The longest day of the year has come. The lake is at its zenith, the season at its peak. And so you are drawn to be there, to ascend the heights of this day, simply because, like Everest, it's there.
You're still up at 3 AM on the morning of the longest day. Outside, the east is already filling with light. You wish you were already there, but you need to get some sleep and do some work.
Later, you get ready to go, tying a couple more flies in anticipation of the Hex hatch. It will be the longest hatch of the year.
You launch. The lake is restless with life. You settle down into it, become part of it. A warm breeze nudges you down the shoreline. The scent of the living lake mingles with the scent of sagebrush and mountain pine. You weren't there for the whole day, but now that you are here you will be here to the end.
You make your way along the shoreline toward the Hex grounds. The new Hex flies stay pristine on your fly patch. The lake is riffled, and no fish are rising. You probe every nook and cranny of the bank along the way with a floating deer hair fly that has not yet produced. And then it does. In a little bay a Rainbow comes up out of nowhere and takes it.
A little way along another comes to it.
An Eagle waits for you at the far curve of the lake that seems to be the nexus of the Hex hatch. Magpies scold from the pines.
You settle in at the little bay that has been the locus of your fishing for the last few days. You have begun to think of it as the fountainhead of the Hex hatch. The lake has calmed and there are Hex on the water and in the air with more coming. You tie on one of the new flies. You're feeling confident, so you tie it on a 5X tippet. You cast it out under the tree and a fish takes it with a splashy rise. It's a good fish and you play it carefully, but it breaks you off. You tip your hat to the fish, clip off the remaining 5X, and tie the other fly on the 4X.
While you're doing that a fish comes up along the log under the Eagle's perch. You drift over and lay the fly down where the rise rings are spreading into nothingness. Nothing happens. You try in closer. Still nothing.
So you cast the fly against the log. It drops where the water laps the wood. The fish sips it in.
It's a good fish, and you feel good. It feels like a victory, like you've now earned a part in the drama of the hatch on this longest day.
The light begins to fade while the hatch intensifies. Swallows and Nighthawks feast. Soon bats join them. Mother ducks lead their ducklings through the willows and weeds along the very edge of the shoreline. The ducklings stretch their necks up and snap the big mayflies off the willows. One veers over and picks up your fly.
Another fish takes your fly. It glows with all the colors now gone from the day.
Then the silence is broken by the sound of fish beginning to feed. They're frantic, their rises frenetic. You cast to them. Never has it seemed more impossible that a fish would take your fly in the midst of such a teeming abundance of naturals. And they do ignore your imitation. Then one takes, seemingly by mistake. But when it feels the hook it explodes off the fly. You sit in the middle of the frenzy and marvel. After a long time another fish takes your fly, and it's like trying to net a bird. But you succeed. It lies there, trembling with energy, and you feel both humbled and exultant.
The light is going, and you range away from the little bay, drifting with the mayflies that dot the surface. Out here in the open fish are taking them, too. They're less frenzied, more deliberate, but just as deadly.
You cast in toward the shoreline. A reflection of the aferglow shows you where the fly lands. And then it shows you the thin edge of a tiny rise ring. You set, and receive the last gift of the longest day.
You start for the truck, but slowly. You want to drink this day to the dregs. The light retreats deeper into the west. The Eagles call from their nest high up on the dark mountainside. Frogs trill. Bats flit around you. You drink it all in, and you still marvel. You find the takeout by instinct and feel. When all is loaded and stowed you stand by the truck and look to the west. The palest streak of light is all that's left of the longest day.
When you start the truck you see by the dashboard clock that it's 11 PM. In four hours it will be the dawn of another day.