I made my long-anticipated return to Trout Lake. There was no one else there--except a copter still scooping up water from the south lake and dumping it on the ridge to the east.
I launched at the north end of the channel. The copter made about three runs after I arrived, then called it a day. Peace and calm settled over the lake. The cawing of crows echoed loudly in the silence.
I had returned, but the trout had never left. It wasn't long before I saw rises. I finally caught a Trout Lake trout again, the first one in almost a month. There were many of these little guys actively feeding. In some areas I couldn't keep them away from the fly.
There were also larger trout feeding. I saw fish chain rising. I cast to intercept them, but they veered or doubled back. I could see their tails and dorsal fin. It was frustrating. Then I laid a cast down in the right place, watched the rises approach the fly, and then there he was, and he took the fly. I was pleased to find a brown on the other end of the line.
I made my way down toward the Drake Bank, working the shoreline.
Nothing along the shoreline, but more rises out in open water. I looked more closely and discovered the reason. Tiny flying ants dotted the surface. I'd guess a size 22 hook.
I didn't have an ant fly that small, so I stayed with my #10 hopper.
A lively wind began to blow from the north. I started back toward the channel to look for sheltered water. I heard a loud kersploosh. An osprey had made a nice catch over toward the north end.
I drifted the fly behind me and a scrappy rainbow ambushed it.
The wind blew the tube over the fly line as I was releasing the fish, and I managed to hook my waders at the ankle. I hate it when that happens. I pulled into the bank to unhook myself. I heard chickadees and other small birds in the scorched willows. When I started up again, two beavers crossed in front of me.
I didn't see any more risers in the windblown water. Then, as I kicked along the weed beds, I saw a subtle rise right up along the edge. There it was again, inside a little weed bay. And again on the other side.
I dropped the hopper into that little bay. I saw several quick rises in succession, and then the fly was gone. I raised up on a very surprised brown. He had simply, efficiently vacuumed up the fly along with all the ants he was busily sipping in. I had to use the hemostats to get the fly out of his craw.
I turned to look for rises in the channel, and an eagle was coming in at 11 o'clock.
He passed me, banked, and dropped toward the weed beds I had just fished. He hit once with a big splash and missed.
He rose, wheeled, took aim, and hit the same spot again. This time he found his mark.
I drifted around in the channel targeting rises. I wished I could look for fish from the eagle's vantage point. The wind backed off and more fish came up.
I cast to a little rise expecting another little fish and came up on a nice rainbow. The fish were still loving those ants, but they were more than willing to take a bigger morsel if it was right in front of them.
I watched a dragonfly as it zipped around me, landed on my shoulder, flashed away, then returned. It hovered in front of me and looked me straight in the eye. I looked away and saw another chain riser, and, like before, had the pleasure of watching him head for the fly and calmly sip it in. Another surprised--make that pissed off--brown.
Ducks whistled overhead, taking their evening flight. A great blue heron labored by, letting out a long, bone-chilling skronnnnnnkkkkk!
Robins were singing and spatting in the bankside trees.
And way up in the rocks of the burn zone I heard the haunting call of a canyon wren.
I was stripping the fly in for another cast when I had another grab just a few feet from the tube. Another brown making sure nothing escaped him.
As I released him, bats flitted overhead, and the hot spot up on the ridge winked in the twilight like a misplaced campfire.
I had returned to the lake, and I celebrated that. But I celebrated more the fact that all the creatures of the lake, many of whom had surely been evacuees when the fire was at its peak, had returned before me. The lake was as it had always been, and as it will always be.
Robert Frost said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."