Boomers and Knotty heads

Growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina squirrel hunting was a big deal, especially when you were 10. Forty years ago there wasn't a tremendous amount of game, deer and wild turkeys had not made the comeback that they have today, small game was really the only game in town. Every year I looked forward to the opening of the hunting season to get out into the woods, not to mention my mother made the best squirrel and dumplings on the planet and I love dumplings, squirrel is not bad either.

In western NC there are two kinds of squirrels, the normal grey variety that lives almost everywhere in the US and what we hunted, and a smaller variety about half the size of the normal grey and red in color, the only name I knew them by growing up was boomer. I honestly have no idea where the name boomer comes from but that is what everyone called them. The common belief was that a boomer was the result of a grey mating with a chipmunk and looking at them it was easy to see where people would get that.

These boomers are fast, I mean really fast, my grandfather said that you needed a hammerless rifle in order to shoot one. If you had a gun with a hammer the boomer would hear the trigger pulled and run around on the the backside of the tree before the hammer fell. I know now that these squirrels are pine squirrels and a completely different species from grey squirrels, not a cross between a grey and a chipmunk. I still see them and there is one that visits my camp on one of my favorite streams every time I camp there, oh and this particular pine squirrel loves ritz crackers. Here is a pic of him, not a very good pic but as I said they are fast and he did not want to sit still. The other is a professionally taken pic so you can actually see what a boomer looks like.
You can ask my fishing buddies, I am a master at catching knotty heads, I mean truly a prodigy. The only problem with that is no one, including yours truly, wants to catch a knotty head. You see they are not the most attractive fish, they are not good to eat and are generally just an aggravation, but if there is one in the entire creek I will catch it. So what is a knotty head? A knotty head is actually a hornyhead chub, yes that's it's real name, and the creeks of southern appalachia are full of them. They are not at all particular about what they eat and will attack flies or bait with equal fervor. They are usually not very big, 4 to 6 inches usually but I have seen, and caught, bigger ones. Here is a good example, brought to hand with a gold ribbed hare's ear nymph and an epic swift rod. 

After years of cussing them for the aggravations that they are I have learned to embrace them. Some people live their entire life not knowing what they are good at, I know for a fact I am a fantastic chub fisherman. 

So if you ever visit our southern mountains and have the good fortune to see a boomer you will know exactly what it is, and if you happen to have any ritz crackers, or a hammerless rifle, you will be well prepared. 

If the purpose of your visit is to fish and you are lucky enough to catch an ugly fish with bumps on it's head you can be proud, not everyone is as good as you and I to catch the famed knotty head.  See you on the creek, Chris


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