I took a path that was less than a path, a rough walk downhill from the woods, and even before I got to the ponds, I heard and saw the season’s first Baltimore oriole. I heard the liquid fluting from the treetops then saw the striking black and orange plumage, bringing a sense of tropics to this summer home.
A beaver swam the reservoir behind its dam. It hauled yet another well-chewed pole. The beavers change the landscape here; they shake up the riverine environment; they change the lifestyles of a watery domain.
A kingfisher dove in for its fast food; the deer stopped to drink; the shadbush bloomed with snowy petals from the streambank to the top of distant hills.
I paused and sat on a daffodil terrace above the pond. Like the beaver colony, I was reconstructing my world season by season, living off the water, watching the wild, renewing my life’s contract through observation and through writing.
Salamanders floated in the upper layers of the pond, their legs dangling at their sides like those of children on a raft. Beavers worked the bottom layers, building a world as if here to stay. The poplars on the higher ground had dropped one by one, their bases chipped away by the teeth of night.
The moth-like insects live among runs and riffles, the larvae hatching from small square houses built from plants. The immatures swim downstream, a rappelling motion whereby a silken line anchors them to a rock while holding in the current, one stretch at a time.
Hook: Wet fly #12-16.
Tag: Lime-colored thread.
Body: Peacock herl.
Soft hackle: Starling or English grouse.
I climbed my way back up the hill, grabbing a sapling here, a downed poplar branch there, imagining a rappelling motion while reentering the woods.
Even here in the beavers’ realm, I was plotting my next move with trout. For better or worse, I’ve given up a lot to build my anchor line and hitch it to the streams.
As John Steinbeck said, “It’s always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses, has it coming.”
The next day I would fish the upper Oswayo, the place of wild trout, though I would see no fish there, and no hatches. Going downstream, however, to the place where stocked and wild trout live together, I’d find some action…
Growing tired of pitting “intelligence against the fish” by casting tandem caddis flies and getting no reaction, I would change my tactics. Rather than risk fishing for stockers and losing with a catch of standard trout, I decided to cast for the “big ones” in the deeper holes by drifting a sunken streamer.
So, duck and cover! I’ve got it coming! Hide out in the twilight woods.
I would see the flash of a trout and set the hook. Weight! Energy! Without ceremony, I’d horse the rainbow upstream, away from the logs and faster water. In the net I’d find a trout measurement of nearly 18 inches.
Okay, I heard the barred owls calling. What were they saying? I heard the first woodthrush carolling. Ah, that’s better!
Another half dozen trout, brook and brown and rainbow, would come to hand there in the “Oz” before I’d quit. The migrating warblers would be common, and the wood anemone would star the bank.
Who said I’ve got it coming?
Not yet, not yet. And the catbird’s mellow squawking…