Winter Cometh Soon and a Pause

The latest weather forecast paints a lengthy period of rain starting later this week suggesting rising rivers and a big step towards winter.  Granted, winter is still a ways off by the calendar.  We are likely on the cusp of the more classic fall – damp ground, the river valleys shrouded with smoke from woodstoves, a new round of fall colors, and a burst of mushrooms from the forest floor – rather than this faux summer we’ve been living through lately.

So far, looking back, the season started with a bang in August and then progressively got more difficult in terms of hooking fish – though, I must admit, some of the most satisfying days have been those with one or two good fish hooked.  And difficult is not the right word – intense, maybe?  If I had to talk about catching fish, it’s less of a number game and more of the cerebral quest of finding a piece of water, methodically working through it and being rewarded with one good fish. That seems to make the whole crazy thing worth it.  I won’t argue with the fast and furious early season evenings – those are special times.  But there is something to be said for the focused pace through a piece of water, getting the swing just right and, finally, on the 23rd cast, connecting with seven pounds of electrified wild steelhead and then finishing with nothing more than that.  Of course, a single seven pound steelhead probably qualifies as a good day in most people’s ledgers around here.  If it was all easy catching, that would soon get tiresome (I think), and if nothing were ever caught, then, well, that speaks for itself.  It’s about landing somewhere in the middle which is, in practice, rarely enough.

I think the satisfying thing about it all so far is that I’ve managed to fish the water I just needed to fish, covered the water I wanted to fish and found a few new spots along the way.  Best of all, the old water was revisited and fished in a new way this year.  I think if the rain happens just right and the rivers come up about a foot or so, it will all start over again.  Pause…

On the Coming of Storms

Reminiscing on Fall Steelhead

Somewhere in August a subtle change happens. One morning dawns cooler than the last. Maybe it lasts a day, maybe three, then the notion is lost in the incessant summer. Nothing of real importance happens now, except maybe noting a yellowing cottonwood leaf hanging from a branch. Finally, well into August, I realize there is no turning back now and the best time of year is at hand.

Over the hill and away from the coast, the relentless heat holds fast – lasting well into September and often October. I remember sunsets along the coast when far off webs of cirrus clouds would hold low on the horizon hinting at some far off storm and the reminder that winter is not far off. But these can be days of agony – days I spend with a sense that all of summer’s delights are now out of reach, even though I well know that many more weeks lie ahead. All the while, the fog-shrouded, chilly mornings I remember of seasons well underway seem impossible now. As the days go by, as summer hangs on, I wonder if they will ever come this year. Sometime, not long after, in a fit of desperation, the decision is made to make the annual pilgrimage over the hill, to return to the river. I do not have high hopes of hooking a steelhead, after all, summer is still holding fast. This is a journey to prove that something really is happening. Continue reading “On the Coming of Storms”