From the west, dark clouds move across the mountains and valleys bringing with them wind and rain and thunder and lightning. Water, running in rivulets down hillsides, filling ditches and indentations, swelling creeks and gutters. Hard rains pelt tin roofs of old barns and corn cribs and houses. Wind shakes these structures, thunder rattles window panes and lightning illuminates the landscape veiled in darkness by the great grey mass above the valley. The storm grows in both size and intensity, and the wind bends trees in all direction. The wind, though invisible, can be seen in the tops of trees, their leaves showing what the wind looks like. In a strong wind, every branch of a tree moves independently, each is effected differently. They sway and shake, some breaking, some only bending, but all of them effected by the wind. Lightning hits the hillside, runs through the earth tunneling, and splits a great pine to mere splinters as it makes its exit. The smell of fire and pitch along with the scent of warm rain fills the valley where the storm rages, pounding the ground with pellets of ice, tearing leaves and bark from trees, paint and glass from windows, and stalks of corn from the fertile soil. Lightning from cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, ground to cloud. Trees break, fall, split from bolts of electricity. Earth flies up, dirt and rocks fall back to the ground, along with balls of ice the size of large marbles. The bark, the shredded leaves, the splintered trees and ripped-off tin from barn and house litters the ground. The smell of pitch and sap, fire and ice and summer rain is blown around in the valley. Blinding light and great darkness from the sky causes all living things to hide in fear. Waiting out the storm is part of living. Just as sure as the storm overtook the valley, it leaves it, and the sun comes out and the sky is the bluest blue you have ever seen. All that is left of the storm is the evidence, the casualties littering the roads, the hillsides and the fields. In the distance, to the southeast, you hear the thunder, a freight train on the way to its next destination. You know there will be another one soon. There always will be.
In my search for information on the history and tradition of fly fishing for trout in the mountains of South Carolina, I was extremely fortunate to have made the acquaintance of a true all-around outdoorsman and native son of the Appalachians, Dr. Thomas Cloer. Our correspondence so far has been by telephone only, but I hope that once this current health crisis dies down, we can get together in person. When I first contacted Mr. Cloer, I didn't know what to expect. Why would he be interested in anything I had to say? But I was pleasantly surprised when he returned my call. Within the first moments of our conversation, I felt as if I had known him forever. Maybe it was the kinship felt between two fly fishermen, or perhaps it was his kind voice, warm and familiar, a voice steeped in the tradition and language of the Southern Appalachians. "Joshua, I would be more than happy to talk to you about fly fishing." Dr. Thomas Cloer is Professor Emeritus of Furman Univers