The day itself was a gift from from the river. The forecasters expected a high of 57 degrees, very pleasant for mid-December, so I set out earlier than usual for this season of the year. I chose a pool I knew would be in full sun, figuring I might as well make the most of the unseasonable warmth. The gamble involved the amount of flow in the river.
I was aware that my usual route to the fishing would be blocked, too much depth and current for the crossing required, so I chanced an alternative I had never explored. The path was easily trod, and the edge of the riffle it brought me to was certainly shallow enough to wade, so I journeyed on. As that edge grew deeper, I began to cast and swing my fly through the ever-slowing body of that riffle, working my way to the quieter sanctuary water downstream.
The late morning sun felt delicious on my back and shoulders, enough so that I began to regret the insulated jacket chosen for my top layer. I waded down the edge and cast, enjoying every toasty moment of the experience.
Eventually I reached the deeper spot I remembered from my summer explorations, accepting the verdict of the current. There was no safe way to reach to portion of the pool I believed most likely to harbor a winter leviathan. Walking the riverbank back to the car I quickly got that hot humid feeling and unzipped the light jacket, December indeed!
The dashboard thermometer read 61 and I assured myself that was the result of parking in the sun, but as I readied myself for the walk to the next pool, I felt the warmth of that sun deeply. I folded the jacket and packed it in the back of my fishing vest for insurance, then set off down the trail in shirtsleeves.
Only the near edge of the river was bathed in that golden sunlight, and I languished there on my walk upstream. Even in the shade of the ridges the air was beautifully warm, reminding me more of April than December. I set to work swinging my streamer with high expectations. I had invited one take and landed one fine brownie there amid the heavy chill two days before. The beauty of this afternoon had me all but expecting a rise of trout!
Halfway down the pool I watched the bright orb shining through the evergreens on the mountaintop and knew my time was drawing short. I paused in my casting as a warm breeze wafted into my face, a brief embrace from the summer I had left behind, and longed to wrap myself in once more.
I walked back to the sunlit river’s edge and waded down, wishing to spend my last casts in the water that had produced so glowingly for me in summer. Once there I eased back toward mid-river and resumed my rhythm: cast, swing, step down, and repeat.
I was concentrating on the fly when I heard the great splash behind me in the distance. My swing completed, I turned and looked. The other fisher was coming downstream toward me now, high enough that the sun lit his white head so it sparkled against the blue sky. No fish for you either, my friend? He gave no answer, save the air between his talons, and soared on into the warmth of that breeze.