve never been fly fishing – never tried it, but I used to fish, long ago. I an clean fish; I can skin a catfish and clean it — not things I necessarily like to do, *laughing,* but, if I’m ever lost in the forest and only have fish, I can at least catch and clean them to eat 😀

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 4, 2012 at 7:32 am

    What a great story, I makes me want to head out there right now.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 4, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Ken’s story left me looking for the rest of it. When, Ken, can we read more?

  • Reply
    August 4, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Tipper this has been a wonderful week of fish stories! I’ve enjoyed them all. Hope you have a great weekend.

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