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By Louis Cahill

Admittedly this doesn’t have a lot to do with fly fishing, other than taking place on a trout stream.

When I saw the map depicting the path of totality for the solar eclipse of 2017, I knew exactly where I wanted to be. The thin line of totality passing through the mountains of western North Carolina intersected one of my favorite places on earth. A spot that’s near my heart for a couple of reasons.

If I were to tell you where it is, you’d likely be surprised. If you know it, please don’t say. It’s one of those spots that gets plenty of attention but it wasn’t always that way. It used to be the spot I could go and fish all day without seeing another angler. Well, not far from the spot anyway where I caught my first brook trout. Near where I’ve caught a handful of big wild brown trout, and a spot I almost drowned myself. A place where I saw a boulder the size of a car come off the mountain. It’s a spot that’s full of memories and it’s having been discovered by a great many anglers might make it less pleasant to fish but no less pleasant to remember.

I originally made plans to fish with Justin, but plans fall apart if they are made too far in advance. I decided it would e a great day to spend with my wife, Kathy, and our puppy, Josie. It would be Josie’s first road trip, if you don’t count the flight home from South Andros, and I was excited to see how she’d do, as I have many more planned.

_DSF4457-Edit-2-2We reached our chosen spot, at the top of a favorite waterfall, about an hour before totality. Everyone whom I had told where we were going, including my wife, thought it would be a bad idea. That there would be no way we’d have a view of the sun for the dense trees and steep gorge walls. “Trust me,” I told Kathy, I know exactly where the sun will be. I should. The top of this falls is the exact place where I shot the image that sucked me forever into the fly fishing business. I never forget a location.

It couldn’t have been more perfect. We had driven past hoards of folks in official viewing locations and pullouts on the side of the highway, their paper glasses pointed to the sky. I didn’t know what my eclipse experience would be, but I knew that wasn’t what I was after. I get plenty of hoards and traffic at home, thank you. We were not alone at the top of the falls, but we shared the day with only three other couples and they were wonderful folks.

I had seen partial eclipses twice. Once as a kid and once in 1984. The one in ’84 was close to total. Close enough that the pigeons in downtown Atlanta landed and went to sleep. It was cool, but it in no way prepared me for what I saw from the falls. Like everyone, I’d heard the stories about the total eclipse being a life-altering experience. About it ending wars or saving lives but I’d never thought of them as more than folklore. I have a different perspective on that now.

As the eclipse reached totality I was futzing with my camera, preparing to get a photo. When the last brilliant spot of the sun was covered I found the my exposure changed wildly. I fumbled with the dials of the camera trying to regain a usable exposure but I couldn’t see my hands, let alone the camera. I was momentarily disoriented when I heard Kathy say, “Look at it baby.”

I was totally in awe. The sun’s corona danced wildly against the deep blue sky full of stars. I was instantly struck with the scale of the thing. The immensity and fury of the sun, the looming power of the moon, the scale of the earth itself. I knew exactly when the eclipse would happen, I knew exactly why, I knew exactly how long it would last, But I was in no way prepared for what I experienced.

I wouldn’t say my life was changed. Not in the way I think of lives being changed, but something happened. I could feel my body react to the excitement. I eventually got the settings on my camera right and shot a photo, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the feeling. When the sun once again burst out the other side, I did experience a feeling I was not expecting. It wasn’t joy exactly, but it was close. I think it was optimism, and without succumbing completely, it’s kind of stayed with me.

If you have been reading G&G for several years, you may know that the last couple of years have been hard ones for my family. The loss of our godson two years ago has, like the eclipse, cast a long shadow across our days. Seeing that eclipse changed something, although I couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t until later, when I read a quote from Madeleine Albright that it sunk in.

“Enjoyed watching eclipse 2017. A great reminder that all darkness is temporary.” -Madeleine Albright

I think that’s exactly what I took away from the eclipse, and it really did take totality to make it happen. Not surprising I guess, I have always been a believer in the absolute. A loather of half measures. So, as promised, not a lot to do with fly fishing, except that I am looking forward to getting on the water next week, and looking forward to a few more things.

Here’s a short time-laps of the eclipse.

If you were able to experience totality for yourself, please tell us about it in the coments. If not, you will have another chance in 2024. I urge you to take it.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Totality

  1. Why wait until 2024? Before then, on December 14, 2020, there will be a total eclipse over Argentina. Tick off two items on your bucket list in one go.

  2. I was camping on the Intracoastal Waterway, just south of McClellanville, SC. I was one of the last humans to view the eclipse, on land, in the US. Agreed, totality was beautiful, but the brief flash of the “diamond” as the eclipse came out of totality will stay in memory forever. God winked at me.

  3. I also took my fly fishing gear with me, I drove an hour and a half to the Eastatoee river SC expecting loads of fishermen to show up. I got there and only three cars were there. I had some solar binoculars I let a few students from Tryon NC and another family look through until it got close. I walked down along the river until I found a nice rock in the middle all alone by my self. I got comfortable and laid out on my back for about five min until totality. Being by myself having a perfect view surrounded by trees and river was awesome! It was my own show especially for me. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had! So after it had passed I started fishing caught a few chub hooked into one really nice brown for about three seconds, maybe four, just enough to briefly see it, then the sky opened up and rained so hard LOL. I was supposed to go to a TU meeting that evening but I dried out enough just so it looked like I had wet myself….. So I drove home instead. What an incredible day, I hope everyone that saw it experienced the same feelings.

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