How did my daughter and I end up in neoprene suits when we went to the mountains for a wild game weekend? It started out with Buddy McLean and his Lodge at Buckberry Creek.
Located in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, just above Gatlinburg, it’s an amazing place—rustic, yet luxurious, tucked away high in the mountains, but not so remote that you have to be airlifted in. It’s outfitted with all the amenities of an exclusive resort, yet full of kind, quirky characters to keep it interesting and fun. The minute my daughter, her friend Maggie and I walked in the door, we felt like family.
Soon after being greeted by the effervescent and huggable Buddy, an avid outdoorsman (who resembles everyone’s favorite uncle), our fishing lesson was set up. We met our guide Brad Atwell, a true mountainman (and waiter from the night before), early the next morning for a trip straight through the Smoky Mountain National Park to his favorite fishing “hole,” the Raven’s Ford Tributary on the Cherokee reservation. He called it the “trophy section,” perfectly appropriate for us, I thought. After gearing up in our neoprene waders and felt boots, which felt a bit like being “vacuum-packed,” we were ready for the water.
I’m not going to say that it was everything I imagined (A River Runs Through It comes to mind), but it was pretty darn close. The first couple of casts felt very awkward and were accompanied by a barrage of instructions from Brad: “Arm up, hand here on the rod, tippet through finger, line loose, yet taut, wait, wait.” But after a few casts, we easily got into the rhythm. Fly fishing is different from bass fishing. As Brad said, you’re actually hunting the fish, hopping around on rocks sometimes in waist high water, casting and recasting. After my lesson, I had trout on my mind and came home and whipped up these recipes. Mild tasting trout is perfect with caramelized fennel and rich tomato sauce.
—Jill Melton is editor of Relish magazine.