The heat mixes with the recent rain shower to give the air a feel of something close to smothering under a wet towel. This time of year the showers come and go in the North Carolina mountains. Cool is replaced by hot and humid as soon as the sun comes back out.
I watch my line settle up stream and begin to pull it back in.
"When I was a young boy all I needed was a cane pole, a hook and a paper cup full of worms and I'd catch a bucket full of fish." calls Percy.
He's perched on a rock, unhooking a good sized brook trout.
"You got a 5 hundred dollar fly rod and whole bunch of fancy stuff and you never catch fish" he adds.
I politely nod before he offers his advice, "Might help if you just leave that line in the water a spell. Whatcha keep waving it around in the air for? Looks all fancy but-cha ain't going to catch you a fish thata way. " he voice trailing off into the damp woods.
Percy holds up a string of five fish. Three rainbow, one brook and a small sunfish. Besides the sunfish, not one of them less than a pound. Thankfully he's not using a cane pole.
His weapon of choice is a Zebco 202 spinning reel, a red and white plastic bobber and three prong hook. His bait, wheaty balls. I've told him he can't use live bait on this stream to which he replies "wheaty balls aren't live bait."
The stream is artificial flies only but since we are dozen miles outside of Brevard North Carolina on private property I look the other way. I am also silently praying the NC Wildlife guys are busy elsewhere.
Percy Craven has owned a State of North Carolina lifetime fishing license since 1952 the first year they offered them. At 88 I'd say he's gotten his monies worth.
An hour later we call it a day. Percy has 8 fish, I have none.
"Skunked ya again, I'd say". Percy reminds me and then repeats it just for good measure "Skunked ya again".
I offer my hand to help him up the bank the last five feet, before the gravel road.
He looks at me with his steel grey eyes, he's all serious. "Son, I might look old, but my knees and my heart are as good as when I was 18!" he chuckles.
All right but if you fall it will be on my watch and ....
"They'll think you pushed me!" adds Percy.
I tell him that the thought had crossed my mind.
The fish end up in the back of the truck, the doors creak and slam and I make a three point turn and head down the road. Percy pops a beer and offers me the first sip, which I remind him that I don't drink and drive. He says "your loss" and takes a couple of big swigs.
The shadows are long and the rain comes again and just when life seems that it will go on forever, Percy speaks up and says, "you know my days are numbered". I don't say anything, and just let the miles roll by in silence.
Then I remind him, "we have plenty of fish let to catch before we need to worry about that." To which Precy adds, "well some of us do".