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ijsouth
09-09-2008, 11:06 PM
When I was growing up, I actually used to look forward to hurricane season. I guess I had the normal fascination with nature that a boy has, but I also used to look forward to watching Nash Roberts plot the course, then tell everyone where the storm was going. Old Nash is a legend in the New Orleans area; he started tracking storms in the Navy in W.W.II, then went on to a television career in which he ended up working for all three major network affiliates in town. Nash was definitely old school - he called the correct track for Audrey in 1957, all without the benefit of satellite. He frequently disagreed with the official forecasts of the hurricane center, much to the chagrin of the other meteorologists on the other stations, and he stuck with his dry erase board maps and markers long after the advent of high-tech visual aids. Even after he retired as a day-to-day forecaster on tv, WWL would bring him out of semi-retirement whenever the gulf got interesting - a sure sign that things were serious. He finally retired completely a few years before Katrina, to look after his ailing wife; the apocryphal story is that his neighbor saw his car missing the day before Katrina made landfall, and that was enough to convince the neighbor to evacuate...it is true that Katrina was the first storm he left town for. Anyway, I admired the man, and envisioned a career of flying into such storms and tracking them. Well, things didn't quite work out that way, and while I still have a fascination with these powerful examples of nature's fury, after dealing with a tree through my roof, insurance claims, and whatnot from Katrina, my boyhood fascination with tropical weather has been tempered a bit - I would just as soon see them make landfall somewhere else.

Anyway, we had made one last summer trip to the mountains in mid-August, before school started. As usual, I found myself wanting more of the streams, and an article I read online about a particularly rugged and isolated part of the park piqued my interest. Before long, I had talked myself into another trip - this one over Labor Day weekend, and with my oldest only. I reasoned that she deserved some down time with me, after looking after her sisters all summer - of course, that was also a way to rationalize another trip up there. I knew it would probably be a bit much of a hike for her younger sisters, and I at least wanted to see just how difficult of a slog it would be to get there. So, I made our hotel reservations, and planned to leave as soon as school and work were done that Friday. That was the weekend before; by late Monday afternoon before that Friday, we started to notice the formation of Gustav in the Caribbean. By Tuesday, it was rapidly looking like Southeast Louisiana was the prime target, and the rest of the week was a blur of preparation at work, prepping our backup servers to become our new production servers. I kept the reservations, but instead of a trip for two, it became a trip for five - my three girls, my mother, and myself. We left early Saturday, and even though the major evacuation calls wouldn't be made until Sunday, we saw a lot of Louisiana plates between Meridian and Birmingham. We made it up to Townsend, dropped by LRO and hollered "surprise!" It was definitely more than a bit surreal. Our plans to hike to that isolated area were by the boards, but I was still able to fish a little; for the most part, I would wake up early and drive to Cosby and fish for a few hours, then head back to the room and see what everyone else wanted to do for the rest of the day. The girls weren't really interested in fishing much - they were happy swimming back at the hotel. My oldest just got a cell phone, and she soon found out that one of her friends from school had evacuated to Pigeon Forge, so one day we met her family at the Laurel Falls trailhead and hiked to the falls. As much time as we have spent in the park, and as often as I have driven right past that crowded parking area, we had never done this obvious "touristy" thing. It was ok - but frankly, I've seen prettier water when fishing:

http://i154.photobucket.com/albums/s243/ijsouth/IMGP0604.jpg

On another day, I dropped the girls and mom off in Gatlinburg, and I poked around the WPLPR, finding the water a bit on the high side, then heading over to Jakes Creek for a few small trout. Other than that, it was Cosby for a few hours each day, as we waited to see what would happen back home. I decided to see how high up I could go and still have fishable water - I soon found out that the higher I went, the better the fishing was, not only in terms of numbers, but also in average size. For the longest time, I have wanted to get a brookie that was really dark. The specs became darker the higher I went up the mountain:

http://i154.photobucket.com/albums/s243/ijsouth/IMGP0608.jpg

I said I fished Cosby in the mornings...a few times, I was able to get out in the evenings, before dark, as well. I kept exploring higher and higher, and one night found an extremely deep, relatively still pool. There was one large rock towards the tail end, and I dropped my Mr Rapidan about 10 feet in front of it and watched it slowly drift toward the rock. It never made it that far - I had a ferocious strike, followed by the screaming of the reel - the fish was hitting the reel and taking line! He made two huge runs, taking about 20 ft of line before I was able to turn his head and beach him on the little rock beach in front of me. He was a true beauty, a good 7.5 inches, and wonderfully colored:

http://i154.photobucket.com/albums/s243/ijsouth/IMGP0599.jpg

However, I soon noticed blood leaking from his gills - he had swallowed the fly. With a lot of regret, I decided to keep this gallant fighter - I don't think he would have survived. I've never hooked a trout on a fly that deeply, and if he wasn't bleeding, I would have snipped the line and released him. This was the first brookie I have harvested - I know there is nothing wrong with keeping a few fish, and it probably helps the overall population to thin out a few now and then, but I just have so much respect for these native specs, I don't like keeping them. I certainly don't mind keeping rainbows as much. On the way back to the hotel, I picked up a cheap styrofoam cooler and some ice, and packed him away. Hopefully, I'll get to eat him this weekend. I added a rainbow the next day. Along the way, I spooked a young bear cub one morning - I whistled loudly and kept my head on a swivel, looking for momma.

While I enjoyed exploring areas of Cosby I had never been before, and I was glad to be able to show my Mom the park a bit (including a classic touron display at Cades Cove, idiots armed with cameras running into the woods after a bear), the whole experience was more than a bit strange. You couldn't really consider it a normal vacation, and you had to wonder how long you would have to live out of a suitcase. For Katrina, the girls were out of town for the better part of a month, while I worked in Baton Rouge and came home to a house without electricity, waiting for the power to come back so I could go and pick them up. That wasn't going to happen this time, but the news from home was very fragmentary. I was able to swing by LRO another time, and Byron was very generous, allowing me to have some online time to check my email and try to find out some news. Finally, I spoke to my boss two days after landfall - he was at his house in Metairie, and he never lost power! We left the next day, and as we approached home, it was clear that we dodged a bullet - just some branches down, but nothing like Katrina. We had power, and the stores were open, and it was clear that things would be returning to normal in short order. Our little adventure was over - if we had to leave town, I'm glad I know where to head.

caught 108
09-09-2008, 11:46 PM
Nice Fish,Glad everything turned out good for you and your family.

mtnman2888
09-10-2008, 05:28 AM
I've heard it all now: a hurricane comes and you're forced to evacuate to the Smokies.

Genius! Pure Genius!

ijsouth
09-10-2008, 08:34 AM
Well, it just happened to work out that way this time, and fortunately, all we got was a glancing blow. Katrina was, of course, a whole lot worse. We ended up in this area back then, too, but that was before I got into fly fishing. We also left just hours before it made landfall back then - Katrina was the first storm I ever had to evacuate for. Here was our itinnerary for Katrina:

1. Left about 3PM...despite taking every back road I could think of, hit traffic everywhere. Couldn't find a hotel until 2AM, in Huntsville, Alabama.

2. Next day, drove to Knoxville - stayed 2 days there.

3. Next stop - Dalton, Georgia for a few days....couldn't return home - parish closed.

4. Canton, Mississippi - closest I could get to home. Had to wait an extra day due to huge lines for gas. Made arrangements to bring girls and my mom to my mom's hometown in Canada, while I went home and went back to work.

5. Made it to our house - saw damage, got more clothes. Went back to Canton, then next day left for Canada.

6. Spent 2 days up in "Great White North"...then headed back south. Drove straight to our Baton Rouge office and started working. Spent a week in my house with no electricity and cold showers, waiting for the power to come back on. When it did at my mom's house, drove back up and picked up the girls and my mom.

I figured I went through Meridian, Mississippi 8 times during a 3-week span. So, Gustav was nothing compared to Katrina. Looking back, if it wasn't for the fact that I already was coming up, I probably wouldn't have left this time - according to a neighbor, we were only without power for a few days. Trust me, this evacuation stuff gets old in a hurry. Don't get me wrong - I was glad to be able to fish a bit, but it definitely wasn't like a normal vacation. In a way, it was like a scouting trip for future trips - I found a lot of deep pools to drag a nymph through when it gets cold, and it was fun catching 4 and 5 fish from one pool - I would catch anywhere from 10-20 brookies in about an hour and a half or so of fishing. I just wish I wasn't under the time constraints.

BTW - Did I see, on another forum, a report from you about what I think was the same area my oldest and I were planning to go to? Funny how things work out - if we went, we probably would be fishing behind you, and we might have been skunked.

jeffnles1
09-10-2008, 01:06 PM
I wonder if my boss would believe me if I said a hurricane was heading toward Cincinnati and I had to evacuate to the Smokeys for a week or so?

Jeff

ijsouth
09-10-2008, 01:48 PM
I wonder if my boss would believe me if I said a hurricane was heading toward Cincinnati and I had to evacuate to the Smokeys for a week or so?

Jeff

LOL...the problem is, no matter where you evacuate, you eventually have to come back, and what awaits you usually isn't fun. This time, it was no big deal - Katrina was a jungle of fallen trees, etc. Actually, I'm very fortunate in terms of topography where I live; I'm about 20ft above sea level, and a good distance from the nearest river, and about 6 miles north of Lake Ponchartrain - flooding isn't the issue with me, and believe me, I wouldn't wish a flooded house on anybody...what a mess. So, any problems I might have are wind-related - I lost 6 pine trees during Katrina, and yesterday I had my remaining one cut down...it was in sad shape.

My boss and I were talking a short time ago, and both of us remembered the "good old days", when no one evacuated. I never even thought about evacuating until Katrina. There was an excellent column in the Times-Picayune a few days ago about this very phenomenon - a million plus people leaving the area for days at a time...how long can an area sustain such movement? It's hard to have any sort of a business environment when the entire area is gone for days at a time.

jeffnles1
09-10-2008, 02:42 PM
LOL...the problem is, no matter where you evacuate, you eventually have to come back, and what awaits you usually isn't fun. This time, it was no big deal - Katrina was a jungle of fallen trees, etc. Actually, I'm very fortunate in terms of topography where I live; I'm about 20ft above sea level, and a good distance from the nearest river, and about 6 miles north of Lake Ponchartrain - flooding isn't the issue with me, and believe me, I wouldn't wish a flooded house on anybody...what a mess. So, any problems I might have are wind-related - I lost 6 pine trees during Katrina, and yesterday I had my remaining one cut down...it was in sad shape.

My boss and I were talking a short time ago, and both of us remembered the "good old days", when no one evacuated. I never even thought about evacuating until Katrina. There was an excellent column in the Times-Picayune a few days ago about this very phenomenon - a million plus people leaving the area for days at a time...how long can an area sustain such movement? It's hard to have any sort of a business environment when the entire area is gone for days at a time.


Believe me, I was just joking. I live close enough to the Ohio River that I've seen my share of flood damage and like you said, it's somethign I would not wish on anyone.

Anyone who has not seen flood damage, it's not just the water. Water eventually dries and the walls in the house can be rebuilt. It's the mud that is the problem. Really nasty, smelly, gross mud that coats everything and gets into the smallest crevices. Then there's the mold and teh smell of decay everywhere.

I'm just trying to figure out how I can get a few extra days off work to do some more fishing.

Again, I was mainly poking a little fun at Cincinnati. I wouldn't want a hurricane or flood (tornado and river floods are as close as we get here) on anybody.

Jeff

PeteCz
09-10-2008, 05:43 PM
IJ, now that you own some land up this way, have you ever thought about moving up here for good? I know its hard to leave "home", but it sounds like its quite an emotional event each year for everyone in the area. Its a great place down that way, but we have more than enough room up this way for some more folks...

The economy is pretty good, as well............

ijsouth
09-10-2008, 05:56 PM
Jeff:

I know you were just funnin' ;)...You do have to laugh at the situation a bit. My oldest's friend, who she met up with in the park, evacuated to LUXURY cabins in Pigeon Forge - we all had a laugh out of that one.

Pete:

Believe me, I more than toy with the idea of moving up, storm or no storm. Every time I come up, it seems like it's harder to leave the mountains. On the other hand, I know I would miss south Louisiana - my family has been here, off and on, since circa 1843; it is a truly unique corner of the world, and once we turn the corner on the "tropical season", and we head into the cooler months, it is truly a delight. I would also have a hard time walking away from my current job - I really like it, most of the time anyway....a few years ago, when I was a contractor to the Navy here in town, it was a different situation. I'll probably end up moving up there when the kids are out of the house, but another Katrina-like event might hasten things. It never used to be this bad - losing the buffer of our marshes is really being felt now.

ijsouth
09-13-2008, 09:39 PM
Trying to explain to someone who isn't from New Orleans just what it is about this place that seems to place a hold on people is difficult; of course, a lot of people have moved out - it can be very hard to justify living in an area that had a host of problems before Katrina; stagnant economy, high crime in the city, overdevelopment across the lake where I live, and the like. However, it grips you...here's a song that sort of explains it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSqExKDv20U

The mountains are unique, too, and have their own grip...so, you see how I'm being pulled in 2 directions.