Dial tones

I come here for the wide open space,

Where the river flows across the valley

To the coastal lowlands.


This is where I wanted to be,

but now the reality of all this space

Bites hard.


A dying afternoon breeze swirls chilled gusts

Into my face, down my neck,

Into my bones.


Off west a big wall of fog rolls across the lowlands

Swallowing up everything.

A giant dark wave that might stifle the wind,

Or send it running in every direction.


Standing hip deep in the chilled water doesn’t help.

My legs have stiffened to stifle a shiver.

And I’m hopelessy hunched over

Like an old man worn by years of toil.


The water is still off-colored, just clear enough,

Seducing me with clear green edges,

Closer, now, the brown-tinged center hides the river,

Calling for a painfully methodical pace,

So things can see and be seen.


Here the river sweeps long against the bedrock cliff,

Tracing a classic slot for winter steelhead to sit.

Sitting and doing whatever they do.



Minutes ago, this water gave up a ten pounder to me.

Now I’m hunting for another.


Another grab at the fly, a quick swipe as the fly

Hangs down below me

In the deep seam at the edge of the slot.


The cliff along the far bank is overhung by ferns,

All dripping steadily into the sweetest water,

Like a dial tone maybe,

Waiting for the ring…


Another cast, another half step,



Another swipe.


Now the failing wind lets moments of glassy stillness

Cover everything

Just for a moment, before another push up the valley,

Announcing it’s coming by the ripples pushing up the long run.


A third tag, this time just a peck.

The cold gets forgotten

Just for a moment.


The fish rolls down below me, showing silver

Before disappearing back down,

Into the greenish brown mystery world where fish sit and wait,

Waiting for strange-looking concoctions

The quickest glance of feather and fur swimming past.

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