Thursday, October 1, 1998

Season's End

I fished yesterday. The season was winding down and I felt the need to get out one more time. I didn’t fish nearly enough this year. A bad back combined with a sharply ramping up love affair served to shift my focus away from the pursuit of the fish. So I needed to get out, to get with myself, to step into the body of God as it were.

Other times I’ve felt His presence, not so much yesterday. I just wanted to feel the pressing of the water around my wadered legs. I wanted to see the bottom of the stream filtered through three feet of gin-like water and a thirty-second of an inch of polarized glass. I wanted to feel the rod become part of my arm and the line become part of my hand.

And yes, I wanted to feel the tug of a fish at the end of that line.

Of course, nothing happened for the first several hours. No fish, at least none attached themselves to the end of my line. The water was like a swimming pool. I could see fish all around me. They weren’t particularly spooked, but they weren’t hungry either. I cast my flies to them as best I could, but nothing.

After several hours of that, you can get pissed or you can get philosophical. I was supposed to meet Lew at 3:00 in a town an hour away so I got philosophical and packed up. I ate my lunch by the side of the stream, bathed in the white noise, and was on my way. I stopped at the little coffee shop in Hudson where we were supposed to meet. Lew had said to give him a half-hour. I gave him forty minutes while I ate a slice of cheesecake and sipped my coffee. Then, when it was obvious he wasn’t coming, I went to the Race and fished.

A half-hour in, I hooked a little 9” brown. At least I wouldn’t get skunked the last day of the season. Not that that was the only goal, but catching fish is at least a part of fishing.

I saw a garter snake trying to cross the stream. I hoped he wouldn’t get washed down to the riffle 150 feet below. I caught a chub. I wondered what the hell they were doing in there, although really I knew. Water temperature, cold stream feeding a warm river, that sort of thing.

A few minutes later I looked up and there was Lew. We chatted for a few minutes, I told him my luck of the day, he told me his – he’d forgotten about a meeting he’d had scheduled at work. We decided to go for hamburgers after the fishing and he said he was going back downstream to fish a couple of favorite spots.

I moved on up, foul hooked an aggressive little five incher, had some more strikes, then hooked a nice 11 inch brown. I fished that run – it really was a nice one – for a few more minutes, then decided it was time to leave.

On the way back down, I stopped in another run I’d skipped on the way in. I caught two more chubs and decided my season was really over.

I ran into Lew working a stretch below a likely looking riffle. He cast and cast, to nothing it seemed. Finally he said “Enough! Five more casts.” He cast a few more times – who was counting? Not me, for sure. On his designated last cast, bang! A nice ten-inch fish.
Now ten-inch fish aren’t always considered nice, but when it’s your declared last cast of the season, and the fish obliges, you don’t question or argue. You simply say thanks.

Now it was my turn, I guess. As we walked out, we passed a plunge pool we each liked. Lew was done but I wanted another chance. I tied on a fly and said, “Just let me have about ten casts.” Well, as poetry would have it, about the third or fourth cast the indicator went down and I had a ten incher of my own. What was it about ten inch fish that night?

Well, I didn’t write this story to brag and I didn’t write it to tell a “Me’n Joe (or Lew) Went Fishin’” story. I wrote it to say thanks. Thanks to a friend for being with me at a bittersweet time of year, for that’s what the end of trout season is. Thanks for sharing a sacred time, and going for a burger afterwards to talk about anything… and nothing.And thanks to a God who let me into His inner world for a time.