All things run their course, and so the long lake season, begun in the time of shoots and buds, comes to its end in the time of fruit and seeds.
A rancher on horseback was bringing his cattle down from the high country, a Fall ritual as old as the first time ranchers came into these mountains.
The tamaracks were yellow ghosts in the forest, preparing to drop their needles until the next growing season.
The lake shimmered under a pale sun and a fitful breeze out of the south. The sun was but a shadow of its former self, and the breeze a thin version of the warm, sweet, south winds of summer.
I launched the faithful float tube for the last time this year. I paddled out into the channel; to my left: the north end, and memories; to my right: the south end, and memories. All around me: one more memory to make.
I had a nymph and indicator on in case trout were tailing again, reaping the harvest of lowering lake levels and withering weeds.
There were no tailing fish this time, but a trout came up near me with a splashy rise, and when I dropped the nymph into its window it took hungrily.
I had a swirl at the indicator on one of my retrieves, so I succumbed to the inevitable and tied on a stimulator.
I worked my way down the shoreline, inducing a few swirls but no takes. But once again, as I have so many times before--and as I will so many times again--I was fishing.
I had slipped far down the shoreline when the south breeze fluttered and died. Fish began to rise and it seemed that things were going my way. All treat on this Halloween day.
Then the pines began to moan up on the mountainside, a breeze picked up and swirled round and round, and suddenly a strong wind came roaring down out of the north and hit like an avalanche. The lake had one more trick up its sleeve.
I gave up searching for fish along the shoreline and began the long, hard paddle against the wind back toward the channel and the truck. I was dragging the stimulator behind me, and two small fish, holding the promise of seasons to come, refused to let it pass.
I reached sheltered water, dried out the stimulator, and went back to working the shoreline. One last time: the stimulator rides high on the dark water, making little ripples as I strip, pause, strip. Then the water boils under it and it disappears in the center of a rapidly expanding ring. I raise the rod and the vibrancy of another life, wild and free, shoots up my arm and into my soul. One last time, and the last trout of the season.
It was a good time for an ending. So for the last time this season I packed up the truck.
And for the last time this season I climbed the ridge out of the high valley.
And so, like all things, the season has run its course. But even as it comes to an end it is sowing the seeds of the next season.
So long, lake--for now.