Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Game:

At the tip of the island, I paused to scan reflective waters before moving; a habit ingrained from decades of stalking trout on this river. Scanning the stream, morning’s clouds cast illusions before me. Gently stepping from the lush grasses I tentatively entered the river. Fine gravel afforded easy wading permitting some degree of vigilance, still I almost failed to notice the imperceptibly break of the surface meniscus, the residual bulge nearly blending with the waters disheveled surface. In that brief instant “The Game” had begun.

Understanding the consequences of haphazard wading, I froze. The trout arbitrarily rose taking in mornings profusion of dying mayflies. Looking to the current for clues, PMD, Drake and Flav spinners floated haplessly upon the waters calm current adding to the complexity of the situation. The frequency of the trout’s rises lent some insight into the rainbows partiality causing a change in flies.

Cautiously wading into position I knelt in ankle deep water waiting for the trout to again show before making the first of what would be numerous casts. Visibility hindered by morning’s reflective glare added to the challenge. Another fly change lent renewed optimism. The trout rose near the artificial, bouncing the fly in the undulating residual ring.

For what seemed to be a long moment the large rainbow failed to rise. Dejection from an opportunity concluded crept in. Motionless, I waited sometime. Downstream the rainbow rose again. Either a lack of stealth, the presentation or the trout’s own indecisiveness had it invisibly slide out of casting range. Such antics occur with some frequency on these waters, “dog on a lease”.

Chris, who I’d joined that morning, had settled among the tall grasses to watch the antics. He too had been playing a similar game. I turned to acknowledge his presence. He smiled knowing all to well my predicament, offering some encouragement before I returned my attention to the task at hand.

Eventually the trout settled near a grassy bank, pinning it in some regards. On a rare drift, I could see my fly. The rainbow rose, the imitation disappearing below the residual ring. As the line came tight, the trout cart wheeled across the shattered waters. As it settled the fly came free, my line went slack, my heart raced. It was a trout worthy of such an effort and emotion, but how worthy I’ll never truly know.

Its unfinished endings that drives foolish passions, this “Game” we play on rivers between man and fish with wisps of feather and fur. I derived some contentment knowing that I’d fooled the trout into taking an impostor, yet under the circumstances the results felt incomplete. Had I landed that fish or stayed connected just long enough to affirm its size and power, “The Game” would have been over and with that a certain satisfaction.

A week later I returned in hopes of finishing “The Game”. I found the crushed blades of grass where I stood before entering the water and sat among the lush vegetation and waited. An eagle cried, shattering the early morning silence somewhere off in the forest. The sound of the river lent a soothing quality as I sat in anxious vigilance. Like clockwork spinners gathered overhead, sunlight shimmering from their translucent wings.

I walked out that morning having not made a cast. Other trout rose to morning’s offerings, but the trout I sought never rose. “The Game” was over. There will be another, but for now it had come to an end.

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