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Report from Spain
Spain started out rainy for the first two days, but we are still finding some nice fish. The rain has stopped and the sun is out so the rest of the week should be excellent. We love this country!
Saying Good Bye
For many years Rick Minogue was a regular on our section of Fishing Creek. Since relocating to Colorado, he now gets in about once a year. We've saved his story for about a year waiting for it to be "season appropriate". As another trout season winds down, his story will touch all of us. We hope you have a favorite piece of water that you feel the same about. Thank you, Rick, for sharing your thoughts, emotions, and photos with us and our readers.
Saying Goodbye to Another Trout Season
It was late on a late fall afternoon on Fishing Creek, near Benton, Pennsylvania.
Years ago, I lived within easy driving distance of this place. Now that I lived in Colorado, there were plenty of reasons to return several times a year, and I placed myself in this water whenever the stars aligned. Out west, my winters were about snowshoeing, hiking, and getting a winter summit. To fish this lovely Pennsylvania creek in late autumn was to say farewell to my PA Trout Season, and to trout fishing everywhere until next winter/early spring.
By the time I arrived, the rain was falling in sheets and bands. I dashed to the picnic pavilion and sat in the middle on one of the benches. Rain poured down, hammering the tin roof and foaming the water of the creek. Everything looked thirsty, so I was happy for it. Still, I remembered the days when I would have seized yesterday’s clear weather to ensure I got at least one dry day on the water. Colorado makes you forget that it rains other places. I’d forgotten that. It was clear last night, so I expected it to be clear today. I rigged a fresh 9’ 5wt tapered leader and added a few feet of 6x. It was a nice job, if I do say so myself. Finally impatient, I pulled my hood over my hat to keep my neck dry, and when the rain slowed a tad, I walked upstream and waded in.
I worked my way up through a wooded stretch. It’s always been my favorite section of this water. So serene and intimate. At the top, I caught a nice fish in the lee of a fallen tree. Then I was out into washout where the bend cliff was very close and water lapped against it shallowly in a nice tumbling run. I picked up a few good fish and played them back to my hands. I stood up after rinsing my net and fingers. The rain was tapering off. Looking upstream, a section of brush along the left hand bank was glowing with golds and crimsons. The trees towering over them were mostly barren, and on the right, the whole hill pulsed with color. Further up, I remembered the place where once upon a long time ago, I’d shed my laundry on a slow day and swam up and down through the frigid current, laughing and splashing.
I crept up stealthily. I cast gently. A trout shot out of the water surface and cleared it with three inches of air between his tail and the water. He was huge – a four pounder at least. He crashed back into the water less than a foot from where my fly was floating. I focused on a leafy section of water surface and cast the fly so that only 3 inches projected beyond the leaf. On purpose, but totally accidentally, I managed to do what I intended – hide the tippet on a raft of leaves. I was congratulating myself when a savage splashing object erupted from below. I saw it hit the fly hard, and I knew I had a good hookset. The trout was instantly panicked and splashed out of the water, tailwalking and flashing with all the life of the Universe. It went deep, making a run for the far bank. I barely had time to get it on the reel before I was giving back line. The fish was big and strong. I was totally confident I had him well hooked and clean. While he was making his run away from me, I pulled my phone out. I wanted some photos. I was turning it on when he turned around and came straight at me. I tried to hold the phone over the water and still strip line.
The phone won. By the time I had gathered enough line to get it neat, the fish was gone. I felt stupid and vain. I had gotten exactly what I wanted – a monster on the spookiest water possible, and I had let him go trying to capture him twice. I was an idiot. I cast repeatedly, but knew the pool was spooked. I also knew I didn’t deserve another. Not by my rules or theirs. I was disappointed in myself for not living in the moment. I was trying to capture it, which is very much not the same as living in it.
By now it was late afternoon and I’d caught fish as far upstream as the upper boundary permitted, so I found the old railroad grade and wandered downstream toward the Home Pool. I was still the only person on the entire stretch of water. Despite the earlier showers, the water was low, the current barely detectable. Occasionally, a huge fish rose. The commotion was startling. I waded in slowly, being careful to keep my ripples downstream.
The sun edged further toward the western horizon, peeking out from behind the clouds, and I paused to capture images for my desktop screen savers. I cast thoughtfully, determined to use only a dryfly. I was glad there was no one nearby to tell me I should be using a streamer or something else more effective. As the late Ernie Schwiebert would have said, this was one of my “Rivers of Memory”. That is not to say that I only relived memories, but this was a place where many of my best trout fishing memories resided.
As the sun sank, so did the temperature. Once so warm earlier in the day, I pressed my elbows into my sides, trying to conserve heat. I started to shiver.
After tying on a cinnamon ant, I cast it far downstream, checked the line in midair, watched the fly drop softly, shook out some slack, then allowed the current to move it into position. As I admired it, the water bulged underneath and a gaping maw opened. I was too ready and lifted the rod a split second before the big mouth closed. The line came home in a tangle around my rod and head.
That should have been my Home Pool fish. This calendar year’s Final Trout.
As if for emphasis, another one, a true Home Pool Monster, gave a full-bodied out-of-the-water slam for something tasty just a little further downstream from my volunteer. This one belly-flopped, smacking down hard. Do trout get red skin from belly flopping?
Suddenly I was filled with the longing of years and happy memories. As I’ve done so many other times, I sighed and reeled in knowing the golden moment had passed. To punctuate the end, I broke off my fly. Then, turning upstream I said this prayer:
Thank you for Fishing Creek. Thank you for Barry and Cathy. Thank you for their friendship all these years after I discovered them and flyfishing by quiet accident. Thank you for the cabin. Thank you for Pennsylvania. I love this place. I love these trees. I love this water and I love these fish. Thank you for allowing me to play here yet another year. No matter what happens, I will never be quite ready to leave this place and this beauty and this amazing life I’m living.
Thank you for my joy and my family and my job and the big mountains and easy creeks of Colorado. Help me to be a good friend, dad, husband and all that other stuff. And right here, right now, let me hold this firmly in my heart for just one more Open Minute.
“Thank you, Barry and Cathy” I called out. “Thank you Trout and Fishing Creek! I love you and I miss you. I may never live close by again, but you will always live close by in my heart.”
Pausing, then more quietly, I said, “I love you and I thank you. Goodnight and goodbye to another year of trout fishing.”
It was quiet.
Leaves fluttered down.
The lowering sun went behind a cloud.
The water moved languidly as another monster broke the surface 100 yards downstream.
And that’s how another Trout Season ended.
Rick Minogue lives in Louisville, CO. He publishes selected journal entries on his website – https://www.rickminogue.com