Golden Moments

December seventh, and it is twenty-six degrees as dawn comes to Crooked Eddy. There is snow in the forecast for tomorrow, and a walk outside today would convince anyone that winter has taken control.

But ah the vagaries of weather! Yesterday dawned much warmer at forty-one, and though the sun was not promised, the afternoon would see temperatures above fifty before the winds howled to the forefront. A window through the pall of this early winter, and I saw it clearly! I layered well before donning my waders, heading out to steal a few hours upon bright water.

No, the sun wasn’t promised, and that promise was kept. Heavy cloud cover and damp air seem to be constants this time of year, and with them the warmer air still doesn’t feel quite warm, but the river gravel beneath my feet brought a comfort. In December I fish for one bite.

The sculpin I had chosen proved too eager to find its niche among the rocks, so I tried a little fox hair streamer for a while, eventually deciding the conditions required just a touch less than neutral buoyancy. An unweighted tie, a reduced version of my Hen & Hare’s Ear fit the bill. Swung over the deeper places in the pool it just bounced over the tops of the larger rocks, flitting and flirting with my hope for an active trout.

Suddenly, one of those bumps over the rocks gave way to a vibration, and the old electricity travelled along the rod shaft straight to my heart. I was fast to a fish! This was no sluggish, cold-water sleeper, this was a trout with shoulders and a song in his heart.

He charged about in search of a sharp edge on one of those rocks, as I did my best to keep him from finding one. I turned him hard one time and he responded with a leap, a fine fish and energetic to the end. The rod was stout, as was my leader, but I gave him his head and enjoyed his vigor with a thankful smile.

Slipping the hook out gently, I held him against the length of the net, admiring the deep bronze and gold, his red spots twinkling even in the gloom of this winter day. Released he was off with a flourish, taking my gratitude and my salvation with him.

As morning blended into afternoon I noted the slightest lightening of the sky, a far-off glimmer behind the heavy gray of the clouds, before the wind and rain returned. Such are Nature’s golden moments, subtle, though precious reminders of the beauty and magic of wild rivers.

I know not when another window may open in the curtain of winter, when I might chance to wade bright water and seek the energy of its magic again. For now, I will savor the moment and pluck a few more feathers from the pheasant’s skin; craft another bit of magic of my own.

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