Neil Travis - Oct 8, 2012

Knee deep in a Montana trout stream I waited for the trout that I had been watching to show again; gently sipping in the occasional tiny hatching mayfly that slid gracefully across the slick surface on that perfect autumn morning. A gently breeze wafted through the streamside trees sending a shower of leaves cascading down like a golden waterfall. The trout rose again, pushing a barely perceptible circle of broken water away from the place where he sipped in another fly.

I released the imitation that I held between my fingers, and with measured cadence I made a couple false casts as I stripped off sufficient line to drop my carefully crafted artificial just inches above the disappearing ripples. Sitting on stiff cock hackles, my tiny imitation settled gently upon the glassy surface only to disappear in another circle of concentric rings. A gentle lift of the rod, more of a tightening than a setting of the hook, and the sliver of steel found purchase in the grisly of the trout's jaw and the struggle was joined. A run, the sweet sound of a good trout stripping line from a finely crafted reel, a jump, the trout throwing itself clear of its element only to crash back down throwing a fine spray of water droplets upward into the autumnal sky. The resistance of the reel's drag and the unrelenting bend of the rod quickly broke his resolve to resist and I slid him over the rim of my net. The golden color of his flanks and the red spots along the lateral line matched the color of the streamside vegetation. The hook on his lower jaw seemed more pronounced, reminding me that spawning season was at hand. I easily slipped the small barbless hook from the corner of his jaw, and holding in upright in the current I let him rest until, with a flick of his tail, he shot back into the pool.

I stood still listening to the sound of the water flowing around my wader-clad legs; soaking in the warmth of the fall sun. I looked down at my reflection in the stream, a slightly tanned face with graying hair poking out beneath my fishing hat reflected back at me. The well-used analogy of comparing the seasons of the calendar year to the times of one's life was not lost on me at that moment.

There is the first blush of spring, the excitement that comes with new life, the green of the first sprouts pushing up from the raw soil stripped bare by the cold winds of winter. Streams pushing against their banks, swollen with the melting of snows from the not-to-distant mountains, the waters, dark and cold but containing so much promise for the coming summer. All is new and untried, but containing so much hope, exuding such promise, such optimism in the face of an untried, unsullied season.

Spring gives way to summer, often reluctantly, but summer will not be denied. Once summer comes it seems like the days will never end. Cool mornings give way to the wilting heat of midday, but as the sun slides toward the western horizon the long twilight provides the reward for enduring the heat of the day. By the end of August summer is like a pair of your favorite jeans, faded and worn in the knees but still comfortable.

The cool days of autumn hold a certain appeal and often summer teases us with a brief taste of the pending change of seasons when it allows a cold front to slip out of Canada and dust the mountain tops with the first snow of winter. The air takes on a certain crispness in the early morning, but the heat of summer still lingers, if only briefly, during the midday hours. The sun slips away earlier now, as if it had an appointment to be elsewhere. Robbed of the life-giving rays of the sun the leaves, sensing that their time is short, put on one final show by turning brilliant shades of color that had been hidden under the green of the chlorophyll during the summer months. Autumn relinquishes its hold on life with a blaze of glory.

As pleasant as the days of autumn may be, with summer-like days and crisp pre-winter cool in the evenings, all of creation is aware that the days of autumn will give way to the cold and dark days of winter. The birds of summer gather together, gorging on the summer's abundance in preparation for their annual departure. Mammals shed their thin summer coat for a thicker pelt and, like the birds, they feast on the bounty that the summer months have provided, putting on the necessary bulk to sustain them thorough the long, lean days ahead.

Like the autumnal season that surrounded me on that Montana morning, I am advancing into the autumn of my life. I have enjoyed the burst of energy and hopefully exuberance of my youth and I have reveled in the long days of summer which I thought would never end, but they have quietly been replaced by the early days of autumn. All the experiences gleaned from the glory days of spring and the long twilight hours of sweet summer are now on full display, but I know that the cold, dark days of winter are lurking just over the mountains.

The cold clear water of my Montana trout stream flowed around my waders, and just upstream another trout quietly sipped in a small mayfly. The fly I held slipped from my fingers and that old familiar rhythm of a fly rod counting cadence sent my offering toward the hope of yet another battle with one of God's trout. The sun broke through the clouds setting the surrounding landscape ablaze with color. The trout rose, I missed the strike and the tiny fly skidded across the surface unscathed. Ah autumn, I love the season and I pray that it goes on well into November.

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