Recently, I was seduced by a small stream that continually calls me back to its banks for a final embrace, and just one last cast. There is no doubt the natural siren has my number, and she knows exactly what I need.
When I last visited, she provided me with a beautiful, sleek rainbow trout that was almost translucent in its all-natural, crimson and scarlet garb. Soon after the release, I was again contemplating an escape from the watery vixen, until my efforts were rewarded with another battle-worn veteran of the great piscatorial wars.
Although the old, brown trout was barely a nudge beyond 13 inches, it waged a battle worthy of a specimen far larger than his actual measure.
It possessed the punch of a heavyweight, and as it hunkered down in the swell of a small waterfall, it put up a fight far greater than his size would generally permit.
I battled him back and forth on his own terms, and he used the familiar environment to his advantage again and again. Eventually, after untangling my line from various streamside entanglements, I brought him to the shore.
Being careful not to mare his image in the handling, I gently twisted the hook upside down and shook him free.
Stunned for a moment, he soon swam slowly away before coming to rest in the shade of an overhanging rock ledge, which is when I believe I discerned a sly grin overtaking his wide, hooked chin.
I again attempted to depart the luxurious embrace of my steady and gentle streamside siren. In my mind, I had already shed my waders, and retired my vest to the riverbank.
In reality, my flyline was still on the water, and as my fly was sucked into a small eddy, a strong whirlpool pulled it under the surface.
Serendipity certainly has its moments, and this time it provided me with one of my own.
As I reached down to pick up my rod, a beautiful brook trout slapped and skittered across the surface of the small, backwater pool.
The fish took my fly subsurface, without even the thought of an attentive twitch on my part. The little brookie appeared to be intent on committing individual piscicide, until I gently landed and unleashed him.
I held it up with my two fingers and admired it for the shear beauty of its markings, rather than for its diminutive stature, which was small, but feisty.
Obviously, no one in his school bothered to teach the youngster about the necessary cautions required when chasing a false slab of fur and feathers that’s often found swirling beneath a dark cloud of a watery debris.
Although I only removed him from his watery lair for just a moment, he took off like a fish on a mission upon release.
It was nearly four o’clock by my reckonings when the afternoon sun slowly slipped beyond the far treeline.
Again, I went through the rites of a proper streamside retreat. I knew I needed to depart the caressing arms of the lonely stream, in order to escape her sweet babble.
She had held me in her spell for far too long, and now it was time to retreat!
Quickly, I repacked the small wicker creel, and restored numerous flies to my vest. My hiking boots were rebooted in an exchange with felt bottomed waders, and I was well on my way back to the truck when it struck me.
My favorite flyrod remained cradled in the careful arms of a small bush on the bank of the stream, way back down in the gorge.
I promptly deposited an armload of belongings in the back of the truck and hopped over the bank to return to the stream.
“She simply won’t let me leave,” I remarked to no one in particular, “Which is probably a good thing.”
I grabbed my rod from the streamside and as I turned to head back up the hill, the sound of the slightest splash caught my ear. Then there was another, and then some more!
At the head of the big pool, I could see small, silvery fish that were attempting to navigate their way over the tall falls.
For a moment, I sat on a streamside boulder and simply stared. I was transfixed by the audacity of the diminutive salmon as they sought to answer an instinctive urge to complete an upstream migration completely driven by their genes.
As tiny fry, the silvery marvels were stocked in the headwaters of the brook, and unbeknownst to them, there was no real need for them to return to breed.
If they failed to complete their genetic mission, the DEC would still continue to stock many more of their kind.
Obviously, nobody bothered to tell the salmon about the situation, and as a result, they continued to leap into the falls in contemplation of making it to the big show.
I knew dinner was nearing the table at home and surely, I should go. I’d had my fun for the day, and I know a busman’s holiday should never be overdone.
But retreat as I may, my feet simply couldn’t move. I stood transfixed at the sight of salmon leaping into the air, despite being pounded back into the holding pool.
“What the hell, I’ll take one last cast and then get out of here,” which I did. And as my line neared the falls, a slender, silver missile took the fly right out of the air. Carefully, I released it up above the falls.
Without hesitation, I sent a second cast out and landed another salmon, and then another in rapid secession. With each release, I pitched a fish above the falls. They wanted the river, and the river wanted them.
It was almost too easy, but I wanted to fulfill my duty. In a span of 10 minutes, I tossed more than two dozen salmon over the falls on the way to a migration they neither understood, nor had the capacity to complete. But at least they would get there!
In a single afternoon, I attracted three varieties of trout and over three dozen salmon to the tip of my flies. No wonder I found myself caught in a siren’s grasp. If the erasable grin on my face offered an indication, it was well worth it!
And being the dutiful deadbeat Dad who often fails to return on time for supper, I ate every bit of the burnt steak and endured the scorn of the cold corn waiting on the dining room table.
Fortunately, my presence at dinner was neither expected, nor required. However, the lame excuse did serve as false alarm to help wrench me away from a sensuous, small stream and a multitude of energetic playmates that willingly attended to my every need.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.