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Interview with Ronnie Setzer, transcript

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  • Ronnie Setzer 1 Ronnie Setzer Interview Interviewee: Ronnie Setzer Interviewer: Dalton Rogers Interview Location: Sylva, NC Interview Date: May 31, 2019 Interview Length: 1:02:27 Dalton Rogers: All right. So, before we begin, I’m just going to need you to give me like a verbal agreement that this is okay if we record. Ronnie Setzer: It’s fine, yes. DR: All right. So, what’s your name and where were you born? RS: My name is Ronnie Setzer. I was born in, my birthplace was Waynesville, North Carolina. DR: Okay. And did you move from there? RS: Well, my pa was a carpenter, and so we moved from Waynesville to Cullowhee Mountain, which is near Pine Creek, North Carolina, and grew up about eight or nine years on a farm before we moved to Sylva in 1965. DR: Okay. So, what was it like growing up? RS: What was it like growing up? DR: Yeah. Like what did you do for fun? RS: We did a lot of fishing. We had, we could walk, we had a 10-minute walk to Glenville Lake and we had a stream that ran through the farm that had native Rainbow in it. Of course, we didn’t know what fly fishing was then, you know. So, now, my father did, but we had a workhorse and a mule and, of course we worked them a lot, but as far as fun, one of our most fun things that we did was go to church on Sunday. And, of course, on Saturday, we came to town, to Sylva, or either Franklin, because we were close to both, every Saturday for groceries, but we fished a lot at the lake and in this little stream, slid down waterfalls, we had a waterfall on the property, and. DR: Yeah. I bet that was fun. RS: But that’s in the summer, yeah, but it was a lot of work too. DR: So like my papa, like he grew up kind of in Madison County, so they could either go to like Waynesville or Asheville for groceries... because they don’t really have a lot of grocery stores around there. Ronnie Setzer 2 RS: Yeah. DR: So, what kind of jobs did you have? RS: Growing up? DR: Yeah. RS: Well, basically on the farm. We grew, back then, it wasn’t Christmas trees, now it is. DR: So, you just helped your family run the farm? RS: Yeah. We run the farm. At 12 years old, I was running a team of a mare and a mule to hearth fields with, which means to clean the stuff off of them before you plow. And then we gathered everything we grew; we helped the other farmers. We earned our school money and our clothing money for the winter and the spring working on those other farms in the summer, picking beans, cutting cabbage, just do and setting cabbage. We made 50 cents a bushel for picking beans. And so my mom, there were four of us, I had two brothers and a sister, and what we did with that, of course, we worked our own farm too. We put up a lot of hay. I was the shortest one in the family, so I always got put in the loft, in the barn loft, stacked hay, but we put up our own vegetables and everything in the summer. Plus, the money that we made working in the fields, my mom put up, and just a couple of weeks before school started, we all came to Sylva to buy all our school clothes with that money. And we might have made, in the course of the whole summer, anywhere from 80 to $125 to buy our school clothes with, but back in, that was in probably 1958 or ‘59. DR: So that was a lot more money than it is now? RS: Sure. Yeah. The gas was less than a dime. Yeah. DR: It’s pretty nice. RS: Yeah. DR: That would be a lot than now. RS: But we also had part of our chores on the farm was making sure we cut firewood for the stove. DR: Oh, yeah. RS: Yeah. DR: My papa, he works on, with lumber. RS: Hmm-hmm, yeah. Ronnie Setzer 3 DR: He does a lot of that stuff. RS: I’m kind of telling you my age. I’m 68. I’ll be 68 this next month. DR: Okay. All Right. RS: And so we used cross cut saws, we didn’t, my father was the only one that would use a power saw. He’d cut the poles and we’d cut them up with cross cut saws. DR: Hard, hard work. RS: It was, yeah, but it was good. It was fun. It was a lot of work, but we ate good, and we worked hard, and we fished hard. DR: So, it sounded like you were pretty busy on the farm, but were you involved in any sports? RS: Not in school, no. We didn’t, I went to the old Glenville School, which was next to Glenville Lake, before we moved to Sylva. I started 7th grade in Sylva in the old Webster’s school a few years later where the daycare is now, I did my 7th and 8th grade there, and then I graduated from Sylva-Webster High School, which used to be this school. Yeah. DR: So, your parents, were they both farmers? RS: My mother was just a housewife and my father was a carpenter by trade, but there wasn’t a whole lot of carpenter work going on. So, we did a lot of farming and then he found work where he could find it then. DR: Okay. So, as you said, you had three other siblings? RS: Hmm-hmm. DR: So, where did you fall on the line of those siblings? RS: I’m the youngest. DR: The youngest? RS: Uh-huh. DR: Did they pick on you a lot? RS: Yeah, and I got a lot of hand-me-downs too. DR: Yeah. That’s how my family is. RS: Yeah. Back then, you didn’t waste anything because we didn’t have technology. We only got Ronnie Setzer 4 one channel on a black and white television set and so, but we played hard at school, you know, but no, I didn’t play any sports. So, we only had like basketball and maybe, I don’t know if we had baseball or not, but I don’t remember, but we used to, we didn’t have a lot of sports in that old Glenville school back then. DR: Okay. So, you got interested in the trumpet, was it in high school? RS: It was in grade school. DR: Grade school? RS: Hmm-hmm. They had tryouts like they do now in the elementary school, it’s called a feeder program, all right, and so I wanted to play. I was the only one in my family that wanted to play a musical instrument other than a guitar. And so, over in Waynesville, we found a music store that would finance the trumpet, the instrument, all our instruments, and so we financed the trumpet for $10 a month, and I started playing in 7th grade and in 8th grade. Hannah Vodek was our, no, Martha Vodek, Hannah’s mother, was our band director then, and we had a very small band. So, when it came to the high school, Bob Buckner, I don’t know if you’ve heard the name or not. DR: It sounds familiar. RS: Bob Buckner was a student, was a senior at Western Carolina University, in the band program, and he was a tuba player, he still is, and he came, Ms. Vodek, her health wasn’t good, so she had to leave and Mr. Buckner came in in my sophomore year. DR: So he taught you pretty much through high school? RS: He was our band director. DR: Through high school? RS: Hmm-hmm, through high school, hmm-hmm. DR: Okay. So, what did you do after you graduated from high school? RS: After I graduated from high school, I went to Haywood Technical College, didn’t graduate there, but I went there, and I really didn’t like it, so I was working for Bi-Lo Supermarkets, so I went full-time with Bi-Lo Supermarkets and then a couple of years later, went into Marine Corps. DR: Okay. Were you drafted or were you enlisted? RS: I was getting drafted into the army. We had what you call lottery numbers and mine was 12. And so I had been to Knoxville for an army physical and I talked to a marine recruiter after that and he said, “How about joining the Marine Corps? You’re getting ready to get drafted in the army.” So, I joined the Marine Corps, me and a couple of buddies, went in a buddy program. Ronnie Setzer 5 DR: So, did you stick together pretty much the whole time? RS: We did. We stayed in the same platoon. We figured out how it worked down there and we got around the right numbers on the table and stayed in the same platoon. DR: That’s nice. So, you weren’t fresh out of high school, were you, whenever you entered? RS: No. No. I was probably 21 years old, 20, 21. DR: So these physicals you said you had to go through, were they like intense? RS: In the Marine Corps? DR: Yeah. RS: Yeah. We had to go through 10 weeks of boot camp. Before you can be called a marine, you’ve got to earn that right. You got to become a marine. So, I went through 10 weeks of boot camp, I went through infantry training at Camp Lejeune, and really Camp Geiger, which is a part of Camp Lejeune, and then from there, before I got out of boot camp, I was picked for music school. And so we filled a survey out just before, about our 6th or 7th week of boot camp, it might have been before that, I don’t really remember, but we filled a survey out of what we did in civilian life, and I put on my survey that I played trumpet, I played music. So, out of that was how I got picked, which I didn’t know this was going to happen, okay, I got picked to go try out. Because Vietnam was still going on. My brother spent a tour in Vietnam, my older brother, and Vietnam was still going on, so I knew when I came out of infantry training, that probably I would go to a station and go to Vietnam, which I would have done that gladly if I’d had to, but God really played a big part in this, I think, he blessed me very much and so, I went down and tried out for duty music school. And they call it “duty music” because it’s not a band, it’s a, I’ll explain to you what it is, I want to tell you the rest of this, but so I went through the three months of school, I got picked to play a G to F soprano bugle, which is not like, it doesn’t have valves like a regular trumpet does. DR: So, it was an adjustment? RS: There’s adjustment. And the staff sergeant that I met that morning that I reported to said, “Take this outside. There’s a palm tree out there, just sit under it and see if you can play some music, see if you can play anything.” And he explained to me what it was. So, I went out and sat under the tree and in a short time, I was playing, I think, Mary had a Little Lamb on it because I had figured it out. I can sight read music, plus I could play by ear, you know. DR: That’s impressive. RS: Yeah. And so he told me to come back in, motioned for me to come back in, and he said, “You report here after infantry training,” and I was on cloud nine. Of course, boot camp wasn’t over yet either. I still had three or four weeks to go, but so I went through boot camp, went Ronnie Setzer 6 through infantry training and then went back to Parris Island for school, totally different when you’re a marine finally and go back to Parris Island, you know, and go through a school because then you got a lot more respect, like a senior. DR: Like a senior? RS: Yup, hmm-hmm. So, anyway, I went through school and I chose, if you joined, you were supposed to choose your duty station, where you want to go to, it didn’t hardly work that way for me, and I don’t know if it worked that way for anybody or not because that’s what they got you to join, but I chose Albany, Georgia. They had a small drum corps in Albany, Georgia, at the marine base there, and to me, in my mind, it was closer to home which really wasn’t too much closer, but so, and I say this, I guess, braggingly, but, again, God had had a hand in this, but when they gave us our orders on the last day of our school, mine was, my orders were for Washington DC Marine Barracks and another buddy of mine, his orders were for there too. DR: Was it the same guy that you went in with? RS: No. He was a boy named Laddie Storckman who I still talk to this day, from Robinson, Illinois. DR: Wow. RS: And so there was only two of us chosen to go to Washington DC, he and I, and so I went, and we had a gunnery warrant officer that was our officer in-charge at school, so I went to his office and knocked on the door and without a cover, which is your hat, you don’t salute inside if you’re a Marine Corps, if you’re a marine, so only with a cover that you salute inside. So, I went into his office and I said, “Sir, these orders aren’t correct. I didn’t choose Washington DC.” He said, “It was chosen for you,” and I said, “Well, I chose Albany, Georgia,” and he said, “You don’t graduate number one out of 30 and go to Albany, Georgia,” he said, “You’re going to Washington.” DR: Wow. RS: So, I ended up in Washington in The Commandant’s Own Marine Drum and Bugle Corps in Washington DC. DR: Is that a big adjustment for you moving to Washington or living in Washington? RS: We lived in barracks. It was an adjustment being in a big city, a country boy off of Cullowhee Mountain going to Washington DC. It’s kind of in awe, you know, you’re kind of afraid, you’re sort of like a newborn animal. You’re afraid to go adventure because you don’t really know where you’re at. Yeah. DR: Yeah. My family went there a few months ago. RS: Hmm-hmm. Ronnie Setzer 7 DR: Or it was, I think, last year, I guess, for a vacation. RS: Hmm-hmm. DR: Really impressive. RS: Yeah. And so, ended up playing in the Commandant’s Own Marine Corps right alongside the marine band, the President’s own band was stationed at the same place, and so it was quite an honor. DR: Yeah, I’m sure. RS: Yeah. We wore the same uniforms as the marine band, dress reds and whites. DR: Wow. RS: And at one time, I’ll tell you this story, the president then, which was Richard Nixon, and we’ve played at the White House a lot for dignitaries who came in to Washington too. We had to have very good security clearance. But we were in San Clemente, California, just in front of Mr. Nixon’s home. DR: So you traveled everywhere. RS: Yeah, we did travel a lot, and Mr. Nixon got our unit mixed up with the marine band, but he came, he walked our ranks and stopped in front of me, and I saluted him, and he said, “Fine performance last night, marine.” I said, “Thank you, sir.” I wouldn’t want to tell the president he was wrong, you know, and my boss standing there, so, but anyway, the marine band played at a thing for him the night before, and he thought it was us, so, but I did get to meet him. DR: Did you continue playing the trumpet in the band? RS: In the drum and bugle corps? DR: Yeah. RS: No. I went from, in music school, I played, I started, they started me out on mellophone and, because in high school, I played baritone and trumpet, and concert season in the fall, I played baritone, and in the, but trumpet was my main instrument but, so in marine corps, they gave me a mellophone. And so, I played mellophone all through school, and then when I went to my unit in DC, I was back on soprano bugle. DR: That’s pretty neat. Do you still play the trumpet today? RS: I do not, no. Ronnie Setzer 8 DR: You don’t. RS: I haven’t played in several years. The last time I played the trumpet was, I played the funeral for my father-in-law. He was a World War II, was in World War II. I played Taps for his funeral, and then I just quit there. DR: Wow. All right, so whenever you were in the band, did you have any other duties? Like what were your duties in the marines? RS: Simply music. DR: That’s it? RS: I mean we had to go do PFTs just like, every three months, we had to be, stay physically fit. And so we had to go do PFTs just like everybody else, and if we failed them then we had to redo them, but we had, our PFTs consisted of pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, and running three miles in so many minutes. DR: So were you required to do a certain amount of physical activity a day? RS: No. DR: Or was it up to you to maintain? RS: No, it was up to us to maintain that, yeah. DR: All right. So you said you got interested in fishing when you were young. And you started out with just plain old fishing. RS: Yeah. And then we, my father was, he always liked to go camping. And so in, I got interested in fly fishing in the national park because they, he loved to go to the national park and camp and catch native fish. And so I got interested in fly fishing. Of course, I didn’t have a fly rod, and I was probably maybe eight or nine years old. So, the only time he’d let me use that fly rod was after his day of fishing was over. Then the first thing he’d say, “Don’t break it,” because it was a bamboo rod, you know. You didn’t have any graphite rod, anything like that back then. DR: So he taught you how to fly fish? RS: Watching him, I learned how, yeah. DR: Oh, wow. Okay. So right now, where are your favorite places to go fishing? RS: I like native fish. I still like, I grew up on, catching native trout, and the national park is my favorite place to fish. I can fish delayed-harvest. I’m not, it’s a lot of fun. I used to guide. I used to be a licensed guide. Ronnie Setzer 9 DR: Oh, really? RS: Hmm-hmm, and I used to teach fly fishing. And so, but I had a license to guide in the national park, on Forest Service lands, and the $10 guide license, you used to get to guide on hatchery supported waters, you know, such as delayed-harvest in the Tuckasegee. So, I’ve gone in on a lot of those. DR: That’s impressive. So did you meet any like really cool people? RS: I guided for a lot of doctors, a lot of attorneys, and then I’ve guided for just your common everyday worker. DR: Was it a lot like visitors from other states that you were guiding? RS: A good bit of it, yeah. Mostly out of Georgia. Yeah. DR: So do you tie your own flies? RS: I do. DR: So how does that work? Because I’m not really a fly fisherman. I’m just—I go fishing with my papaw sometimes. That’s about it. RS: Well, I started out years ago. It’s probably been 40 years ago but let me tell you this story first. When my father started fly fishing, when I first saw him start fly fishing, it was in the national park. It was actually at Smokemont, and I wondered how he picked out the flies he bought, you know, from what few stores then had flies, and when he went to the, when he started, right before he started fishing, we didn’t have hatch charts, and we didn’t have a ton of different varieties of flies. We had what we called, what everybody then called, and I still call it today, as Smoky Mountain patterns. Certain areas had, you have different flies, you know. Usually, the same fly, the original parachute Adams or Winged Adams is probably the most productive fly in the world, you know, in our country. DR: Regardless of where you’re at? RS: Regardless of where you’re at. Even Montana, that even out there. DR: So it works pretty much everywhere. RS: It works, yeah. But they would, back then, you didn’t have a chart or anything you’d look at and say, “Okay, this is what they’re hitting this time of the year, okay.” They would shake bushes, and whatever flew out, that’s kind of color they’d tie on, because they figured fish that’s what they eat. Didn’t know a whole lot about, you know, what’s living on the bottom of the stream, you know, like the aquatic life and stuff like that other than maybe stick bait, you know, the old timers figured out pretty quick what stick bait was, and then they’d kind of ease them on the hook even though they weren’t supposed to have it. It’s considered live bait in the national Ronnie Setzer 10 park, and you can only use artificial. So that’s how they came up to what they were pretty much going to fish with, and then of course they would see people that say, “Hey, what are you fishing with?” You know, and, “Well, I was fishing with this,” and they seem to hit it pretty good. So that’s what you went by. And so after I, several years later, when I got into fly fishing and fly . . . I wanted to tie flies because I thought, my thought in mind was I can’t do any guiding if I don’t tie flies because a fly, a licensed guide needs to tie flies, you know. If I ever want to guide people or . . . But my knowledge for my, was for myself when I started, and my curiosity was from being able to tie my own flies and see if the trout would actually hit it. DR: Yeah. See if what you made worked. RS: Hmm-hmm and—which it did. So, from there, I just got to doing it better and better, you know. And so of course, back when I started, you didn’t have all the new stuff that’s out there, you know. All the, a lot of what’s in fly boxes now are not Smoky Mountain patterns. They’re, you know, a little bit of everything to catch delayed-harvest trout with and stuff like that or for competition, you know, because trout like colors. Trout can see colors. From my research, trout can see colors just like me and you, only better. DR: Really? RS: Hmm-hmm. And so they, depending on what age a trout is, and I’ll explain it to you, okay. So, my original fly that I first started tying was a Parachute Adams. I tied a lot of what I thought was junk until I got good at that. And so the first place I tried my flies out was Caney Fork Creek. DR: Oh, pretty close. RS: And the first cast I made, first two or three casts I made with my Adams, caught a trout. That set it off. So, then I wanted to learn a lot more. And an excellent fly tyer, everybody should’ve heard it by now, name of Roger Lowe, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Roger Lowe or not. Roger Lowe had Lowes Fly Shop in Waynesville for years, so I started buying my material over there and learned a lot from just talking to Roger and his wife. And so I got a book with the pictures with pictures of all the flies, the flies in and stuff like that, but Roger Lowe is one of the people, one of the, your regular people that really sticks truly by his Smoky Mountain fly pattern and does a perfect job tying them. And of course, Roger ties other stuff too. A fly tyer will tie whatever somebody might want if he’s in the business of selling flies or just giving somebody some flies and say, “Here. Here’s something to fish with. You’re going to catch them on this fly.” And it’s just a lot of personal research and stuff like that. So, I’ve invented my own fly. It’s a wet fly and I did about 20, a little over 20 years ago, and it sort of looks like, to the trout, stick bait, and some people would call it a backswimmer which is another form, to my knowledge, of like stick bait that’s floating through the water, whatever, but my own pattern is unique because you can’t buy the material to tie it with in any fly shop except for one, with your thread and, but the body material, you can’t buy in a fly shop. DR: So where do you get it? Ronnie Setzer 11 RS: You’re gonna laugh at this, I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I will tell you that when you go to the dumpster or to the landfill, you can sometimes find it there and, but it makes a body material. It’s a certain color of foam that makes a body material, and that’s about all I can give you, I’ll give you that information, but there’s a lot of people that try to duplicate, but they just don’t find the color. DR: Did it take you a long time to perfect it, I guess? RS: Well, I didn’t try tying it before I could get it straight in my mind what it needed to look like, to see if it would actually catch a trout. So, what I did, I brought a piece of stick bait off the park home with me, and I put it in a bottle of water. Of course, I knew it wouldn’t survive, but I wanted to see what color that worm was inside of that, and of course, it was up in the stick bait, starts out very small because a stick bait is a caddis larva. So, it makes a caddisfly. Okay, and so at the very start of it, it’s just a little bitty worm with a little black head, and it encases itself in either gravel on the bottom of the stream. That’s why it’s called rock bait, or pieces of stick, and it encases with its own saliva, I guess you call it, in that stick for it to grow. And then as it matures, it starts in the winter to form, and then from the caddis laying her eggs, caddisfly. And then it encases itself for its own protection, and then it’ll start growing, and then as it grows, the color of the worm changes because it has to be a matured worm with front legs that can make itself out of a shell, and that’s why trout really love to eat them. DR: That’s a pretty good idea to figure out what color it was. RS: Hmm-hmm. And you’ve got, it’s very white before it matures and then an almost real dirty yellow when it matures, and then they call it a stone creep. It’ll try to creep around to try to shake the shell, and then before everything else sets in, then it grows legs. It grows a set of wings, and then it makes a merger and then flies out of the water, and that’s when the trout really feed on it. I kept a brown trout. It was of legal size on the park because the size of the has to be several inches, had a bulge in its stomach, and I cut him open, and he had all kind of little sticks in his ground up sticks in his stomach. So, it told me what it was eating. And so I went back home and worked for about a month and couldn’t find the color of that worm and just by surprise one day, I run across it. DR: Were you at the dump whenever you found it? RS: No. I was actually at home. My mother was getting ready to throw something away. DR: You said, “Hold on.” RS: Yeah, I said, “Hold on. I want this,” you know, so, and it was the size I need. It was the color I needed. And so, but people don’t use them anymore. So, it’s harder to find the material now. DR: That’s pretty impressive. RS: And so, but then I took that back to the park after I tied them and caught fish on them because it was in that same time of year because after the caddis hatch toward the mid to the end Ronnie Setzer 12 of March, the stick baits gone. DR: They start feeding on something else? RS: Yeah, hmm-hmm. There’s all kinds of aquatic insects under the water, yeah. DR: So, do you have a, like a really memorable fishing moment? RS: Yeah, those two times when I tied my own Adams fly and when I made the stick bait and color fish on the head. But fishing with my father, I guess, was some of them, I guess, because I followed him from rock to rock to rock in the stream, and he’d always say now stay behind me and stay down because he told me that native fish you can’t fool them, you know. They’re going to see you, see your shadow or whatever, so. My dad was, was what got me started all this. He didn’t know that at that time but he is one that got me started all this, and if it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see a lot of the beauties we have in this country, you know, a lot of streams because we got over 58, 5,800 miles water in this state, in this part of the country, and that’s a lot of trout streams. DR: Yeah, there’s a lot. RS: Yeah. DR: Do your siblings, do they fish with you? RS: I taught my daughters how to fly fish. I’ve taught my, one of my grandsons how to fly fish. DR: Oh, really? How old is he? RS: He is soon to be a seventh grader. DR: Okay. RS: Yeah. And so, I’ve got around three or four, I taught my son-in-law how to fly fish. DR: It’s pretty neat. And you said you purchased your materials or you used to from that store that… RS: From Lowe’s Fly shop in Waynesville, four years ago. But now, basically, I get it from them, we have a good fly shop in town. Tuckasegee Fly Shop. DR: Okay. Yeah, yeah. RS: And I get some from them, but predominantly for the amount of flies I tie now, I order a lot online. DR: Yeah. You can just get anything online. Ronnie Setzer 13 RS: You can, and then I have another business. I sell some flies, too. They’ll order for me out of their catalogue at a better price from what I can get in those places. DR: Yeah. RS: Yeah. DR: So, whenever you fish, do you usually go alone? RS: No. I like to take somebody because it’s, you know, even if you’re young and I’m not young anymore, but I still wade creeks as good as I ever could. You better take somebody with you. DR: In case something happened. RS: It’s a lot safer. DR: Yeah. RS: Yeah. And I’ve always told either my wife or my daughters or my mom when I was younger if I were going somewhere where I was going and stick to that, because back when I grew up, we didn’t have cellphones, you know, and then in the parks you don’t use cell service, if you do. So, it’s better to go, it’s better to go with someone. DR: Yeah. Just for safety. RS: Yeah. Hmm-hmm. DR: Well, that’s about it. Do you have anything else that you want to say? Any stories that you want to share? RS: Well. I brought you some flies. DR: Okay. RS: All right. I didn’t bring you one of mine but I brought you one. DR: All right. RS: Okay. And these are yours to keep. DR: Okay. RS: All right. And I want to tell you a little bit about them. Back years and years ago, over in Cataloochee, there is Palmer family. Their last name is Palmer, okay? And they tied one of the Palmer members, family members tied Palmer flies and that’s where these got their name. You Ronnie Setzer 14 know, these are basically what we call Hazel Creek special. If you ever fish Hazel Creek, that’s a good fly for Hazel Creek. DR: Okay. RS: Okay. But how it got its name is the way that hackle is wound. It’s Palmered, they call it Palmered. It’s not standing straight or at the head of the fly like say this one is. It’s Palmered. And so, that’s what we call a Palmer tie but, anyway, these are small but you can use them. It’s a dry fly. DR: Okay. RS: Okay. They’re very popular in yellow or orange, different colors, and it floats like a cork and it’s just called a winged-like Cahill. All right? If you fish that real late in the afternoon, just before dark, it would almost look like a miller fly. Yeah. And so, but in the early spring, it’s very good around March, late March, April. Mornings as well or anytime during the day. DR: Yeah. RS: Yeah, I’m gonna lay these two back because there is a story behind those. And of course, this is just, it looks like a little inch worm’s hit the water to the trout because the trout, they’re looking at the bottom, the silhouette on them. DR: Yeah. RS: And this is one of the oldest flies that I ever tied, I mean, as far as its pattern. Do you see the wings on it? DR: Yeah. RS: All right. That’s a Winged Adams. Parachutes didn’t come along for years and years and years when we started flying fish. And so, everybody put wings or what they call, well, this is called the hackle, hackle flies, and if somebody didn’t put wings on them, they just put a big hackle around them. All right? But that’s a Parachute Adams and that’s an old style. It’s a freshly tied fly, but it’s an old style, and these are all dried flies I’m showing you. This is an olive stimulator and it looks like a little grasshopper. DR: Yeah. RS: And it’s part of the grasshopper family. They come in several different colors and another dry fly. This one is called thunderhead. It’s a brown thunderhead or chocolate thunderhead, very popular in Bryson City in the park. DR: Okay. RS: Okay. Because it’s a thunderhead style fly, a lot of people like them because they can see Ronnie Setzer 15 them. It’s a wolf-style fly. You’ve heard of the royal wolf, I’m sure. DR: Yeah. RS: Okay. Well, this is tied basically on the same wing as a royal wolf. It’s just split and one of these but only split in two, but it gives a different head, different look on it. DR: Did you tie all these? RS: Yes. DR: Wow. RS: This one is called a parachute peacock because it’s tied to pheasant tail fiber which is real iridescent and the trout really pick up on them. This floats and this is a golden pheasant, tip it off the neck of a golden pheasant. And of course, this is called a calf tail. This is what parachutes made out of, any of these are. So, that being said, and then this is a black caddis. Okay. I said a, that’s a big black caddis, but it’s a little bit smaller than that, but I have some people who liked to fish bigger ones. But that being said almost everything tied on these flies, now you think about this, there is nothing synthetic there other than maybe the body of this Palmer, okay? Everything that’s used on that fly came from either a chicken for the feathers or a deer or an elk for the hair, a peacock for the body. On this one, okay, thread to the bodies on this one and this one, so dubbing, which was made out of probably, but my point is I’m always amazed at what God gave us in the form of animals and birds to be able to catch food with if you eat the fish. DR: This is amazing. I can’t imagine how much time it would take to learn how to do this. RS: Now, this fly was invented in Tennessee. What does it look like to you? DR: A bee. RS: It looks like a yellow jacket doesn’t it? DR: Yeah. RS: The back is turkey. That’s on the back of it. The only thing artificial on it is the Chenille for the body. Again, you have an animal that’s created most to that, some kind of animal. That duplicates a yellow jacket, and that fly originated out of Tellico Plains, Tennessee to my knowledge. And again, you’ve got the Palmer from the Cataloochee, the Palmer Family, and you can get so many flies from there. These don’t have a tail because in Hazel Creek, the people, I’m not going to say everybody, but if I have to fish to Hazel Creek, I put a tail on. It’s going to float. This is called a gold rivers hair here. These are wet flies, okay? These are flies that you fish under the surface with. Just as these two here. And those are wet flies. You might want to put some weight on them, you may not, but this is a rubber that actually the yellow part of it is not in the rubber itself. It’s in the body and it glows through the rubber with the cold water and, but it looks like a caddis pupa or a caddis larva like these two do. This one, the body only is tied from Ronnie Setzer 16 a disposable glove, okay? And then this is a small pheasant tail. Now, this is a backswimmer. Remember that, I mentioned a backswimmer? DR: Yeah. RS: That’s a backswimmer. And these two out here, though. DR: This looks so realistic. RS: Hmm-hmm. And they could fish. DR: Yeah. I’m sure. RS: But have you ever heard of a yellow hammer woodpecker? DR: Yeah. RS: State bird of Alabama. DR: Yeah. RS: All right. Do you know it was extinct, near extinction at one time? DR: Really? RS: Hmm-hmm. But it has made a comeback, but for years and years and years, those woodpeckers were so prized for their feathers, okay. It’s not a real big woodpecker. It’s probably just not much bigger than a blue jay. Okay. They were so prized for their feathers, for brown trout. It’s the main fish that they were after with those feathers to put on it and they were more crude-looking than this. This is not a true yellowhammer. This is not but this is as close as we can get to the color of the yellowhammer. It’s not extinct any longer or close to extinction because they took it off the list. But this is what the old timers used to take their wing, and that they would take the yellow wing and split it right down – they wet it, they soak it first. They’re softer, the wing, take that feather and soak it in water for anywhere from a day to two days, then they take a real sharp knife and split it in two. That made that stem inside that wing pliable it would bend without breaking, and then I used to palmer it around the body just like this and these are called yellowhammer wet flies. DR: So how long does it take you to tie one of these? RS: Not very long, no, because it’s a Palmered fly. It’s a bit longer on a parachute, but it just depends on the size of the fly. Sometimes you would think smaller is easier to tie than larger. Sometimes that can be the case and sometimes it is not. DR: Out of these, which ones are used most often? Ronnie Setzer 17 RS: Parachute Adams or this one. I would use in the summertime when bees are flying, you know, the yellow jackets are flying and stuff like that, you definitely want to use that one. DR: Yeah. RS: But this one is just the right size. It’s about the size 14, and it’s, the Adams is an all-around fly to catch fish, like I said almost anywhere. DR: Yeah. RS: But the true Smoky Mountain patterns are these and those, the caddis, the yellow, this one, this, and most definitely this. That’s your oldest Smoky Mountain pattern. So, those are true Smoky Mountain patterns and some of the few, or some of the many or few of the many, but -- DR: They are amazing. Oh yeah. RS: Well, they’re yours. DR: I appreciate it. RS: But again, you got to stop and think. It’s what we were given to work with. You can buy so many synthetics out there now that duplicate animals, but which is better than killing an animal to get it. You know what I mean? Destroying, destroying something, but still, you still have a certain amount like turkey feathers and stuff like that. They make a lot of backs and you can buy it synthetically. But old people years ago, oh well, I can’t say old people. Let me say this. Back years ago, when things were harder to come by and during The Depression and during, end of The Depression. I was little bit too young for that thank goodness. I forgot, back when times were hard and things were hard to come by, people had to use animals for a lot of different things, but God gave us all these animals, animals and insects, it’s odd, isn’t it? The colors match. I love the colors. It helps you to imitate that insect. And I’m always amazed at that. DR: Yeah, it’s amazing, the stuff that God gave us. RS: Hmm-hmm. But my knowledge for fly tying it’s been mostly, a lot of it is research now because I do use, I use, if I want to see something, how it’s tied up before, I go to YouTube because you usually can find it. DR: Yeah. You can find it. RS: And I love YouTube. But anyway, but I still like to sit down and see what I can do myself. But the love for fly tying, if you’re a true fly tying it never leaves you, I sometimes sit down with my fly tie and just piddle. My flies that I fish with don’t look like those flies. Mine are the mistakes that I’m making them that I know a fish is not going to see, okay? I’m not going to give that fly to anybody--because you know, but some of mine are pretty, you know, I’ll have a mistake in it somewhere but the fish still gonna hit it. So, but I do sell some flies, and I sell to a couple of stores, two or three stores, and the Reeves Hardware in Clayton, Georgia is one of Ronnie Setzer 18 them DR: Oh, really? RS: Hmm-hmm. And so, and then I’ve got a couple around here that I tie for. So, it’s almost got to the point of making me a full-time job and this is my full- time job. DR: Yeah. RS: But so, but I’m always like, when I go home yesterday, I was sitting at my fly-tying place. DR: Yeah. RS: But because I don’t tie them because I just want the money. DR: Yeah, it’s your passion. RS: It is. It’s fun. And it’s fun not to go back to the park and like I said, I like delayed-harvest, I love that it teaches people how to fish. You know it teaches so much, especially kids. And the Smoky Mountain fly patterns, we were slowly losing a lot of people that really know a lot about them. And that’s what makes me sad is because people need to be talking to people, to people like Roger Lowe and myself and people who have tied Smoky Mountain patterns for years. Because I have seen a lot of the older fly tyers kind of die out. They could give you a lot of information and it’s vital. But Smoky Mountain fly patterns are tried and true in the national parks and in the, you can take, well, it’s like I get asked for a lot of moth flies at times, I hated moth fly. You know, I hate tying moth flies because you don’t resemble anything but just a, you know, it may resemble a piece of cheese or a piece of corn or something like. But it’s not realistic to me. And that’s where I’m a little old fashioned because a lot of fly tie, fly fishing competitions or people in, you know coming up, young people and even older people come up with different stuff that will catch each fish. And I don’t know where most of this fish were stocked or not that they’re catching. You can fool a stock trout, it’s hard to fool a native trout. DR: Yeah. RS: And I’ve been able to do that for a lot of years. And that’s what’s fun. DR: That’s nice. RS: Yeah. DR: So have you entered a competition yourself? RS: Hmm, no. DR: Why? You just have found like an interest in it? Ronnie Setzer 19 RS: No, it’s just like guiding. I guided for a couple of years, and then I guided so much it became work. And then it was good money, but it became work. DR: Yeah. RS: And if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. DR: You might as well not do it. RS: If you feel like you’re pressured to because you want to win something...and it takes the fun out of it, for me, you know. I don’t need a trophy to enjoy picking that, getting that rainbow trout and look at its color and then just putting it back on water. I used to eat them. I don’t anymore because my family don’t eat fish, so I put them back because you know it’s got to grow. It’s like brook trout. And I probably shouldn’t say this because I know you’re recording me, but I was not a fan of the Brook Trout, what do you call it, Restoration that went on into our park system, because to my knowledge it didn’t work. You can’t take a hundred years of fish that are used to living in little bitty streams...that are still there today. You just go find them. They’re still plenty of them. What pushed them out is mostly building and growth, you know, people. DR: Yeah. That’s where the Mother Nature. RS: Yeah. So don’t go kill a stream simply because you want to protect one species of trout because they all live together. One rainbow will eat another rainbow. A brown will eat another brown. DR: Yeah. RS: You know, and so I wasn’t a big fan of that, but I never made it too public, you know, and I’m glad it’s, hopefully it’s not going on anymore today. Because the national park is sort of like a second home when you fish. DR: Yeah. I’m sure. RS: Don’t go killing fish because there’s plenty of speckled trout. We call them speckle trout; they call them brooks. A lot of people call them brookies, but to me it’s just an old timer speckled trout. DR: Yeah. That’s what my papa calls it. RS: Yeah. And don’t go kill them. Don’t go kill out the ones that, that’s, you know, every trout spawns up a river or wherever they lay their eggs. So, they’ve got a life cycle, so you know let Mother Nature take care of that part of it, you know, and that’s what I believe. DR: Yeah. I don’t really eat fish anyway, So, if I catch something I usually release it. RS: I don’t take them. Let somebody else come and catch them, you know let it stay there and Ronnie Setzer 20 produce for another generation. DR: Yeah. Preserve the fun. RS: Hmm-hmm. Because what I researched, what I read, and I will tell you this, and you can go, you can pull it up and I may have forgot some of what’s in that, but. DR: Yeah. RS: A trout when it’s born, when it’s hatched from an egg until it’s two years old, the human has three columns, okay? DR: Okay. RS: We see all kinds of different colors unless we’re color blind or unless we’re blind or something, but we, the fingerling trout has four columns, it’s born of four cones of vision, and at two years of age, one of those cones drops out. But from what I’ve read, you know, what is predominant, that two-year-old predominant color if he sees is, purple. DR: Really? RS: Hmm. Purple black. After two years, it drops off that cone of vision. And then to my understanding he sees pretty much the same colors we see in clear water. They can see up to 15 feet in clear water. In the national park you can’t sneak up, you get within 15 feet of him, he knows you’re there. DR: Yeah. RS: And in dingier or dark water, everything looks sort of more black to them than it does in color. So it’s kind of fun seeing what you you’re matching. Like an inch worm. They know it when that sucker hits the water. He’s green. Bam. And so they know what they’re looking at. And they can be looking at you. But they ain’t gonna bite nothing. So that’s how you got to fool them. DR: Yeah. I thought that if it had more cones like the color that it would be attracted to most of the, I don’t know, like the lighter color maybe, or the more spontaneous color. RS: Hmm-hmm. Well, I do know that for speckled trout, in my knowledge, okay, from what I’ve caught them on. DR: Yeah. RS: I think their favorite color is pink. DR: Really? Ronnie Setzer 21 RS: Hmm-hmm. DR: Wow. RS: Because I have caught a lot of them on pink seven worms. DR: Yeah. RS: But I think they like pink. Red is a very good tail pattern for a fly because trout somehow are drawn to that red tail. DR: Yeah. RS: So, you know, it just depends on where you fish and what you’re fishing for. DR: Yeah. I can see how it would be fun to try and figure out what is going to work or where it’s going to work at. Kind of like a puzzle, I guess. RS: Yeah. If you could simulate it, I do tie some tenkara flies, particularly for rod fisherman and I do tie some clink hammers which is a German designed fly. DR: Yeah. RS: And most of the bodies are designed to float like the clink hammer. Its body is designed to float under the water, you know, the clink hammer. And the tenkara flies, they are too because the only thing the Japanese had to tie with back several thousand years ago was silk. And then their hackle came from a bird or rooster and so the hackle was what tied around the top, what made it float and sit on the water. So, it’s interesting, they’re fun to tie. DR: Yeah, sure. RS: So, but what that trout is looking at is a silhouette and I’ve always told people if you dry fly fishing hold your rod tip off as high as you can and keep it out of the surface, so if you keep it far above the surface and then if it resembles what they’re seeing, they’re going to come up, they will not hesitate to get it. DR: Yeah. So, you said your dad used a bamboo rod, right? What do you use? I’m sure it’s not a bamboo rod. RS: Well, I don’t have a bamboo rod. To me they’re too heavy. I mean they’re beautiful, if you’re going to just put it on a wall and use for decorations, they’re gorgeous. But Redington makes an excellent fly rod that I like. Also, Cortland use to make a rod, they make a lot of rods, Cortland Fly Company does, but they used to make one called a Diamondback. Different styles of Diamondback rod. And I have 8’4, I like to fish at 8 or 8 and a half of full weight of fly rod with a real to balance the rod. And then one size line, size bigger weight than the rod tail because it will make the rod tail bow a little faster and gives you a better cast, for me. And so, and then I’ve Ronnie Setzer 22 still got my grandmother’s old fiberglass rod that she gave me when she knew I didn’t have a fly rod, when I was big enough, she gave me hers, I still have that. DR: Do you use it often? RS: No, I don’t use it often. DR: Okay, that’s interesting stuff. RS: No, nothing happened to it. DR: Yeah. RS: It’s like a lot of people are with the old bamboo. DR: Yeah. Yeah. RS: But there’s all kind of really nice rods made, but what I would recommend to somebody who’s never fly fished, okay, who wants to get into it. You don’t have to go expensive. You can buy a 69, 79-dollar rod that’s maybe lacking a thing or two of a 200 or 300-dollar rod, but you don’t have to get into that rod range to catch a fish and catch them with fun. Cabella’s has a white river fly rod, it’s a three-piece, probably 7 and a half foot, three or four weight, that’s a world of fun to fish. DR: Really? RS: And for about 119 bucks you’ve got to reel the line and everything. DR: Yeah. RS: And a tube to carry it in. And so, you don’t have to be, you don’t have to have… DR: The most expensive. RS: No. DR: Yeah. RS: No, your expense needs to be right there. DR: Your flies. RS: Yeah, your good fly. DR: That’s pretty neat. Ronnie Setzer 23 RS: Because so many people now have gone to foreign tied flies, that, I don’t like them, because they’re not hand tied. I like hand tied flies, from people, people around, you know, people who still hand tie fly because they know what they’re doing. And of course, a lot of your foreign tied flies look good too, I mean. It used to be and I’m sure they’re their better to hold up now, but they used to be when the first started coming from overseas, they were not as well tied as they are. DR: And the ones overseas are mostly like synthetic. RS: Hmm-hmm. And they use them. From what I recall most people like Lefty Kreh and a lot of them your older, but more popular fly fishers out of West Montana and Colorado, that really make it big in that field, moved overseas to get fly ties cheaper. So, they’re getting them tied overseas a lot cheaper than they could get them tied in the United States, you know by their tyers. Just tying flies, Tie doesn’t fly, you it depends on what it is. I mean what fly tyer here is competing with is overseas. DR: Yeah. RS: We can’t sell flies for overseas prices. DR: Yeah, they’re really cheap. RS: Hmm-hmm. But we can sell quality better than overseas. More care in it, more pride in it, and I’m, so I can’t judge theirs, but all I can do is say I wouldn’t buy them. DR: Okay. You prefer like the hand tied. RS: Hmm-hmm. Hand tied flies. A good fly tire, you can catch more fish on the fly, I think because they’re glued better, they’re going to hold up a lot better. DR: Do the ones that come overseas look as realistic as these? RS: They look a bit as good. Yeah, they’re more shinier and stuff. It’s just the difference in some of the way it’s tied. DR: Okay. RS: Compare them sometimes and see what you think. DR: See if they’re shinier or not. RS: But I’m just – I’m an older tyer. DR: Yeah. RS: I tied for years and I live in the Smokies and Smoky Mountain patterns are like I say tried Ronnie Setzer 24 and true and you’ll catch fish on them. DR: Yeah. I certainly do. RS: Yes. I could say, yeah. DR: Anything else you want to add? RS: No, I’m good. It is – you’re getting more questions. DR: I don’t have anything else. RS: Okay. Well, it’s been a pleasure sitting here talking to you. DR: You too. I learned a lot about flies because I was, almost no knowledge before this. RS: Well, insects, animals and flies, all come in common. DR: Yeah. RS: I’ll have something in common and then what’s on the bottom of the river or creek under the rocks is not all they feed on, but it’s probably 90 percent of their daily diet, you know whether what’s flying and what’s crawling and stuff. So, you can learn a lot just by turning over rocks. DR: Yeah, I’m sure. RS: Yeah. And what’s coming next and what’s hatching next is just paying attention. DR: It’s a pretty connection you made when you said you can find a lot of stuff, like from the insects, that the fish, I forgot what you said actually. RS: Well, if you keep them and you cut their stomach open and then you can find what they’ve been eating. DR: Like you did to find out about the stick bait? RS: Hmm-hmm. About the stick bait, Hmm-hmm. Yeah. Because if you’re going to eat that fish anyway, then it’s not wasted. DR: Yeah. RS: And so, but if you turn over bees, try to eat bees because they fly. They fly over creeks, around creeks and then get them in water. Ants, all kind of insects. The inch worm spin down and you know the wind comes along and blop, they're in one's stomach. So, you know there’s a lot that comes from bushes that’s what my dad used to shake the bushes is to see what colors what was flying out of those bushes, because he knew fish were eating them. And so now we Ronnie Setzer 25 have hatch charts and people say they’re hitting this, this month, you know. So it’s just, it’s fascinating. DR: Yeah, it really is. RS: It never gets old. Yeah. DR: All right. Well, thank you. RS: You’re welcome. END OF INTERVIEW
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  • Ronnie Setzer is interviewed by a Smoky Mountain High School student as a part of Mountain People, Mountain Lives: A Student Led Oral History Project. Setzer describes growing up farming in Piney Creek, NC, near Cullowhee. He discusses playing the trumpet in his high school marching band, and later joining the Marine Corps and serving in the Marine Corps Band. Setzer shares some fly-fishing traditions passed down from previous generations and he describes fly fishing in western North Carolina. He shares his passion for tying and using flies to catch fish in several different rivers around Jackson County. He explains how this beloved hobby transformed into a way of life and into a career as a fishing guide.