Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trout and Treasure: Grandfather Trout Fishing & Gem Mining

Like migrating birds, the family and I returned to our little place on Beech Mountain to greet the beginning of Summer over Memorial Day weekend. Mother Nature selected an eclectic combination of sunshine and rainstorms that weekend, no doubt as a way to re-impress us with the mountains' beauty. Every morning, the white curtain of low hanging clouds slowly lifted to display our spectacular mountain view into Tennessee, while the fresh-smelling green all around us glistened in the sunlight.

So up on Beech, rain is not a problem. Rain means good fishin'! Faced with a morning of drizzle, we hopped into the car and made our way down the mountain to Grandfather Trout Fishing and Gem Mining (about 3o minutes) on NC-105. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by an enormous fiberglass Trout, which (as you can see) my 5-year-old daughter found irresistible. And set like jewels in a green meadow, the three fishing ponds at Grandfather Trout are attractively accented by flower beds and a few stone walls.

The folks at Grandfather Trout can provide all the fishing equipment and bait you need, and are very friendly and helpful - particularly to those who are new to the sport. (And, judging by the shrieks and giggling that occasionally punctuated the peaceful sound of running water by the ponds, there were a lot of folks there who were not quite used to the energetic thrashings of a newly caught trout.) Customers are charged by the pound for your day's catch, and you can also pay to have your fish cleaned and filleted - and even smoked. In fact, be prepared to have your appetites roused by the tantalizing smell of smoked trout that occasionally wafts over the area. So you have the option to enjoy all the fun of fishing and none of the drudgery.

Right at the same location, those not interested in fishing can try their luck hunting for semi-precious gems at the sluices, which overlook the fishing ponds. Several sizes of buckets filled with mine castings are available for purchase, and are liberally salted with many different types of colored stones and crystals, which pleases the little ones to no end. It's a winning combination of rocks, dirt and water that will absorb your kids' attentions for a long while. We found a good dozen or more rather pretty garnets, clear quartz crystals, and even a small piece of emerald! And if you're lucky enough to find a really good specimen, you can take your find to the mineral shop for cutting and polishing.

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