I am 38 years old. Which by my reckoning puts me in life’s Autumn years. How do I figure that? Let’s assume I live to be 80, that means I’m about half-way through the seasons of my life. I figure that life doesn’t begin in the dismal mid-winter of January, but with the spring-time promise of April. Is it just a coincidence that Pennsylvania’s traditional trout season also begins in April? So we add six months to April and we get October.
Autumn is the time to look back at a season’s worth of fishing. Sure there is some good fishing to be had – but it is melancholy fishing. Spring fishing is full of hope and anticipation – fall fishing is is tinged with regret (for places not fished) and nostalgia, and it is overshadowed by the looming specter of winter. In the spring anything is possible, but by the time Autumn arrives we realize there are streams we are not going to get to this year.
I recently went fishing on a small stream in the old mountains of southwest Pennsylvania. When I say small, I mean tiny, the kind of place where you can step across the stream in many places. It’s the kind of stream where you get the feeling that any hikers you see are probably thinking that you’re some sort of nut-job to be fishing there. They smile, nod and quickly move on – anybody fishing that trickle has got to be a little “off” and possibly dangerous.
Well, there are some fish there – small brookies. It amazes me that they are there at all. But it is even more surprising in the Autumn – to see these fish in full bloom is always a treat. Sometimes we fly fisherman can get complicated. But once the fish, sparkling and flipping, is in hand – we all become simple, taking in the colors, with wide eyes, with the eyes of a child. Marveling at the absurdity and audacity of nature. It’s proof that we were meant to fish – for surely mother nature would not array these fish in such fine dress, if we weren’t meant to admire them. Maybe that’s being a little anthropocentric, oh well…
Fishing in the Fall always brings out the melancholy side of me (okay it doesn’t take much to do that). I can’t help but to think, “Is this the last trip of the year?”
We can’t know the span of our days or the number of casts that we have left. As I get older I look back more and more and think of things past. Fall just seems like a natural time to do this. Of course there is always the anticipation of a new year and a new season. The spawning colors on that brookie are a promise of that. Nature has saved some of her most beautiful displays for the autumn, the fish, the leaves, the clear blue skies and golden, slanting sunlight. The best wine is brought out late in the celebration.
I want to mention the Fly Fishing Blog, Cutthroat Stalker. A couple of recent posts by Scott on his blog got me thinking about these things: Summer’s End and Monochromatic Interlude. Check them out for some great pictures and writing.