The last day of the season has arrived. Time for the ritual farewell trip to the lake. You unloaded all your fishing gear from the truck for your recent trip to the airport, so you load up again--but just the essentials, not everything that had accumulated in there over the summer. You won't be needing all that stuff for awhile.
As you strap in the float tube a line of muley does passes by. It seems like a good omen that the wild has come to you.
The last day of the season is always Halloween, and you like to tie up a Halloween fly or two for the occasion.
The weather has been cool and wet for a solid two weeks. Today, it's only drizzling at home, but up in the high country the rain is still coming down as the clouds writhe along the ridges. The colors of Fall light up the gloom.
You come to Trout Lake and stop along the road for a few moments. You think about the full six months of wonderful fishing now coming to an end. Suddenly it hits you with force: it will be another full six months before you'll be back.
You decide to make the most of the time you have left. You target the channel and head on down the road.
You turn off the road into the campground on the north lake. Like the south campground, it's deserted. You turn away from the campground and pull around into one of your favorite access spots at mid-channel. The rain has stopped as you get out of the truck and breathe in the clean air redolent of Fall.
You look for milkweed seeds for one of your traditional end-of-season shots, but all you can find are empty pods: an eloquent expression of the state of things.
You rig up and haul the tube down the path to the water's edge. For the last time this year you kick out into the lake. Everything is cloaked in autumnal beauty.
You tie on the Halloween Muddler while kicking across to John's Cove.
You move slowly south down the shoreline savoring everything about the act of fishing. You remember days now gone, and the familiar shoreline reveals landmark after landmark, each prompting memories of fish caught or lost.
You finally see a tiny ripple hard against the shore, the stealth rise of a cruising fish. You drop the muddler into the zone and let it drift with the breeze. There's a bump, but you come up on nothing. You cast the fly back, a little closer, and wait. There's a confident take this time. You lift--and there's that superb explosion of yellow that, whatever the time of year, says "Brown."
You release it into the chilly water, and the last Brown of the year fades out of sight.
You continue down the shoreline to the south end.
Then you turn back toward the channel, now trolling a black and orange Wooly Bugger. A Rainbow flutters at the end of the long line and is hooked.
You wonder if it will be the last.
You hear a familiar sound: the nasal chirring of otters. A pair of them veers over to take a long, intensely curious look at you, as though they have never seen a human being before. You are glad to think that beginning now they may go for months without being disturbed by humans.
Another small Rainbow takes the fly as the light of evening brightens the clouds.
You troll through the channel. At the far end you clip the Woolly Bugger and tie on your new Halloween Stimulator. You start back toward the take out working the shoreline, but it is very quickly too dark to see the fly. Is this the end?
You stop casting and let the fly drift along behind as you make a swing across the channel toward the take out. You're in a reverie when you feel the flutter and the take, like a dream within a dream, and you hold in your hands the last Rainbow--the last fish--of the year.
At the truck you go through the rituals of bringing closure to a trip to the lake--and now to a season. The waxing moon sheds its light through the clouds for a few moments, and is then swallowed up again. The darkness settles down around you. It's over.
You could feel sad, or depressed, and there is some of each emotion in you now. But you aren't so much surprised as deeply gratified to discover that your overarching emotion is happiness. It has been a wonderful season full of rich experience, and it has all come as pure, boundless gift.