An Evening at Home - A reflection of an old man fishing near his home
Trout at Twilight
He stood rooted in the river, just below where the water deepened from the riffles leading into the next pool. Knee deep in the cold water he waited patiently, as still as the herons he had watched over the years pursuing their dinner. His eyes might not focus as clearly as they had in times past, but he was still able to discern the slowly moving shadows finning beneath the water’s surface. Just on the edge of what remained of his peripheral vision he saw, or thought he saw, a glimmer of shining scales. Slowly turning his head, he focused both eyes on the spot and moments later he was rewarded with what he sought.
“There you are” he murmured beneath his breath, as though by voicing these few words out loud he might somehow spook the trout lying beneath the water. He watched a few moments longer, the better to fix in his mind just where the trout was holding and how to effectively cast for the fish. There was a small hatch of Green Sedge Caddis underway so he had attached a #18 Caddis Emerger in the hopes that the trout would begin feeding on these first. He knew that trout held closer to the bottom in the shallow water of the river and used the current flowing around its body and over its fins to propel it up the water column and backwards downriver to the surface to feed, much the way an airplane used the airflow over its wings to provide the lift necessary to keep it in the air. The trout might actually be lying some four or five feet upstream of where it broached the surface, so a cast to where it sipped the insect down would be far behind where it actually was holding. He knew he might only have one chance at this trout, so it had to be perfect.
Slowly stripping line from his worn out reel, he judged the distance to his target against the line on the water’s surface. Feeling he had sufficient line out he began to false cast, to get the heavy fly line into the air, high above the water’s surface. Back and forth, smoothly and firmly, he worked the line into the air in a constantly moving dance flowing out from his rod. This was the magical part to him; this weaving of line and rod into a tapestry above the water. One final thrust forward, and he checked the rod, thereby allowing the line to straighten out fully, then watched as the fly, leader, then fly line settled on the surface of the water with the fly several feet upstream of where he knew the trout was holding. A flick of the rod tip and some of the line moved just a bit farther upstream which would allow the fly to drift unhindered into the feeding zone.
He kept his eyes glued to the spot where he expected the strike to come, blinking rapidly against the strain of his eyes and the setting sun’s reflection off the water. Poised, he waited as the fly drifted along with the current, directly towards his target. He sensed, then saw, the trout rise up from the depths, its eyes focused on the tidbit coming towards him. The man held his breath, waiting. A final shift of the fins and the trout rose the final few inches upward, opening its mouth to sip the fly as gently as a wine taster sips at his glass of expensive wine. A dimple on the surface to show where it had been, and the trout descended to the depths again. The man saw as much as felt the line tighten, and he quickly raised his rod to set the hook. A slight pressure, and the fight was on.
The man watched as the trout came out of the water, assisted by the long fly rod to heights it never could have attained on its own. With a crash, it re-entered the water and began to run downstream towards him. Furtively pulling line in with one hand while attempting to maintain pressure with his other hand holding the rod, he threw the line onto the water around him. The trout raced past him and into the pool below, taking back the line he had just pulled in. Standing in the shallow water of the riffles, the man kept pressure on the fish as it struggled against him. The current assisted the trout as it turned sideways and held solid against the rod, allowing the water pressure to push it away from the force trying to pull it back upstream. The man held steady for a minute, holding the rod high and trying to bring more line in.
But the trout was having nothing of it. A twist of its tail and away it surged, back downstream another few yards. Not quite so far as before did the man allow the trout to swim. Raising the rod, and then lowering it in a pumping manner, he slowly brought the trout towards him. With a desperate attempt to rid itself of the pain in its jaw the trout flung itself free of the watery bounds and twisted in midair. Seeing the fish about to jump, the man quickly lowered the rod tip slightly, to ease the pressure of the hook, so as to not pull it free from the tender gristle that is the jaw. As it re-entered the water, he immediately raised the rod back high, and strained against the fish once more.
Several times this action was repeated, as the magnificent Rainbow Trout fought valiantly against its unseen opponent. For long years it had been the king of the pool but this adversary was defeating it. Try as he might he could not shake the fly. Finally, the trout turned on its side and allowed itself to be pulled in the direction of the man.
The man eased to trout towards him, then reached behind to grasp the net attached to his vest. Slipping it into the water he raised the rod just a bit more and watched as the fish slid into the net. The prize was his. Stumbling to the bank he collapsed onto the rocky shore and gazed at the brilliant crimson sides of the trout. Dark green back and creamy white beneath with dark spots along it flanks, the man thought this was the most beautiful fish he had ever caught. Reaching once more to his vest, the man took hold of his forceps, and grasped the fly and tugged it free. Then, kneeling in the icy water, he gently held the trout in his hands and moved it back and forth in the current. As the water flowed into its mouth and out through its gills, the trout regained its strength. A flick of the tail, and it moved off, back into the waters. The man stood up, watching as it moved off into the deeper water, confident the fish was in good condition and would survive to be caught another day. He then turned and watched as the sun began to set on the day. Bright red and purple colors moved across the sky as the sun fell below the horizon. The sounds of evening began to appear; crickets and cicadas, and far off, an owl hooted. In a distance he heard a whippoorwill make its distinctive call, echoing through the small canyon. With a small satisfied smile on his face, the man made his way back to the trail that led to home. Home, he thought. This is my home; not that collection of wood and concrete. Everyone had passed on or left him. He was alone in this world. The house was simply a place to call home. To him the stream and the woods, this was home to him. With a sigh, he made his way along the path in the gathering dusk, remembering the fight.