I imagine casting a dry fly in a deserted, sandy, rock-banked creek.
The water is aquamarine but crystal clear. I cast a fiberglass rod, firmly and gently. My fly, a mayfly imitation, lands delicately in a lazy current.
It drifts towards the shadow
I seek to know.
With one flick of his tail he ascends to break the plane, a perfected movement. His mouth is open and my fly seems to swirl into his throat, a silent flush. His nose goes under, I lift the hook into place, deep in his jaw.
At first, the weight is steady.
He flicks his tail a few times, acknowledging trouble, adjusting his lateral fins and diving. The weight and energy I feel through the line is tremendous.
I hold pressure, he begins to fight.
His sympathetic nervous system kicks in, both fight and flight. The energy surges through the thick buoyant cord that connects us, vibrating into the glass tip and down my hand.
I recognize her as female. She’s mighty and old, no young starling unfamiliar to the fly. I’ve fooled her.
If she has capacity
to feel fooled
Anguish trembles through my line.
There are no great leaps, no giant splashes. There’s no spectacle. The line is deep in the river, bouncing, jagging around on the surface.
It cuts lines that reflect the light with their shape and motion.
She thrashes with every bit of energy she can muster, each time searching for an object to swim close to, as that has worked before.
She finds no refuge in this pool,
only flat rocks
She shakes her head, believing she can shake this trauma, as she has before. Over and over, her gills opening fully and body flexing under water, maximum effort in every huge movement.
My steady hand allows her these movements,
but does not relent.
Neither will she.
In this moment,
the fight of her life,
I adore her.
She has strength, beauty, zest, and a primal pursuit. Yet she still has the grace not to make a fool of herself.
No weeping or begging for mercy. In her eye I see the pride a lifetime has given her and I envy her,
the confidence she has,
even in the face of death.
She twitches, exhausted from the fight but not unaware of the wrongness as she lies on this stone swept beach. With pride in my heart, not for myself but for her, I lift her precious weight with my hands, scooping her under her soft white underbelly. Her mouth and gills gape, as if breathing air, and her tail moves slowly.
at the bottom of her creek.
I lower her into the calm water at my knees, for I’ve waded in deeply now. She doesn’t sprint away like a young pup.
In that moment, we are one. Not just as angler and trout, but also with the web of life our drama has occurred within.
The leaves applaud,
the water rushes and relaxes,
the sun warms us.
I feel it, hear it, see it. I taste the saltiness of it. It is the first experience of my life unfiltered by thoughts, words, and lenses of others. I know my place.
I thank her.
She gently sweeps her thick and lusty tail,
Brushing my hand as she drifts out into the lazy current,
a shadow in the depths.
I go and sit on a large rock by the tinkling water.
The wind rouses my hair.
I notice the leaves sound so similar to the running water. The stones are like the hide of the earth, akin to a beast’s flank.
My hands still tremble.
I touch my eyes and face.
A deep breath and small shake of my head,
it’s time to go back.