Up on the Fork
There are many things to like about fly fishing, and the pleasurable rhythm of the cast and that nearly electrifying thrill that comes when a fish takes the fly are likely at the top of most of our lists. But thereís more, much more, and some of it not always obvious in its importance.
I donít recall much from that summer when I returned to fly fishing after a long hiatus, but one trip still stands out. I was alone on a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus, up off Highway 108, deep in the Doug fir forest. I could finally place the fly within a foot of where I wanted it to go, and as I moved up the staircase of the stream, it would again and again float for only a second or two before vanishing with a splash and then flying back into the air, attached to the lip of a gyrating trout.
As the light left the sky, I entered a section of stream lined with tall alders, their trunks pale beside the darkening water. Caddisflies and mayflies danced through the air around me, and fish dimpled the mirrored surface of the creek. To say I kept catching trout is really to say nothing. What I remember is the nearly black body of a small brookie stark against my palm, looking in its distinct indistinctness like some irreducible mystery of nature.
I fished until I could no longer see my line. In the darkness, the murmur of the stream grew louder, an almost physical presence, and the scents of the forest rose from the still-warm land and the cool water, all filling the void left when the sun disappeared. I felt as if a door had been opened. I reeled up, knowing it was time to go home. But I understood, too, that I was already there.
Every time I go fishing, that is what I am trying to find again.
Publisher and Editor