There was a slight chill in the air and the aspen trees as well as the oak brush had begun to change colors. I had been drifting the same pattern of wet fly in the same stream, around the same rock, and through the same eddy with the same results for nearly 45 minutes. Time seemed suspended as I was mesmerized by a lone leaf, brown and dry, playing in the same pool from which I was trying to coax a native golden trout.
I saw the leaf as it tumbled down stream and got caught in the current as it swirled below a giant boulder. The chill wind would puff and it would defy the current, jetting either up or across the stream, only to gently fall back into the pool of clear mountain water. Eventually it found the downstream current and floated past my perch on the edge of the chilly Colorado mountain stream, only to find another pool, another back eddy to play about, unrushed, gently harmonizing with the natural rhythm of things.
Now I sit, many years and many more miles from that time and place. I I do this more often in the winter months than otherwise. I get moody and introspective twixt the two equinox as the days shorten and sunlight becomes a rare sighting. I am looking at all the things that make up my story, both the short and the epic, of my life. Story is important to me. Perhaps it is my Irish heritage that makes story so much a part of who I am and how I perceive the world around me.
The longer, epic story of my life has led me down many streams, deposited sediment picked up and carried along the way. It is where I have been that has formed the contour of the stream of my life. Some banks have been built up while others eroded. Some pools are deep while others are rippling shallows. I didn’t necessarily choose what to pick up or where to deposit. It just sort of came to be.
I usually prefer my life to be like the fly I was casting. Precision, floating through the air to land as a specific spot, then floating the cascading flow to drop into the pool. I used the current with oft times deadly accuracy to produce my expected outcomes. My life isn’t turning out that way. My story is more that of the meandering leaf than the exacting fly pattern cast and manipulated.
I retrieved the wet fly pattern on the end of my line. I hunted through my collection of feathered hooks until I found a fluffy, dry fly pattern. I came across one I had never used. It was colorful and was of the variety that usually appealed to fishermen more than fish. I tied it on and began to dance it across the stream. It sat upon the top of the water, like the earlier leaf. The back eddy swirled it around, the wind caused it to scoot cross current, and the stream laughed the sweet laughter that only those who have been would recognize. The water behind my fly swirled and then the surface erupted in a flash of color and spray as the trout discovered that he had been tricked. In a few minutes that battle was over. The exhausted trout came alongside to be gently held while the hook was removed. He rolled to his side and seemed to look up and congratulate me, then with a flip of his tail he went back to the pool he called his home. I smiled, set my rod and reel aside, and watched as another leaf came drifting down to dance and play in the deep pool of crystal water once more.