The Lengthening of Shadows (October 2017)
The air was warm and the sun on our backs made for a comfortable fall day casting to deep pools and long runs of broken water on an October trout stream. It was the kind of day where a coat was too warm unless the wind blew, the bite in the breeze a harbinger of days to come. Taking a break from my own fishing to watch Johnny work his way up the run, I paused when I looked down at the tall, slender, dark, uncanny image that was both to me familiar and foreign. Staring at one's own shadow can be enlightening and intimidating. This silent stalker, an ethereal distorted apparition, follows me about my day going largely unnoticed, but always present. He stared back at me like he knew secrets about me, like this knowledge gave him some power over me. Son-of-a-bitch was smirking at me!
The sound of Johnny’s feet on the rocks and the slosh he made through the water near the bank woke me from my near schizophrenic confrontation, and I tried to reassure myself that I had said nothing aloud. Without looking away from his fly on the water Johnny said with a grin “those shadows are getting longer now?” He said it as a statement but with the tone of a question.
A few big orange caddis flies flitted about along with a few more small and ginger colored ones. The fish paid them little mind but took a small tan and ginger pupae pattern in about a size 18 fished near the bottom, and occasionally as it would swing to the surface near the end of a drift.
We fished our way on up stream, taking turns at dibs on the water, our slender men in tow. When I would cast Johnny knelt by the stream picking the husks of last night’s active macroinvertebrate life from the rocks. He found a few caddis pupae shucks and those of golden stones as well. The morning had been foggy and damp, and several days of rain were approaching, so the big meaty bugs had apparently taken their opportunity to metamorph into their winged and sexually mature forms. Puberty in a matter of minutes.
I cut off the caddis pupae that I had been fishing below my dry and substituted a stone fly pattern in its place, then tied the caddis pupae back below the stone. The rig was more difficult to cast but its production on the water made up for its lack of grace in the air.
“If you’re ok with with it Im ok with it.”
“Ok with what?”
“Trading grace and beauty for production.”
“Who are you talking to?”
“Uhhhhh…nothing, nobody, don’t worry about it.”
Johnny let it go and we fished on upstream. I cut the dropper rigs off having caught plenty, and cast only the dry fly to likely looking spots, picking up a few fish here and there. A chilly breeze blew again across the back of my neck. On the breeze I could smell a campfire from somewhere upwind, and changing weather from somewhere out in the Gulf. The sun was now low on the horizon and shining through the trees. On the other bank, I saw a tall slender man casting tight and clean, with a dry fly, up stream. I waved and he waved back, smiling at me.