The days are noticeably shorter now, and the evenings cooler. The town is quieter, too, with summerís vacationers having returned to homes and jobs, the kids to school. Our economy here revolves around visitors, and no one who is pragmatic looks askance at their importance for jobs and healthy businesses. But it is also nice, on an autumn evening, to stroll down the middle of a street now empty of traffic, and it is especially pleasing to drive by your favorite pullout by the river and see no one parked there.
Although my neighbors and I can certainly expect more warm ó even hot ó days between now and the end of the Sierra trout season, the chance for precipitation is also growing, and it is not abnormal for us to experience a snowstorm before Halloween. I particularly love to fish during the autumn, and itís not just because the crowds are gone. Water temperatures are falling, and fish, in response, feed more actively. Mist rises into chill morning air from streams and lakes, creating an ethereal setting, and the land brightens for a moment with the oranges, reds, and yellows that signal the coming of monochromatic winter.
Those changes harken us back to an older era, when the rhythm of our lives followed those of the seasons. Until four or five generations ago, autumn was a time of busyness for many people, with a harvest to be brought in and foodstuffs to be cellared, canned, smoked, salted. It is still the best time to angle and hunt, with fish and wildlife populations at their largest. To go afield during the fall with rod and gun is a tradition that spans at least three centuries, and it echoes a more ancient, millennia-longer tradition with spear, arrow, hook, and net.
It is easy in this society of ours to become enthralled by the ever-increasing velocity of things, the showy novelty of the new new. But life around us emerges and grows and dies at a pace separate from and far slower than the diverting whirl enabled by our machines and devices. We miss something profound when we focus merely upon ourselves and our . . . stuff.
For me, autumn is not just a time for good sport. It is a time when, if I am open to it, I can connect more readily through sport with those who came before us and with the living world that envelops and sustains us. But it means ditching the toys and the pretense, and remembering that the best drifts are those that move only at the speed of the river.
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