I went back to the lake on a warm, smoky September evening. No new fires; just the last gasps of all the fires in our area.
The south end seemed inviting. No copters this time.
The fire here has created a premature Fall landscape.
Wandering through it was one of the denizens of the lake, back and living the life: a skunk.
It could have been an omen; the lake was quiet here, much quieter than the channel had been on my first evening back.
I saw a rise near the rocky shoreline. I dropped a hopper in over a weed mat. I let it sit for a minute before I was rewarded with a subtle take. I hooked the fish. I needed to keep its head up and skate it over the weeds, but I couldn't do it. This fish was too strong, and shot straight into the weeds.
I kicked over, found it still hooked, and tried to winch it out of there hand over hand. The tippet snapped with a ping.
I could have taken that as further confirmation of the skunk being an omen. Instead it gave me encouragement. I was confident there were other hot spots around. All I had to do was find them.
My search was leisurely and restful.
Along the rocks again I cast the fly in tight and let it rest, too. After a minute I began to strip it in--and a fish took it.
A rainbow, strong and in a hurry to leave. It flipped out of the net before I could get a closeup.
Things were heating up some.
There was no general hatch or feeding activity--no sign of ants. But there were individual fish working small weedy territories. I saw this brown's rise from a distance, kicked over, laid the fly in and let it drift, and it came up and took it.
That would be the routine as the light faded.
The sun set without brilliance, the sky turning a darker shade of smoke. The colors of a brown taken at dusk shone all the brighter for it.
At darkness settled in--so early now--I kicked toward the takeout. From ten feet out I glanced back to get my bearings, and the skunk was getting a drink at the precise spot I was planning to beach the tube. I put on the brakes, preferring to avoid a confrontation. The skunk, knowing I was there, finished its drink, gave me a look, and hurried away down the shoreline into the willows. That's the last I saw of it.
Sometimes a skunk is just a skunk.