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
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
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
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
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
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' ?"
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