Bright Fish Dark Day

On a warm overcast day in late autumn I grabbed another chance to fly fish. It would be difficult today. The Bills were losing yet another football game; the news of the nation and the world was as grim as ever. There were too many vehicles parked at the Allegheny River barns where I intended to fish. On this day before the start of Pennsylvania’s gun season for deer, hunters were out to try a little fishing. As in other years on this particular date, a Conservation Officer was stationed near the barns and spotting the anglers through binoculars.

I drove downstream to the lowest section of the Delayed Harvest water. Plenty of solitude there, but something wasn’t right. The river had risen from the mid-week rains; the water was cold and off-color. I decided to backtrack and fish upriver at the Judge’s place. I started humming “Nothing is Easy,” a song by the early Jethro Tull.

For two hours I waded in and out of deep and tight locations. I was getting hung-up and hung-down. Worst of all, I was missing strikes and even had a break-off. At a pool in the woods, I climbed over large rocks on the bank while attempting to retrieve a snagged fly. A strand of rusty barbed wire appeared in the rocks, but I didn’t think I hit it till the cold river poured itself into the right leg of my neoprene waders.

I returned to the Judge’s bridge where I had lost a nice fish. What the hell, I’d give it one more try. In these days of thwarted dreams and leaky waders, in this age of global climate change and overpopulation, and with hourly news reports of sex abuse and civil war, the least I could do was give it one more cast. If I got lucky I might even catch a fish and change the world. Although I usually steer from solipsism as if it was the flu, I would face that crippling malady like a zeolot.

The first cast to the deep riffle got a bump. Same story. But another cast got a pull… Fish on! A two-minute rod-bending fight against the current brought the heavy rainbow to the net… Quick photo, and a word of thanks.

I slogged uphill to the car, three pounds heavier from all the water in my leg. I sang a line or two from “Nothing is Easy.” I glanced at the sky.

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About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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