Meet the players
Player number 1: Me. OK, that was a given.
Player number 2: Jesse, a skinny 21-year-old from Tennessee. More on Jesse later.
Player number 3 (who is only listed last so I can ramble on about how great he is), Alex Kohout! Alex is a fellow T@b owner, though his trailer is so much newer and so much nicer than mine that it seems completely wrong to put us in the same league. He’s the real deal; I’m a wannabe.
But first, a story
Remember last year (which, as it turns out was exactly one year ago today) when I was driving to Canada and parts kept falling off my trailer? The Ring doorbell, the fan, the kayak line, the battery – it was a veritable graveyard of parts. Well, I thought that was over but apparently the gradual suicide of trailer parts was just getting started.
A couple of weeks ago I hired a mechanic to replace the tire on my tongue jack. For those who, like me until recently, have no idea what a tongue jack is, it’s the part that props up the front end of your trailer when it’s unhitched from your car. So yeah, it’s pretty important. The mechanic made the switch and I drove home.
The next morning I went out to my car to unhitch so I could drive to work and – you know where this is going – the tongue jack was gone. Damn thing took a header somewhere on Highway 49 and I just pray that no car or motorcycle ran into it.
Since I could not detach the trailer from my car, that was the first official Take Your Trailer To Work Day. My trailer not only went to the office but it also went to a board meeting, a bar, and a grocery store. I looked ridiculous but I really had no choice.
That night I went on Facebook and whined to my T@b-owning friends about my continued poor luck. I know what you’re thinking – Kim, this has nothing to do with F.
Oh, but it does.
Enter the incomparable Alex Kohout. He was at his apartment in Columbus, Ohio when he saw what I wrote. He left his apartment at 8:30 p.m., drove to a local store, bought the new part that I needed, and offered to put it on my trailer that weekend when I was meeting him and others in Ohio.
Alex is the guy who looks out for everyone and who seeks out opportunities to help others. Best of all, he does so with a smile and, if you’re willing to admit that you’re kind of a moron for letting everything fall off your trailer, he will gladly share a good laugh with you as well. No joke – this guy is one of the kindest, most generous I’ve ever met and I’m better for knowing him.
And still you wonder – what the F, Kim? Get to the point. Alex mentioned that he was vacationing in the Smokies in September and, before we both realized it, I was tagging along to camp with him and to go fly fishing, a perfect double F!
Fly Fishing: The Truth
Let me start by saying that fly fishing is a ton of fun, despite what you’re about to read.
But I’m here to give you the real, non-romanticized truth of fly fishing.
First, I bet that when you think about fly fishing, you think about the grace and serenity of A River Runs Through It, right? You think about Brad Pitt snapping a 50-foot line back and forth while standing knee-deep in a slow-moving river with beautiful mountains in the background, don’t you?
Yeah, it’s nothing like that at all.
Don’t be me.
You know, that really should just be the theme for my entire blog: Whatever happens in life, don’t be me. WWKD? Don’t do that. (Though we all have to admit that I kind of have a ball with most of my ridiculous, poorly-considered decisions.)
1. Don’t dress like you’re spending the day working in your backyard.
You’re waiting for hilarious shots of me and Alex wearing waders, I know. Me, too. We arrived at the outfitters with no idea what one wears to fly fish, so we wore t-shirts and shorts and brought along other options. As it turns out, you fly fish in t-shirts and shorts. No waders. No photo ops looking both silly and skilled in rubber pants jacked up to my armpits.
2. Don’t assume that you will magically end up standing in a serene river.
My guess is that Brad didn’t hike past fresh bear scat and have his arms and legs torn up by briars, all to arrive on the shore to find that he had to climb down moss-covered boulders and rocks. I admit it never crossed my mind that getting to the damn river meant hiking and rock climbing, but it does.
So, Alex and I followed Jesse through the woods to the first stop on the river. We couldn’t hear a thing because, unlike Mr. Pitt’s serene river, ours was howling. We stopped at the edge and I thought, “WTH? Do we fish from up here?” I mean, there were 3,000 rocks between me and the water so surely we fish from the shore, right? Before I could embarrass myself with my foolish theory, our guide Jesse turned to us, smiled, and disappeared.
Jesse zipped down the slippery boulders and rocks like the 98-pound gazelle that he is. In four steps, he was at the water’s edge.
Alex followed suit and, also gazelle-like, gracefully ended up right next to Jesse in a matter of seconds.
Me? I flump, flump, flumped down the gauntlet of rocks with all the grace of a drunk hippo. I bounced off one boulder, grabbed a tree of questionable strength to keep from bashing my head on the next boulder, and eventually ended up within a block or so of Jesse and Alex. If you’re horribly out of shape and dressed like you’re going to your kids’ soccer game, do not go fly fishing with two fit men who are 30 years younger than you are. It’s just stupid.
3. Don’t expect to eat any fish that you catch.
You assumed that we’d be hauling big ol’ fish out of the water left and right, then grilling them over an open fire that night, aren’t you?
Yeah, that’s what Alex and I thought, too.
Nope. In the Little Pigeon River, the fish average 4 to 7 inches in length so you need about 53 of them to make a meal.
After we left the river, Alex and I compared notes and realized we both thought the same thing at this revelation: Why are we doing this?!
Oh, right. For this. It was absolutely beautiful.
4. Dot’s Pretzels and Scooby Snacks fix everything.
After the flumping and as I tried to look like I wasn’t gasping for breath because I’d just seen my life flash before me, Jesse asked me, “You brought lunch, right?” Um, no. Lunch was in the car and the car was about 3 states away. Or less than a mile away. No one told us we should bring our lunch and, if there were bears hanging out, it kind of seemed stupid to be hauling around the famous Dot’s Pretzels, which I learned are Alex’s answer to absolutely everything under the sun.
Hungry? I have Dot’s Pretzels.
Can’t decide what to do next? Have a Dot’s Pretzel, the Pride of Dakota.
Then I tried the little nuggets of goodness and I understood. They’re amazing.
So, we gradually moved downstream until we were in the same state as the car, then clambered back up the rocks and had a nice lunch.
And finally, remember Scooby Snacks from the amazing snack box that my cousin Laura Carter sent to me, the only treat Mighty didn’t touch? I found them in Tennessee, making them the only redeeming quality that Gatlinburg will ever have.
The winner is…
- Fish caught: Alex caught 5, Jesse caught 1, I caught 0.
- F-related drink: You all know that Alphabet Travel requires a letter-related bourbon. Let’s stop here for a second. In case you’re wondering, Gatlinburg sucks. If you took Myrtle Beach, moved it to the Tennessee mountains, added moonshine and a ridiculous number of people in wheelchairs and scooters, you’d come close to Gatlinburg. We tried so hard to find a decent bar with craft cocktails and it just didn’t happen. We did, however, almost go into a distillery that had a dead guy on a stretcher at the door, no lie. So the F-related drink didn’t happen. I’ll double up for G.
- Favorite travel companion: Alex Kohout is amazing. I’m so grateful that he let me crash his vacation, that he let me crash his fly fishing, and that he made me laugh for 3 days straight. You’re the best!
G is next and I already know what I want to do, but if you have any suggestions for H or I, or if you want to join me on any of these, let me know!
This happened. Enjoy.