You get there late; the sun is already on the ridge top.
You see the drake muddler is somewhat the worse for wear after being chewed on by those nice browns the other night.
You break off the tinsel and tie it on anyway. Your plan is to throw it along the way to the drake grounds. While still in the channel you find a small brown to start things off. That seems like a good omen.
You make the turn out of the channel into the north lake and head down the shoreline.
There are fish in there, though, mostly little guys already flipping out over the big mayflies.
You get a hard hit and a heavy pull and hope it's a brown, but it's a nice rainbow.
You've popped the cap on some Heavy Horse, and you're hoping to find one.
It starts to sprinkle, and then the heavens open and a steady rain settles in. You fish, and the drakes come in a rush, and more little rainbows flip at the fly, and you catch some.
Then, in the fading light of dusk, you drop the fly next to the reeds and get a no-nonsense take. You come up on a good fish. You horse it in, a fine brown. It looks like the bigger fish have come into the shallows for the feast.
You work and wait as it gets darker. Have you already caught the horse, or is it still out there?
You're watching the fly bobbing on the rain-pocked surface, a tiny white blur against the darkness. In a blink it disappears. Then you see a single ripple reflect the sky's last light. A sipping take. You raise the rod and hook into something heavy.
You know right away: this is the horse. You start to kick away from the shoreline, and carefully strip in line. The fish comes with you. For a ways. Then it has other ideas.
The fish doesn't panic. There is no screaming run. Instead there is a slow turning, and a ponderous, inexorable movement away from you. Tug...tug...tug.... You hold the line until the rod horseshoes, but the fish doesn't notice. It simply keeps on going. You give it as much pressure as you can, over and over, right to the breaking point, and then have to let line out.
You're still kicking out into open water and the fish is still moving like a force of nature, angling back to the shore. The line in your lap is long gone and it's now taking line off the reel. You keep trying but you can't stop it.
You're kicking out frantically in a race for more space. You want to catch this fish. Twice before in the years you've fished this lake you've hooked into behemoths like this one, and both times you lost them. Not this time! you wail. Please, not this time!
At the same time you're grinning like a fool. You're having the time of your life. You can't believe what this fish is doing to you, and in spite of yourself you admire him for it.
And then, as though in a dream, you perceive that the point of resistance against which you have been battling for a flash of time and for all eternity is now stationary. Stationary. Not moving. Is it tired? Is it ready to be turned? You heave at it. The point of resistance doesn't budge.
It's almost dark. The rain is running down your neck. You slowly begin to follow the line, keeping the tension on and reeling it in as you go. You reel forever, and the line takes you unfailingly toward the willows at the edge of the reeds. You can't believe it. You vehemently deny any possibility that this fish could have made it that far.
But, five feet out from the willows, you look down into the murky water to where the leader ends in a twisted patch of submerged willow branches. You want to yell. But you're mostly numb with disbelief.
You kick the branches with a flipper, and the fly pops out. You have to smile. It's faint, but it's a smile nonetheless. You don't know how he did it, but at least he gave the fly back.
It seems to be raining harder. You begin to shiver. You kick for home through the night with visions of a great dark fish moving inexorably through your head.