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These days at the lake have been giving lessons in Autumn. The weather continues mild but overcast, the air is close and heavy and redolent with scents of the earth, the light is muted, revealing a deeper spectrum of the myriad of colors. If winter is the long sleep, this is the pleasant drowsiness, even dreamlike half-sleep that comes before.
The lake has been giving other lessons this Autumn. When I launched the float tube and cast my fly, a perfect imitation of the midges spinning on the breeze-flecked surface, and hooked up, and played a hot mid-sized Rainbow into the net, I began to reflect on my Autumn prowess, gained through a long season of the practice of my craft.
That's when things went wrong. I couldn't get another hookup, though fish were hitting my fly with gusto. After a series of misses I reeled in to change flies and found that the tippet had wrapped around the hook shank. I was pulling the hook point out of the fish rather than in.
Even after that I found it hard to set the hook. I missed many takes, and three or four fish came off just as I had them ready for the net. When I did get a fish into the net it felt like what it is: an act of grace. Sometimes I forget that.
So the lake had a few lessons for me still. I therefore bow to the lake, properly chastened. I learned again that the lake giveth and the lake taketh away; that I don't earn the fish I catch, but am allowed to catch them by the good graces of the lake.
We can learn a lot about skills and technique, but it means nothing if we fail to learn the lessons of the lake.