The Sunflower Seed Story

Admittedly, I’m not the world’s greatest conversationalist. If we were all movie characters, and the average person’s discourse is in line with a Quentin Tarantino flick, my dialogue would compare to that of Star Wars a la George Lucas. Because of this, I have always been forced to rely on stories in order to seem even the least bit interesting in a social situation. Needless to say, most of my friends have heard some of the same stories repeated a few times.

In August, I acquired a new one.

After waking at 5:45 and heading north with three friends, Matt Anderson, Kelly Davis and Mark Musselwhite, and grabbing some chicken biscuits and sweet tea at Chik-fil-A, we arrived at Curtis Switch on the Toccoa River, one of the only streams in Georgia that remains cold in the heat of the summer. The weather was great as it wasn’t yet scorching hot, especially on the naturally air conditioned river. And if we weren’t yet awake when we got there, that changed after getting waist-deep in the cold water that comes from the depths of Lake Blue Ridge.

The fishing that day was good, especially considering it was August in Georgia. A tiny zebra midge, pheasant tail nymph or olive hare’s ear dropped below a big, fluffy grass-hopper pattern helped me bring a few dozen fish to hand, half of those being fingerlings and the other half rainbows and browns in the eight- to 15-inch range, including several that were stream-born. The 15-inch rainbow that pounced on the hopper pattern and the 13-inch brown that rolled over to take in the pheasant tail were enough to satisfy me. And, the steady stream of “WHAA-WHHOOOO!’s” coming from our group of young “Rabunites-In-Training” let me know I wasn’t the only one in our fly-flinging-foursome having a good time.

But you know, even if I had gotten skunked for the day, something happened that was worth the $3 a gallon in gasoline to get there. It was something that defies all odds. It was something that might have even made Lefty Kreh look twice.

As anyone who has fished the Toccoa tailwater before knows, it’s a wide river. In most places, several anglers can stand side-by-side across the river and not be concerned with hooking one another or getting in each others way. My buddy, Mark, who was casting into a run near the east bank, got his fly snagged on some underwater obstruction and leaned over to free it. As he did so, a fresh pack of sunflower seeds Mark was carrying slid out of his pocket and into the current. I was about 50 feet downstream and 40 or 50 feet to the side of where Mark was fishing, so he pointed at the runaway snack and yelled down to me, “Hey David! Can you grab those?!”

I responded with a grin and a thumbs-up and sarcastically replied, “Oh yeah, I’ll get that!” I knew full well that I wouldn’t be able to get across the current in time to reach the seeds. So, I did what anyone would do who grew up in the 80s watching movies like Indiana Jones; I pretended my fly rod was Indy’s whip, made one big haul and shot my line 45 or 50 feet in the direction of the seeds.

Now, in all honesty, if I would have taken the time to think about what I was trying to do, I would have probably been 10 feet off… at least.

The large hopper pattern that would later fool the 15-inch rainbow slowly settled as my fly line and leader unrolled towards the moving target. The timing was perfect. The hopper landed ON TOP OF the sunflower seeds! I smiled, set the hook, and delicately stripped in my line so as not to lose Mark’s seeds.

When I looked upstream, I saw Mark standing there with his jaw hanging down. And I think mine might have been, too.

Moral of the story: A trophy catch isn’t always a fish!

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