When you fly fish you will meet interesting people. One of those people is our friend John “Zug Bug” Davis. Zug was new to fly fishing when he started attending our fishing club meetings after relocating to North Carolina from Chicago. We planned an outing to a local fishing hole so that he could try his hand at the fly rod for the first time. Much to his own ridicule, Zug showed up all decked out in “brand name” fishing clothes with a brand new rod and reel. Our tune soon changed though when he proceeded to nearly skunk us with his only fly, a very ugly size eight Zug Bug. Thus his name was bestowed upon him and he forever became “Zug Bug” Davis. We came to fish with Zug quite a bit over the next few years and we were relieved to find that his beginners luck had for the most part been just that.
On one of these trips we visited the South Toe River. The South Toe River is located in the mountains of North Carolina near the town of Bakersville. Several club members were in attendance that day and it was decided that I would fish with Zug. We had a tough day. The weather was unseasonably warm and the fish were very uncooperative. These were not the stocked trout that had so eagerly taken our flies on other waters. These were wild fish and they were completely unforgiving of anything but a perfect presentation. If we missed a strike (and we often did) we did not get a second chance at that fish. We also had the misfortune of running into one of the foulest individuals that I have ever had the displeasure of meeting on the water. However, that is another story.
To make a short story shorter, by the end of the day most of us felt that the river had beaten us. As we prepared to leave we decided to fish one last hole. Zug had taken off his waders and had put on a pair of sandals and perched himself atop a large rock over looking the river. Our mood was improving and as we were no longer consumed with stalking fish, we were most likely getting rather boisterous. About fifty feet up the river I saw a fish jump. Loudly, I announced to the entire group that my intentions were to “catch that fish”, and started plodding up stream. Once I had gotten into position I made a cast which fell to the left of my target by a good two feet. Zug stood up on his perch and motioned for me to cast to the proper place at the tail of the hole. I did and this time my elk hair caddis found its mark and was promptly eaten by a seven inch brook trout. Everyone, including me, was amazed with my (luck) prowess and the collective crowd of anglers let out a hoot in my honor. I landed the fish and released it unharmed then turned to my audience and, expressing my gratitude for their applause, took a very deep bow. As I rose from my bow I was face to face with a uniformed wildlife enforcement officer. I was a bit embarrassed at my showboating but was well within regulations so my buddies and I proceeded to show the officer our fishing licenses and then began to discuss the day’s fishing.
As we talked with the Game Warden, I began to look around for Zug Bug. He was nowhere to be found so I asked one of the others in our party if they had seen what had become of Zug. One of our number replied, “He’s up there with that lady Game Warden.” I glanced up into the woods only to see my buddy Zug being patted down by a very nice looking blonde, blue eyed, lady wildlife officer in full uniform, pistol at her side. The sight of this must have taken us by surprise and a hush fell over our entire group. She finished her search and came down the path to the river bank where she told her partner that she needed to speak to us. She then turned to us and asked us how we knew Mr. Davis. We resisted the urge to tell her we had never seen him before in our lives and answered truthfully that we worked with him. She was after all very well armed. She then asked us the oddest question. “Were we sure this was how we knew Mr. Davis or did we not in fact pay him to take us fishing as our guide?” Silence filled the river basin followed by what can best be described as animalistic belly laughter. Not just a chuckle but more of a howl arose from our group. The two officers looked at each other with puzzled glances then explained that they had been watching us from a hidden vantage point in the woods and had seen Zug point out the fish that I had just caught and assumed he was a fishing guide. This river is in a national park and guides are required to have a special license that allows them to use the park for commercial purposes. Not knowing that this was probably only Zug’s third time holding a fly rod they had looked at his casual manner and name brand fishing clothes and assumed him to be the professional in our bunch. After our laughter subsided I told the officer that I had intended no disrespect by my response to her questions but that I had been fishing in the sweltering heat on this forsaken river all day and that when I was finally able to catch a decent trout, she had given Zug Bug all the credit. Needless to say the somewhat red faced officers made a hasty retreat and we did not see them again that day. I have the feeling however, that Zug Bug has seen her often in his minds eye as he relived his pat-down on the river bank in his fishing fantasies.
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