Sunday, February 20, 2011

not a care in the world

   Not a care in the world; not a bird in the sky. I was just there to check the tributary for holdout cutties.I knew most of the young fish were already out,headed to the Snake for their winter lodging.I also hoped the big boys—really it’s about half and half—would be holding on to every last warm day until the snows and cold overnight temps came and ran them out too.These tributaries freeze in winter, you see, from the ground up, so nothing gets out alive. It was late in the season,as the season goes;mid to late October, some yellow color hanging in the bushes and the grasses well on their way to brown.It’s that time of year when the deer and elk types  start thinking about heading down from the high country,down to warmer and potentially greener pastures,followed by hunters.Everything is making it’s move.In rivers where there are browns, they are heading upriver to spawn,closely tailed by big rainbows eagerly and literally gobbling at their heels, slopping up the errant egg.The fish I am hunting today made a similar trek last spring,voyaging upwards of fifty to one hundred miles and more from the Snake back to the tributaries of their individual births, searching for pea sized gravel to give life to the next generation.Along the way, they may encounter predation from above in the forms of eagles and ospreys and have to negotiate dams formed both intentionally by beavers and accidentally by downed trees and limbs.But they do, make it.There they stay,taking the summer off as it should be, until at last again the moon tells them it’s time to move,again. I like to walk to a river and just sit for a while,or take a walk alongside,pausing every so often to see what doesn’t belong. I spend most of my time on rivers and streams, so much so that they are my haven and everywhere else seems somewhat chaotic,and confused.When I first started fly fishing, the scenes at each water seemed so busy, I was aware of everything and focused on nothing.Now when I come to a sitting spot, I do just that.I sit, I listen, I pet my bassett hound, Holly,my ever present fishing companion and sentinel ,second to the bloodhound on scent. I know what belongs here.The quiet gurgling sound of the water taking my mind back to a faraway place,perhaps Mother’s womb.This most peaceful sound on earth is only disrupted by the occasional splashing or flashing as hunger or curiosity or both drives fish upward.They belong in this micro world, and because they belong , they have the right to disrupt my perfect scene.Perhaps a hatch is just beginning below the surface—imagine the feeding frenzy of trout as they begin to smell the blood in the water.It is indeed a battle going on below the surface with the bugs trying en masse to make it from the bottom to the top and through the surface, like kids playing sharks and minnows in a pool, the stakes being life or death.
  I approach the scene;a still, shallow,slightly warmer  belly below a bend. The main flow was on the other side, a mere ten,twelve yards,slowly moving at a rate of maybe two hundred cubic feet per second.the moment I set foot on the shoreline, I saw what I was looking for.a rise.not just any rise, for there are different rises  for different occasions,fish merely responding to the most abundant form of a given insect.this leviathan was taking blue winged olives off the surface.sipping,lazily sipping,not a care in the world,not a bird in the sky. i was instantly taken in, enamored with it’s strength, balancing intake and expenditure;the elegant ease with which it would just appear, showing  me head to tail as it sipped.I had been here before, this, my river that I know intimately.i made my was a tricky reach cast, as he was housed in a knuckle of soft nervous water surrounded by flow which split around either side of it.the reach cast would allow my fly to reach the fish before he could see my line,but it would also create slack in the line,so my hookset needed to be one quick motion downstream,which goes against my natural casting cast, two,three.i had been here before –the moment of the is THE moment.the seconds  ooze past as I watch a fish approach,inspect,sometimes inhale my imitation of a naturally occurring insect.all sound goes out the proverbial window, a vacuum between me and this wild is the moment when buck fever might arise causing me to pull the trigger too early and miss this possibly one and only shot at an obviously wise salmonid .The take is when it all comes together; the wondering about this spot, the tying of flies thinking about this spot,my careful approach,sitting…observing, presenting .This moment before the fish is hooked is actually the moment  most people become hooked, the  fighting and landing paling in comparison to the  take. The only thing that even comes close after it is all said and done is gently holding that fish in the water and just…letting go…..

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