In her short story "A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud", Carson McCullers suggests, through character, that love is a science. She further leads us to believe that in order to love the most complex things - each other, we must first practice the science in learning to love the simplest things such as a tree, a rock, a cloud.
Often time I believe the best thing for the inside of a man is the out-of-doors and this theory is the reason I come to the river Blue today.
Last Thursday I learned that a dear friend of mine is seriously and terribly ill and the hard battle he has to wage is forthcoming. He is a man that I've come to admire and respect; a man that taught me how to fish the famed crappie of Cumberland Pool; a gift he gave to me in the teaching; a gift he shared willingly.
Today on the river I come with a questioned mind and heavy chest. The weather today is remarkably splendid and somehow I find disappointment in this. Where is the cold and wind that I hate so much? Today, I wanted to feel the bitterness on my skin, the cold rush in my lungs, see things through cold wind-induced watery eyes; all reminding me that I am well and good and have work to do, important work, ahead in the days to come.
Inasmuch as I enjoy the company of others, today I need to be alone; seek the solitude for quite reflection. Therefore I choose to walk on the other side of the river. Here, the trail is unfamiliar to many... for they never make this trek. Here, there is water that is never tested by the masses, and here the fishing is much more challenging. To get to the solitude I seek, Chimney Falls must first be passed and once done, the crowds, the human connection I shun today... will come forth
At the beginning of the trail, a trail I call Trail of Tranquility, the river forks not twice but three times. Here the water is stair-stepped and in some cases stair-cased. Intimate water the all of it is, and it's so very inviting. Few bows are here however, and to capture one is a special reward.
At the end of Chimney Falls run I make my first stop to test waters that have produced before. Across the way is two young fly-fishers with two gentleman fly-fishers. After making a few casts with no offers of battle I settle on a rock to watch the young men cast... and they can indeed cast. I'm assuming one of the gentlemen is the father and he is giving good instruction to the boys with his gentle commands of mend, mend, mend. These boys are being taught well. Meanwhile, between the lesson plans of instruction the gentleman gets to make a cast or two and he is capturing trout. I stay long enough to get a couple of pictures but then it's time to get back on the road to solitude.
The trail on the other side hugs the boundary of public land for quite some distance but as long as we are on the stream side there are no worries.
In the half mile I have walked only one bow has been captured but the fishing has been extraordinary. On this other side I speak of, there exists some beautiful pools and pockets and from time to time they do indeed hold fish... not a lot of fish, but sometimes a few. On this other side I speak of, the fishing is certainly more of a challenge and a challenge for me today it certainly is proving to be. But, that's not important this day.
In the half mile I've walked, and since leaving the young fly-fishers, another human being have I yet to meet. However I am nearing Desperado Springs and as I do, humanity finds me again at this particular spot. On the familiar side of the river there are bank fisherman aligned along the bank like birds sitting on a high-line. On this other side where I stand, there is a trio of fisher's (two ladies and one gent) and they are fishing one of the feeder falls supplying the main pool. I quietly slip behind them and take stance on another feeder falls. Here, at Desperado... a place where I go from solitude to connection, the fishing changes for me ever so largely.
Instead of drifting, which is what I've done all the way upstream, I start to strip a bugger through the oxygen run in front of me and it is here I find a strike with every cast, a bow to hand with most casts. The trio downstream from me are capturing bows also but the bank dwellers appear as forlorn souls for no fish are coming to their hands. The water in front of me is so very rich; so steeped with bows it's seems like they believed it to be a safe haven; the bows seem surprised...caught off guard by my arrival. But, after meeting nine of these warriors it is time to go. Today's bows are the most remarkable I've met this season... colors that astonish, fight that grow admiration, indeed...they are beautiful creatures.
On the way upstream I picked up trash and on the way downstream decided to do the same, but this time on the familiar side of the river. It doesn't take long to fill the plastic bag I carry on my wading belt.
The abundance of trash in our wild areas and particularly our streams is one reason I'm trying to pursue Trashless Wild.
I don't know if I've every seen so much discarded fishing line as I have this year. As to the reason... I have no idea, but there does seem like a lot of it. There are programs and companies that recycle fishing line. All we have to do is to package it up and send it to them.
At the end of today I found myself spending over four hours on the river and it was good time. I didn't come today to conquer trout. I believe that a point in my fly-fishing life has been reached where capturing trout is not a requirement of my fulfillment, even though I still enjoy the battles.
Today I came to the river as a fly-fisher, but perhaps I was really here in search of that tree, that rock, that cloud.