Sanctuary: A Return

Summer is waning fast as we enter its final week. Everything around me speaks of autumn, and the cool breeze over the water reinforces Nature’s words. At last, a return to Sanctuary and a day away from thoughts and cares. Here there is river and sky, leaves spiraling with the air currents on high, and the soft murmur of fresh autumnal breezes through the trees. It is not so much a place at times as a state of mind.

My little red wrap seven and one-half foot Orvis Madison, “the basic rod for the trout fisherman” according to its maker, wears a vintage Hardy LRH. More than forty years old, the rod was tested and proven today!

The little rod was part of my relaxation, my return. This day I would step back from the intensity of fishing through a shortened and difficult season and savor the hours of another vanishing summer. All too soon this dry fly season will come to a close and the long, frigid hand of winter will reach out and take hold of these mountains and the rivers of my heart.

Late morning on the river revealed a couple of single rises, though I saw no flies upon the water. I had watched a pair climbing through the air though, tiny mayflies I took for olives. My 18 was refused, so I knotted a size 20, but I did not see any rises after that change. Waiting and watching, taking in the serenity of the scene, I suddenly saw two strong rises in the distance, then another somewhat closer at hand. They were not repeated.

As I waited, those rises and the intermittent strong breezes led me to change my fly again, selecting the Adams version of my Grizzly Beetle, and covering the visible holding lies before me. The fly produced two frantic little brown trout, splashing and writhing as I lifted them from the water to twist the fly free. Perhaps my guess as to the gifts carried upon the wind were correct.

I waded along, gently casting to lies while the sun and cloud masses alternated dominance between the mountain ridges. At last, within reach of the heavily sheltered lie that revealed the morning’s bolder rises, I called upon the fates and cast my beetle so it would drift down over the glory hole. Was that early trout holding there, or simply passing through? My question was answered when the beetle drifted over the dark water where the old trout lurk.

The little Orvis bowed heavily when I raised it, and my smile widened with the realization that my instincts were correct. The difficulty was that I had a big trout hooked amid some fearsome line cutting rocks! The right combination of a limber rod, a sharp little hook and some luck brought leviathan out of his fortress where I could play him. The Hardy provided the music for his runs, of which there were many, along with several tries to bring him to the net, the last finally succeeding.

The fly was removed easily, and I slid him along the centerline of the net for a measurement: twenty-four glorious inches! He was not what I expected on this relaxed afternoon. Sometimes the river smiles upon us.

September Deuce: He wetted me thoroughly splashing and writhing in the net while I fumbled with my camera.

Considering the calendar, I switched that beetle for an Isonychia mayfly imitation along about two o’clock. I had seen them in the past as early as Labor Day, though they have been more than scarce these past few years. When I noticed a single dark, tall-winged dun drifting near the riverbank, I gained confidence in my choice. The Iso would produce several more trout as I worked my way upriver and closer to home. The small ones splashed me as I released them, just as before, but the last one wasn’t small.

He was a bright golden fellow, peppered with big dark spots, and just shy of twenty inches. We would duel awhile, and he would let me slide him close to the net, then go berserk in close quarters. Captured at last after several such performances, he had stitched the tippet through his teeth and then wrapped more around his snout. When I reached for the big claret dry fly, I found it just sitting there in his mouth, no longer hooked into his jaw. I clipped it off and stuffed it in a pocket, then unsnarled the tippet from tooth and mandible, placing him back where he belongs.

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