The following account with pictures was witnessed and recorded by Kenneth Roberts and his wife Jane. Ken and Jane and I have a mutual friend, Buddy Postelle, who spends his summers in Roseborough. However, although Buddy had mentioned to us many times about the other, we had never met until recently at a meeting of the Friends of Wilson Creek at the Wilson Creek visitors center. As I am a member, Ken is also, and Jane serves on the board. This story is on display at the visitors center, and I thought it would be good to include it on my Web site as many would find it fascinating. With their permission their story and pictures follows. Click on one of the thumbnails to see the larger image and use the back and forward arrows to the left and right of the thumbnails to see others. -- JEP August 20, 2005
Battle in Gragg Prong
Narrative by: Kenneth Roberts and Photos by: Jane Roberts
On a July afternoon Jane and I took her nephew David on a hike to one of our favorite places, Gragg Prong in Avery County. We often go there to take pictures, but this time we decided to leave our heavy camera equipment at home so we could just enjoy the walk. When we got to the Gragg Prong Falls, we found the rocks beside the stream dry enough for us to walk to the bottom of the falls.
We were relaxing beside a pool where several fairly large brown trout could be seen when we saw a water snake swimming toward the fish. We paid little attention to this because the trout appeared to be too large to be bothered by the snake, but suddenly David yelled, "That snake has caught a fish!" Thus began drama that none of us will ever forget.
The snake had clamped its mouth on the smallest part of the tail of a brown trout about 12 inches long. A fierce struggle began which saw them rolling over and over near the bottom of the pool. We saw many flashes of white as their under- bellies were exposed as they fought. The fish wanted the safety of the bottom of the pool, which-was about four feet deep. The snake had to come to the surface to breathe. Finally the snake won this part of the struggle as they came to the surface with its mouth still firmly clamped on the fish's tail. We were extremely disappointed that we had chosen this time to leave our camera equipment at home.
The struggle continued as the snake hung on while the fish tried to escape by pulling the snake around the pool. At first the fish was very vigorous, and it looked as if its efforts to free itself might be successful. Of course this exercise soon began to exhaust the fish. Fly fishermen use a similar technique as they let a trout wear itself down before reeling it in.
When the fish became so tired it could hardly pull the snake any more, the snake maneuvered the fish over to a rock that sloped down into the stream. The fish's struggle for life was almost over now. The snake began to get the fish's head out of the water, first by lifting its tail high enough to accomplish this and then by dragging it up on the sloping rock. Several times during this part of the struggle, the fish was able to flip back into the water, but the snake was relentless with its hold on the tail. At one point it even wrapped its own tail around a twig to keep the fish from pulling it into the water.
At this time Jane suddenly realized she had a small point and shoot camera in her daypack. With all of the excitement she had completely forgotten about it. She quickly got the camera out and began to take pictures of the final part of the drama.
About thirty to forty-five minutes after all of this began the fish had been out of the water long enough that it was obviously dead. Only then did the snake release the death hold it held on the fish's tail. It then grasped the fish by the middle and started back to the stream with it. Jane decided to get a little closer in order to get a better picture, but the snake put down the fish and started toward her until she retreated. It then placed the fish in the water and let it float for a few minutes while it rested.
The snake then swam to the fish's head and began to swallow it. We watched for a while, as the snake never progressed in the swallowing beyond having the fish's head in its mouth. We then decided to leave because it was getting late and we didn't know how long it would take to complete the swallowing if it ever did complete it. I know snakes have the ability to unhinge their jaws and swallow things that look impossible for them, but I am still not sure that this trout was not just a little too large for it. Perhaps the snake realized that it would become vulnerable with a partially swallowed fish in its throat, and it decided not to do that in our presence.
We continue to be amazed to think that a snake knew precisely how to catch and kill a trout that large and that we were lucky enough to see it all from start to finish.