The sun edged down toward the western horizon, its face now
broken by the pointed spires of the pines and firs growing along
the river. The sunlight, filtered through the evergreen branches,
broke and scattered, shifting diamonds of light on the rippling water.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
Sitting on a streamside log a lone angler contemplated the scene
before him. Leaves, golden gliders pushed by the soft breezes of
evening, settled onto the stream, golden reminders that another season
was at hand. How quickly, like the vanishing snows of winter, had the
hopes of spring melted into the reality of summer, and now into the
inevitability of autumn.
In the spring the stream had run full from bank to bank, its waters
dark and mysterious. Under the warmth of the spring sun the stream
came alive with new life. Mayflies, tiny ephemeral sail boats drifting
down sheltered glides, fluttering and falling, struggling to gain safety
of the streamside foliage. The evenings had been filled with their
mating flights, exquisite dancers on jeweled wings. Hendrickson's,
sulphurs, cahills, each came in turn as spring flowed into summer.
With them came the caddis casting aside pupual shucks, skittering
across the water, to join their fellows on nearby trees to dash and
dart about the branches seeking mates. Evening flights were often
like miniature snowstorms as they swirled over the water.
All of them were gone now; even the tiny late season mayflies.
Tricorythodes and Pseudocloeon had completed their cycle and
in the gathering darkness of this the final day of trout fishing only
a few midges danced over the riffles.
It had been a tough season. The proceeding winter had been long
and cold. Spring brought high, cold water, and summer was marked
by hot, dry days. The stream had suffered. Fishing pressure had been
heavy this season, and never before had he witnessed so many anglers
here. By early summer many runs were devoid of fish. Many of the late
season hatches had gone unmolested except for small brookies and chubs.
The angler lit his pipe and watched the smoke drift away downstream.
An errant nighthawk wheeled over the stream, his plaintive call went
unanswered since most of his kind had long departed for warmer climes.
A Woodcock on stubby twittering wings flew from the tag alders at the
edge of the stream and disappeared into the bog beyond.
It was a short walk through the woods from here to where he had
parked his car earlier in the day. An afternoon of fishing had produced
only small brook trout. The males were bright jewels already arrayed
in spawning colors. Each had been admired and carefully released as
this was the angler's policy with all trout. He had hoped for one brown
on this last day of the season, but they were conspicuous by their absence.
Now he affixed a grizzly skater, tied on a tiny hook, to the end of his
tippet. Perhaps he could imitate the hovering midges as they danced
over the water. Moving upstream he probed each pocket, each glide,
each slick. With practiced perfection honed from years of experience
and knowledge of the stream he fished each spot, recalling from memory
each nuance of current. Several times in one year he had taken a 15 inch
brown from behind that log, but now his fly danced there without bringing
any response. Near the bank some underwater rocks, placed there by
the angler himself, usually provided a lie for a good fish or two, but tonight
they hid only a chub.
The sun had set now, setting fire to the western horizon in a palette
of colors only the Master Creator could devise. The family would
be wondering where he was so long, and there was a long drive
ahead of him that would take him back to the city. He would make
a few final casts, then good-bye until spring.
Flipping the fly up, he straightened his back cast and shot the fly up
to a smooth glide that would carry it under an overhanging cedar
sweeper. In an instant the fish was there, a golden swirl and then he
was gone. The angler tightened and the tiny skater skipped across
the water. Missed! Would he come again? Ah, no matter he thought.
The angler reeled in and slipped the fly into the keeper. He tamped
and relit his pipe watching the smoke drift slowly down stream. Gazing
out over the stream he gathered in the scene, storing it away to be
recalled at some other time, some other place. Slipping from the stream
he headed through the darkening forest toward his waiting car. Through
the winter to come, and for many winters thereafter he would remember
that trout, a golden swirl of promise to treasure until another spring. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
From A Journal Archives