The cooling temperatures of late summer and early fall brings a spike in fish behavior and in human interest on the stream. Although I’m anchored to another academic year, I try to focus on the local streams and overgrown trails to balance my work with pleasure. With a short drive to a headwater stream, I can fish a weekend morning while the tiny Tricos hover, then go home and do whatever else requires doing.
I’ve been missing from this creek for a year or more, so it’s good to get back and reacquaint myself with the water’s changeability and free-flowing ways. It’s good to go local, to regain some depth inside this place and fish it after a season or two of outward travel.
The sky is overcast, the air cool and foggy, comfortable. I watch the first hovering cloud of Trico spinners settling closer to the water. Now it’s time to cast that #22 spinner– one of the smallest flies I dare to fish with. But it’s fun.
At first I’m catching and releasing miniature browns. Then a wild brook trout or two comes in, bright fish in the eight or nine-inch range. If I’m lucky I’ll see a larger shape rising to the surface, and I’ll take a brown for several moments of admiration. When I’m not so fortunate, I’ll lose a heavy bruiser risen to a fly I’ve drifted down below the long pool’s riffle.
It’s not that there’s a great fish in my creek, or a lot of big ones to be taken. Oh, I’ve seen a few outstanding trout over the years– the rare fish spooked from its lair, out of reach except for night fishing. It’s just that I’m at home here, relaxed in the solitude of water, and awake to some of its greater challenges.
It’s like being at the roots of nature– listening to poetry, to the sound of birds, amphibians, water running over stone. Poetry has predated the written word, historically, and what I hear eludes translation to the page. There’s more to fishing than meets the eye, of course, but satisfaction rises out of creativity, in writing “just good language,” and in reconnection with our origins.
Native lobelia/ scarlet robed/flares/ above the muskrat’s wake.// Trout rise/ for the small emergent mayfly–/ the heron’s eye/ notes a wavering/ white-striped fin.// Blossoms stir/ along the stalks–/ small red birds/ lift their wings…// A shadow falls/ across the riffle.
The trout are enlivened by the cooler temperatures and, in some cases, by a spawning urge. The bird migrations have begun, and the chance to see the seldom seen is heightened. It feels right to walk, wade and hike again. Our summer lethargies are diminished, and a sense of wholeness looms, assuming that our work loads aren’t too burdensome and our health is pretty good.
By evening, stream and the surrounding valley are a gentle wash of cricket song, goldenrod and bright new color. The whole planet seems to beckon from its natural aspects, before the end of days. Good fishing, and good hiking, bring it on.