Hugh--First of all, your Christmas greetings to one and all on the forum are warmly reciprocated. Thanks, and a fair amount of what you describe coincides with my memories. That includes use of cane poles, although the best "hand" I knew for tandem nymphing was a Park ranger who used a fly rod, Buford Messer. He may well have tipped his flies with bait (lots of local lore suggests he would remove the eyes of the first trout he caught and put them on his wet fly or nymph), but he could flat-out catch big trout. I never saw him make a real cast. He just sort of flipped/roll cast then kep his rod tip high and his line tight.
Your mention of a black gnat pattern certainly rings true. It was a favorite on the N. C. side. Thanks for sharing the memories, and I hope we can meet at talk at Troutfest.