The Iredell County Public Library hosted the Smithsonian Institute exhibit Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America through December of 2015. Hometown Teams is part of the Smithsonian Institute “Museum on Main Street” project and was brought to N.C. by the North Carolina Department of Humanities Council. On Monday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. we had “Bicycling: An Introduction to Bicycling by Jeff Archer” from First Flight Bicycles here in Statesville. Jeff gave a brief history of bicycling and provide information on how to get into biking for both children and adults. On Tuesday, Dec. 1, WRAL-TV broadcast journalist and author Scott Mason presented, “Tar Heel Traveler Sports” with images and stories he has collected from across N.C.
Sports is more than just football, baseball, and basketball and fall of the year always makes me think of trout fishing. I received a B.A. in English from Western Carolina University, but some of my former classmates say it should be a B.A. in trout fishing based on how I spent my time. Western is located in Cullowhee about an hour west of Asheville. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and has the Tuckasegee River flowing by the campus. A professor I had once came into class and announced that “Mr. Reese will not be joining us today as I saw him standing in the Tuckasegee River trout fishing on my way in.” Hey, they had just stocked so it really wasn’t my fault.
Stocking means that the fish were let out into the river by the N.C. Wildlife Commission. Native refers to fish that were born in the river. In college my buddies and I referred to students who were from out of state as being stocked as opposed to natives like us. Iredell County has a lot of people that are stocked in the southern end of the county. Friends of ours in the dorm from Florida and up north used to marvel when my roommate Ricky and I would fry fish or make squirrel and gravy in our dorm room. Western is near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Reservation so we were in outdoors heaven. Ricky always caught more fish than I did and had a Daiwa black and gold spinning reel that I used to envy.
One fall morning we went down to the Big Cover Creek at daylight to fish on the Cherokee Reservation. Ricky headed up stream while I worked my way down. I was fishing with an orange and black Rooster Tail spinner with a golden blade. I was throwing it up stream and letting it float down letting the water spin the blade. At first I didn’t realize I had gotten a hit, but when I started to reel in I felt a fish tug on the line. I knew it was a big fish, but I didn’t realize how big until I got it close to the bank. When I saw its size I almost started shaking. I finally got it close enough to get my net under it just before it got off. I remember stumbling to the bank and going down on my knees to hold it in the net while I got it on the stringer. I had caught an 18-inch brook or speckled trout.
Upstream Ricky had caught a 15-inch rainbow which normally would have been huge for us. Later it was recalled that Ricky looked up and smiled after catching his rainbow saying he was going to burn Big Joel with his fish. I knew something was up when I saw Ricky working his way down the bank on the river toward where I was fishing. He looked at me in the water and grinned, “You catch anything?’ I held up a finger and said I caught one. Ricky was still smiling, “Really, where is it?” I pointed down at his feet where my stringer was stuck in the bank. Ricky looked down at the monster that I had caught and exclaimed “Gawh” as he took a step backward.
I told Ricky how I caught the fish as he picked up the stringer to get a better look at my brook. After congratulating me on my catch he headed back up stream. Ricky never even bothered to show me his puny-little-good-for-nothing-sorry-excuse-for-a-fish. Brooks or speckled trout as they are also called usually don’t get very big and I suspect mine was raised in a fish hatchery before being stocked in the river. I still have mine mounted on a wall in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Reeling in the big one” on Nov. 24, 2015