It's been raining off and on all day when you get to the lake.
It will rain off and on the whole time you're there.
You go back to the upper south end. You haven't been here since the drakes started hatching.
This shoreline is one of your favorites, and it's fresh and beautiful and full of birds: kingbirds, redwinged blackbirds, yellow warblers, catbirds, cedar waxwings.
You see very few rises all evening, but you get a fairly steady response to the muddler: follows, swirls, misses. The fishing is absorbing, and the few fish you manage to catch are small, but beautiful in the gunmetal light.
You cover a lot of shoreline, then troll the muddler across to the other side.
On the way across you hook up and the tippet snaps off. You retie, and this little fish knocks the new muddler into the air, turns and whacks it again.
You work the other shoreline, hitting all the known lies, remembering other days and other fish.
The new muddler is actually new. This is the first you've fished it. It's getting some attention, and you wonder if the palmered body has anything to do with it. Whether it does or not, you like it.
Halfway along the shoreline you hook up with a good fish. It took like a brown, it's acting like a brown. It comes undone. Not the fly's fault. You were looking somewhere else when it took the fly, and your set was late. You wonder if that was your one shot for a good fish.
You work all the way around and start over where you began. It's getting dusky and you hope that means more fishy.
A little brown right off the bat seems to be a good omen.
But you can't pull anything out of the willows. When you finally come to the end of them you keep going. You missed a take here earlier on your first pass.
You cast and strip and the evening lights up. It's a brown and a jumper. He jumps at the beginning when he feels the hook, and he jumps at the end when he sees the net. It takes awhile between jumps: he's 18 inches of solid muscle.
You would have felt good about the trip even without him. But you sure feel good with him. You turn and troll the muddler back to the truck. The guys up at the campground have their fire cranked up, and you're pretty sure you can smell their supper on the wind.
It smells good. You're hungry. Time to go home.