Two long weeks since the last trip. Now, finally, a break in the weather and your schedule. It has been overcast at home since forever. Driving south again you escape its gray grip and enter into dazzling sunlight. Your eyes take awhile to adjust to the unaccustomed glare.
Down here in the banana belt the January thaw that has begun at home has already transformed the landscape. Last time it was snow-covered.
Now the ice and snow are almost gone.
You start with the mouse left in the hook keeper from the last trip. It's a good casting warmup, but it has no noticeable effect on the fish. You put it away for later.
You screw on an indicator and hang a big blood midge off it. Down goes the indicator, up comes a trout--emphatically. It jumps at least six times before you get it into the net. You figure we're all feeling good today.
You stay with that big red nymph for awhile and get plenty of entertainment from it. You miss some takes and catch some more fish.
The afternoon wears on and the big red nymph wears out its welcome.
You try a scud, and the fish like the change.
Soon a scud, too, ceases to get any attention. There is more activity on top now, as the light wanes, so you try a little may, with no luck, and then a smaller griffith's gnat.
It takes some coaxing, but you finally get a take and a hookup.
The moon peeks over the eastern ridge. You're delighted. You haven't seen the moon for weeks.
It casts its spell over the water, and day flees and evening settles in. I hear what I think at first is a fly reel being reeled slow. But it's a precocious frog. It croaks a few times, and then is silent. At the same time I hear a familiar conk-a-reeee from the cattails across the creek: red-winged blackbirds. What are they doing here? Then again, what are any of us doing here?
You know what you're doing here. You knot a deer hair mouse onto a stout tippet and begin mousing.
You work that mouse hard. Mostly it's ignored, or followed with not even a bump. But two times you get a heart-stopping take and hookup. You feel the pull and then the slack as the fly comes out. You ponder that. Is the fly too big? Or are the fish too small? There are smaller fish cruising in pods and you figure it must have been a couple of those reckless youngsters who grabbed the fly.
You fish in the dark for awhile, and have to force yourself to quit. You hike back to the truck in the moonlight. You're thinking--and you're still thinking--that there will come a day when the time is right and a big old trout will come to that mouse, not to play, but to kill.
You can hardly wait.