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  • Audrey Wilson

A Smile of Mutual Understanding...



I’m hiking along the edge of a narrow canyon’s creek that’s flowing swiftly with winter’s run-off. I enjoy the calmness of the clear, fresh scent of the tall mountain trees. The calmness brings me clarity, and I decide to hop in my car and head home to gather my fly rod, reel, and fishing pack. I quickly change my clothes, and hop back into my car to meet my dear friend, Andrea. We meet, and I follow her on a two-hour journey. My gut tells me it’s going be a memorable day...

I head up the winding mountain road, a road I haven’t traveled on since I was a kid. I appreciate the sites of the steep mountain slopes of various greens, reds, and browns, and the bright sun illuminating it all along the way. It’s late afternoon and the lighting of the sun is just beginning to shine my favorite rays of deep and captivating color.

We arrive at the fishing hole Andrea led me to, and we decide to tie on caddis fly patterns. We gather our gear and hit the river. There are natural caddis flying everywhere, and there are moments while standing thigh-deep in the river that it feels as if time stops, and the flowing river and the gentle breeze through the trees become still, and only the caddis swarm toward me and around me like a tornado. The light of the low sun illuminates them like glow bugs as they hum towards me, and all around me. I wish I could capture my view in a picture or video, but a picture can’t give it justice. It’s wonderful to appreciate it and be present in this moment in time.

As the sun continues to lower, the fish begin to rise more and more, sipping the caddis off the surface of the water one by one, slowly and effortlessly. I patiently, yet intently, watch for a trout to consistently eat. I spot one. The fish is sipping while in a tiny, slow moving eddy on the opposite side of a fast moving current. I need to cast in such a way that allows the fly to land ever so softly with a drift that lasts as long as possible. A cast across a swift current to slow current is tricky, but I’m up for the challenge. I know what to do and I’m ready.

Andrea is observing me from the river bank, crouched down with anticipation. It’s time. I make my first cast, and watch the fly land softly, hesitate in the slow water, and then drift down stream. It’s a quick drift, and the fish doesn’t rise to eat. I cast again, and again. The fish rises in between my casts. I feel my heart racing, and tell myself to calm down. I look over my shoulder at Andrea, and we smile with a look of mutual understanding. The sun continues to lower, and it’s getting more difficult to see. I decide to tie on a different fly. I realize it’s now nearly impossible to see my fly well enough to tie it on, but I’m stubborn and continue to try for a few minutes before Andrea wades over to me with her light. I’m laughing, because I’m still struggling to get the fly tied on. I’m shaking, because I’m anxious to get the fly on the water again. I finally get it tied on, and I look up and realize how much darker it has gotten.

I make a quick cast out, and there it is! I lift my rod and set the hook. My fly line goes tight, and my rod is bent like a candy cane. Andrea has her net, and begins to wade towards me again. I reel the fish in as quickly as possible against the current. The fish fights hard and I let it run a bit, feeling and hearing the drag of my reel be put to the test. The dim light makes it very challenging to keep track of where the fish is. We’re laughing so hard as we blindly attempt to net the fish numerous times. We finally get it netted, and then realize there’s a hole in the net. The fish slips through the hole. What was already an unbalanced situation turns into a definite cluster of a situation while we attempt to re-net the fish. The fish still hooked and the fly line is through the net.

I lose my balance, and nearly fall in the water to then lose my balance again, and again. My long bean poles we normally call legs are not helping my situation. I’m stepping, wobbling, and flailing. I decide to give in to my far from graceful attempt to stay up right, and I let myself kneel into the water to stop the madness. The cold mountain water is shocking my senses as it quickly seeps through my pants. We’re laughing so hard, because we know how silly this must all look. Andrea has a front row seat. At this point the fish is finally netted again. Andrea clamps off the hole in the net with her hand while I remove the hook from the fish. The Brown Trout is beautiful with gold and brown tones glimmering like a stained glass window. I let the fish rest in the water momentarily, and then gently lift the fish while Andrea captures the moment in a quick photo. The experience is a perfect example of everything unexpectedly going all wrong, while pulling it together for a memorable experience to laugh about today, and for years to come.

The sun has set completely and the moonlit path along the river bank leads us carefully back to our vehicles. I reflect on the day as I drive home. I think about how grateful I am for the time I get to have on the river, and for the friendship and passion I’m able to share.

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