First Glimpse of Autumn

First Glimpse of Autumn

It’s 64 degrees as I head up the trail. Clouds still hide the sun, but the trail will be in shadow until later anyway. It feels like the first glimpse of autumn. 

I walk over a mile and a half before entering the 60 degree water. By now, I’m warm and my feet smile as the clear water seeps into my boots. I’m in my happy place—water. 

Fly rod in hand, minimal gear…I feel free as the water washes away everything else. I stand at the tail of the large pool and watch. Consciously, I slow my breathing and inhale the beauty of rocks, water, trees. Slowly I exhale a breath of who I am to all present. We stand like this, in perfect communion.

And then, I unhook the fly from the guide and release it to kiss the water. A few practice casts to warm up, then I wade toward the rear center of the stream and begin placing the fly on river right….then river center…then river left. When I cast to the left side, a nice rainbow trout responds and the barbless hook is set. It self-releases just a few feet from me, my favorite way to interact….no handling, no fouled hook…a clean release with only one moment of the trout being out of the water—when it leaps into the air to shake the hook.

I keep working the pool, moving up the right bank, side-center-side, and have small trout slap, nudge, and grab the fly…but I don’t want to hook them so I move up the pool. 

Sometimes I get a strong sense of a where a fish is feeding. That’s the case now so I carefully cast into a very small area of stillness and the area, no wider than two feet across, erupts. A very nice-sized, sparkly, fat trout is on and it takes a minute or two to land it. I keep the trout in the water and reach down to remove the hook from its lip. I feel teeth…not usual. It’s not a rainbow, as I first suspected. It’s not a brook trout…but what is it? It’s completely silver with no markings except for bright red spots. So beautiful, healthy, feisty, and free once again as I watch it swim away strongly and with much attitude. 

I spend the next two hours wading from pool to cascading pool, dancing with rainbow trout. But that’s only part of what I’m doing. I’m breathing in the essence of this place and sharing myself every time I exhale. The lush green moss and trees, clear water, gray rocks call me deeper into relationship. 

A favorite rock shelf calls me and I wade in nearly waist-deep water to sit on it…and simply breathe. Eventually, I unhook the fly again and sit, casting into the upstream pool. A small rainbow dances with me and I wish it well as I set it free. And still I sit and gaze into clear water, no longer casting…just being.

Being totally present is a must for there is swift water, deep holes, and sticks hiding in pools. So I go deeper into the present. I become fully aware of my body…how I place my booted foot, the angle at which I move, how the water tries to carry my foot away before I place it, the strength of my thigh as I step up, the coolness of the water on my skin.

This deep pool had a freshly-fallen tree in it today…bark and small limbs were still caught in an eddy. Glad I wasn’t there when it fell…I think the trout will appreciate the extra hiding places.

Before long the creek will be filled with multicolored leaves blowing from limbs preparing for winter sleep, but today I sense only the first stirrings of autumn and am happy to be in the flow of seasons. 

In my happy place….water!

I later found out that the silver fish with red spots was a brown trout with an unusual coloring for the Smokies. It is a magnificent fish friend…one of the many I met today. And in case you are wondering….I don’t photograph fish as I want them to spend as little time as possible away from their normal day, but today I wish I had taken a couple of seconds to document this unique fish. 

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Gear nerd stuff…glasses are a MUST for eye protection and polarized sunglasses help cut down on glare so you can see fish and see where you are walking when wading. A hat is helpful for overhead sun and also for hook protection. Clothes and colors that blend in are helpful to be less likely to spook fish and to blend in with Nature. Long pants are pretty much vital to avoid poison ivy and briars, although I see people in shorts–but I wonder about them :-). Wading boots give traction and foot protection as well as insulation with neoprene socks for additional insulation. I rarely use a net as once I get a fish near me, I simply reach down and undo the hook without holding them…that’s the ideal. But sometimes, a larger fish needs a net to calm down…but still keeping them submerged so they can continue breathing while I remove the hook. In the summer I carry a small waist pack with tippet, forceps, flys, flotant, extra leader, water thermometer, snippers, and cell phone. A small waterproof pack rides above that with a concealed carry device, id and licenses, car keys, satellite messenger device for emergencies. I use the Gaia app for reference when noting express points on the creeks and rivers and for bushwhacking from creek to trail when I haven’t already noted the point. Finally, I carry a Grayl water purification device. And that’s all the gear nerd stuff for today.

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