The sunrise slices across the eastern matte black skyline like it’s been cut by a razor. The intermittent mingling of orange and scarlet will spread and soften as I drive west to my destination. I make this sojourn alone, always have. It is not something I’ve been willing to share with anyone else.
I have brought with me only those things I will need. Waders and boots, even though it is late in the summer the overnight lows have dipped and the cold air across wet pants and skin is not my preference. Truth is, I’ve never really liked wet wading anyway. A rod and reel with a floating line of course, and one fly box. One is all I need for this visit. Tricos.
Few know of this hatch in this place, although as a fishery it’s well known and enjoyed. A spring creek with freestone character that is highly regarded for it’s hopper fishing for surly browns that hold far under overhanging banks and explode on well drifted oversized dries in riffles and runs.
I park and prepare in the faintest light and let my mind wander as I do. I smile to myself as I begin to recall previous visits. Like the time I drove right past the creek and continued north almost twenty miles, and was pulling into the hospital parking lot where my mother had passed away just two months prior before I realized where I was. A subconscious return visit that I treasure. Or the occasional visit in rebellion of the workplace mandatory blah, blah, blah.
I think everyone should blow off a required meeting at work at least once in their life to drift trico dry flies to rising trout.
This is how it starts. The remembering.
It mingles with the sharp focus of awareness that this place inspires. I walk downstream past the raucous chutes and riffles, past the place where the rattlesnakes have surprised me enough times that I now know they prefer it, and I’m alert enough to notice that there are no snakes this day. With purpose I walk to one spot. The long pool where the water deepens and widens and the surface shimmers like a living mirror.
The chill hangs in the air like a damp blanket and my sinuses are filled with the overwhelming aroma of dew on sage. There is no sound. It is quiet. Stocking foot, tiptoed, don’t wake your Dad up quiet. More memories, but unimportant and unrelated today.
I slip into the water in a familiar space between the cattails and look into my fly box for this morning’s du jour. A size 22 dun with a pink post for contrast. I absentmindedly turn the tippet through the motions of a knot. And I wait.
My senses peak at the first call of the meadowlark and I sense a change. As the first slivers of light cast across the water they will begin.
The current, soft and steady, comes off my left shoulder from the direction of the sunrise. I peer across the silver surface for rise forms as the first and then second occur further downstream than I want to cast. I smile to myself, remembering that I’ll put the whole pool down trying for those far risers.
Then it happens. Directly across from me. I inhale and catch my breath. I instinctively lay a reach cast above it remembering anything else will drag the fly across the pool. Far too many times I’ve gone home fishless from this place.
The fly lands softly above the rise and begins it’s drift. The trout confidently sticks its head out of the water and closes its mouth over the fly. I lift the rod gently against the light tippet and let the fish run downstream. It turns across the stream and makes for the bank below me.
I bend the rod against it denying the sanctuary it seeks in the downed tree I know lurks beneath the surface. Always remembering. I am more than just familiar with this place. It is etched into the very fabric of my mind.
I know that tree for the culprit it is from raw experience. It embarrasses me to think about how many trout I have lost to it’s branches before I learned to counter the trout’s efforts to hide there. My mind is wandering again and I force myself to focus on the now.
The struggling trout is showing signs of surrender so I raise his head just out of the water and bring him to my net.
It is only when I see him there that I realize the sun is up and the light catches the trout’s color beautifully. I am struck by my admiration for it’s form and color and life.
For a moment I hold the net watching him shimmer in the sunlight. I drop the net ever so slightly and the trout swims away.
Then and only then, I exhale.
And I remember that nothing else has this power to let me live without breathing.
- Jake Hood
Spokane River Guide