Well it looks like I almost missed it entirely.
Gold season in the high country.
When my window finally, finally!, arrived, I was astonished to see October 13 on the calendar, yikes!
That's opening day of elk rifle season round here, that could make for an interesting time on the water.
To top it off, I was flying in on the heels of that stormfront that sailed thru Friday, gawd I hope it doesn't put the fish down, I had too much riding on this trip.
This last trip of the high country season.
Saturday, round 1pm, I realized I needn't have worried so much.
What color was lost in the hillsides seemed to have found its way into the stream, with buttery browns around every bend.
Yes there was my fair share of the catching. But the most memorable fish was that One I never pricked.
With autumn's low water and fishing season all but a distant memory, many of the solitary browns take up station in the skinniest water- ambush stations. Stalking up a riffle, hunting for those familiar current breaks, I see him. One of the largest of the trip, his back to me, in a shallow pool at the tail of a tongue of current. Tucked neatly into the shadows of an overhanging rock, blissfully nosing the conveyor belt of food while his enemies remain absent.
I practice a coupla side casts to work out the distance, send that beetle, #16, into the fray. The first cast goes unnoticed, the second has his full attention. As the beetle floats past and tips into the current, the big brown turns to give chase. The beetle hovers on the brink, the big snarking nose breaks the surface to inhale the hapless prey. But he's just a scosh too late- the fly darts down into the current leaving the cavernous maw to snap shut with with an audible pop, leaving only a solitary bubble where beetle once was.
That exact moment freezes in my minds eye. A single rod's distance separates we two. His one eye above the surface, we two adversaries stand frozen in time, locked in conflict. Literally eye to eye.
Hunter v Prey
One look of startled recognition, slap of a barn door tail, roostertail wake. He's gone!
Until next year my friend.