Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lake Report: Lessons In Autumn

Click on photo for full size image.
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.

Lake Report: Lake Train

Click on photos for full size image.
I'm nearing my station. I'll be getting off, but the lake train will keep right on going. And it's going strong, not fast, but strong. Everything rolling along the way it has forever.
The fish were up and hungry, the herons were restless and talked to each other in deep reedy squonks, the chickadees and stellar's jays were competing for attention along the shoreline, the ducks shot back and forth across the lake like arrows, and two bighorn rams, somewhere up on the ridge, ticked off the time with the heavy hollow tocks of their colliding horns.
I was a part of it, a tiny little part of it, one more time. I felt the pull of the trout again in my wrists and arms. And I felt the pull of the lake again somewhere deep inside me. And I was glad for another ride.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lake Report: Gathering Memories

Click on photos for full size image.
There's new snow in the high country. It's still fall down here--but winter is coming down the mountain. So, like gathering wood for winter fires, I gather in a last few memories to warm me on those long cold nights.
Conditions at the lake were as good as they get. The afternoon wind lay down early and hungry fish rose splashily all over the still surface. Last evening I couldn't buy a surface take; tonight all my fish took on top. Go figure.
It began with this nice fish and the black marabou muddler.
Right after that I had another take on the muddler. It was a deep swirling take by a big fish, and I got him ten feet from the float tube before the hook pulled out. These are also memories that make you warm.
I got no more hits on the muddler, so I went through a few different flies to see if I could find the right one. I hooked a small fish on the cinnamon ant but lost him in the weeds; then caught another one.
Then I got no more hits on the ant, so I went through a couple of other flies before tying on a little dark stimulator. I had tried it last night, with no success. But I threw it out and gave it a few twitches and something engulfed it, and began thrashing and rolling. My tippet was 5X so I held my breath as I carefully worked this into the net:
That is a Brown. He was well over twenty, fat and heavy, the best Brown--the best trout--I've caught in this lake. There's a memory. I'm getting warm all over just thinking about it.
I cast that wonderful little stimulator out again and gave it a couple of strips and another good fish smashed it. This was no wallowing Brown; this was a leaping, running Rainbow. I held my breath again.
Then no more hits on the stimulator, or anything else I tried on top. But I didn't seem to care. The rises were dwindling, and I was in my happy place, so I just settled back and trolled until dark.
I caught two--each one interrupting my reverie--this being the best and the last.
I'll remember this evening as the time I managed to catch not one, but two of those big dorsals that have been so tantalizing but so elusive. It was all there tonight, except for the rosy glow of dusk that I mentioned a few posts ago.
But I can always add that to the memory.