I was staring at a pool cut off from the riffle by a fallen tree. I looked at the tail of the pool and the head of a truly red letter day. The light looked like a rainbow had been drawn out of the trees and punched into the pool by a giant blacksmith.
I had only caught chubs all day-but in the flow around the top of the tree, close to the other bank, I saw some rises. The problem, though, was that I brought my three-weight, five- foot rod for casting under the tree canopy in the tiny headwaters, so I couldn’t roll cast far enough to reach the rising fish with my elk hair caddis (now I almost only use wet flies in fast water for brook trout in small streams). I also didn’t bring waders or a little landing net.
I looked in and saw the creek was only about a foot deep off the bank, so I stepped in to get closer- and quickly sank up to my waste in the boggy bottom. I plodded my way a few steps and laid a cast down upstream in the flow near the end of the fallen tree- my rod came to quivering life! Plodding my way back to the bank with the boggy bottom sucking in my legs, I stripped line in and saw the shimmering reds, purples, greens and golds- the most beautiful, resplendent living thing I had laid eyes on in my life- then watched it wriggle away, leaving me in a sopping, muddy daze.
The brook trout is still the most beautiful thing living in the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and I’m still gleaning lessons from that first contact.