I won’t need to rage against the dying of the light, per Dylan Thomas and his fine poetics. I won’t need to rage because I’ve done all that (for now) in private moments, and my purpose here is really very simple. As autumn deepens time and space with its special brand of darkness, I grab for the sun when it floats above and makes a rare appearance. To position myself and gain advantage, I pick myself up and climb for a different view on daily happenings.
It’s been cold the last few days. The daytime temperatures have struggled to rise above the freezing mark. On Saturday, arriving early for a Slate Run Sportsmen meeting in PA, I decided I had time to climb above the Hotel Manor and the trout stream for a walk on the Black Forest Trail.
I hadn’t walked this section of the ridge in many years. Although I once hiked the entire 45 miles of the Black Forest Trail, and would cover only a mile of it today, the ridge felt new and fresh as I inhaled the cold morning air and sunshine on the mountains. It was good to get reacquainted with the forest supporting one of my favorite trout streams.
After the meeting and some lunch at the Hotel Manor, I grabbed the fly rod for an hour of fishing in the gorge, but already the shadows were deepening and ice was forming in the bamboo’s tiptop guide. The trout were smarter than I was, and just weren’t showing up.
The next morning I was headed to Fall Creek in Ithaca, New York. The sun made a tentative appearance, and the air, still chilly, made a welcome bid for a reading in the 40s. The creek was looking good and strong, full of quickened currents and slower pools, a welcome sight compared to what I’d found here in the past few years.
The big creek has an autumn run of trout, primarily browns, and landlocked salmon from Cayuga Lake. The trout and salmon can attain large sizes and, not surprisingly, the number of anglers on this stream can be substantial too. I thanked the cool air for keeping angler interest on Sunday morning at a minimum. There were men and women on the water, but not so many that I had to wonder why I bothered coming out. Unfortunately, the numbers of fish seemed relatively low, as well.
Casting a streamer, I caught a small rainbow trout but then nothing for an hour or two. Sensing that my luck in finding a brown trout or a landlocked salmon was about to expire, I was walking upstream on a high bank overlooking the creek, enjoying a ray of sunshine pouring through the cloudscape over the city, when I saw a large fish several feet from the water’s edge.
The bank was steep and I descended slowly, careful to avoid all movement other than an inch-by-inch progression of my feet. An overhanging branch personified darkness as it stifled my effort to make an adequate roll-cast to the fish. The salmon sensed my presence and disappeared downstream. Disappointed, I stepped well into the stream and waited, hoping that a landlocked salmon, one of my favorite fishes on the fly, would return.
Luck plays an important part in any fisherman’s life, and I got lucky when the fish returned and paused in the same area of the stream where I first saw it. I got lucky when this salmon didn’t laugh so hard at the bedraggled fly that he let it pass. The fish grabbed the hook and tore upriver, leaping several times and shaking his head, before I could lead him to the opposite bank and take a photo.
This male salmon (note the kype!) measured 27 inches along the rod and had some weight. I worked at reviving him in the flow of water before the send off, a good fish swimming toward the lowering sun, a spirit helping to keep it in the sky.