UNDER THE BRIDGE
Having a few hours afforded me on a recent morning; I was able to hit some local water at daybreak. It was a nice chance to fish in the late August heat, and take advantage of those first few cooler hours of the day. The morning broke a little hazy, however you could tell from the temperatures that it would shortly burn off with sunrise and the heat would return with a vengeance. Parking and rigging my rod, I was the only vehicle in the park parking lot. A temporary convenience for sure, and I knew that with the sun would also bring a full parking lot of hikers, joggers and the usual handful of fishermen. Rigged, I moved downstream to enter below the covered bridge that held the first hole I wished to fish. The hole needed to be fished from the opposite side of the creek from where I parked and I decided to walk downstream and cross below the hole versus crossing the bridge and dropping in. Taking my time I was able to quietly navigate the lower riffle, but as I approached the hole under the bridge I stumbled in the loose gravel. An unforgiving stream full of wild browns cut me no slack, as straightening I watched a nice sized fish glide by heading downstream. One flick of his tail proved to me that he was leaving the pool for good and with that he was gone .One mistake and one fish that I would not be afforded the opportunity to cast over. "Oh well", I thought to myself, "Shake it off", as I took a breath and moved up to a casting position that allowed me room to cover the majority of the hole. The first cast dropped my fly in the middle of the narrow run and it was instantly rewarded with a rise after drifting maybe 12 inches. A couple seconds later and I was admiring a smallish 8 inch stream bred brown .I was quick to get it back into the water to avoid any undue stress. Although this particular water stays cool year around, the fish are still dealing with stresses of summer heat, just like us.
Standing there in the early morning silence I glanced up at the bridge above me. As you cross the bridge by vehicle it appears at first glance to be a beautiful example of a rural Pennsylvania covered bridge, like so many well-kept icons across the state. Yet from the waters perspective, the paint was peeling across its length, and its age was becoming apparent. It looked a little tired I thought. Much like we all do after a long hot summer. In the past, a time like this would cause me to reflect with a twinge of sadness on how fast things seem to go by. Hatches missed through the spring and summer that I truly wanted to fish. Waters I wanted to visit, which were gone for another season. However, things changed for me awhile back and in a moment of clarity while standing along that stream it was made crystal clear. Just after the birth of my youngest, I was diagnosed with cancer. Through all the treatments, the fears and the uncertainties a lot of life hung in the balance. And through it all, one thing never crossed my mind. That being, what I had missed. Or what I had not had a chance to do. What did hit me however was how little time I may have left, and all of the future joys that I still wanted to know. Not in the sense of the over-used cliché of "not taking life for granted", although that cannot be avoided after a life-changing experience. But more on the line of not dwelling on what cannot be changed, and keeping my eyes focused on what is coming next to avoid missing the beauty of the little pieces. For me, I was afforded more time with a positive outcome. Yet that moment in life had left a profound impact on me, which not only changed my life as a whole, but inevitably impacted my approach to even the outdoor pursuits I so much enjoy.
So I stood there acknowledging that I had almost completely missed the Trico hatch this summer. The Drakes had come-and-gone without a single fly tossed at them. And even my favorite Sulfur hatch had come-and-gone once more. Add to that countless mistakes and fish like the one as I approached the water this morning that were gone and the list would grow. Yet even in the next breath, another fish rose. And the Caddis flies were abundant this year. The big bugs of fall were inbound shortly, and all of those big fish would come out of hiding to angrily take them as if they knew the cold of winter was fast approaching. And another of my favorite hatches, the Blue-winged Olives, in their diminutive size, would soon arrive as well on those cloudy autumn days. Sure, the past spring and summer were gone forever. Known only in my memories and pictures captured. But like the water flowing under that weathered old bridge, more would come. And I would stand in it as well, a little weathered and tired yet still looking forward. With so much yet to enjoy if I remained focused on the little pieces. Soon the fall foliage would arrive along with the big October Caddis fluttering across the surface of the water, on those cool crisp autumn mornings with a chance to bring yet another fish to rise.