January 13th, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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It Is On
By Paul Dieter (pdieter)

It's been a fine summer of heat and throwing hopper imitations to grassy banks while cooling my legs in rushing water. It even stayed hot a couple weeks past my Daughter going back to school, but the mornings starting getting that edge of cold signaling a change in the season.

Then during a Sunday afternoon of yard work I get a phone call from my brother in law on his cell phone; "it's on," he says with audible confidence. "You said to call you when it turned on and it definitely has."

I ask even though I can tell the answer, "you calling from the lake?"

"You bet, we hit it earlier today and it was my best day ever, we each landed about 25 and I got one 28 incher. You gotta go," he says.

"I know" I reply, "when it turns on you have to make time for it," even as my mind shuffles through all the logistics of the week ahead which stand in stark contrast to the easily spoken ultimatum; "I know."

The weather remains bright and crisp and I begin to notice more leaves turning and the need for a fleece vest at the jobsite. There is a power in the light breeze out of the north, a numinous tone that amplifies the whispers of the previous week. Now I can hear it clearly; it is on, it is on. The cedar I am working with seems to pick up the vibration and smells sweeter than usual. As I glide my hand down the freshly sanded boards feeling for spurs the vibration moves into my bones; it is on.

Driving over the bridge into the city I look to the mountains dark and still mostly green but in just a moment they will be blanketed in white and become an obstacle between the river and me. Traffic is a snarl as usual and people insult each other in an attempt to cut a few seconds off their drive, I look at them and wonder; do they know it is on?

Dropping my daughter at school I linger with the children yearning for the energy of their youth. The grounds are electric with children excited at the promise of a new season of learning and knowledge. The chill in the air attacks my aging body and I chuckle at the contradictions of life and nature. Their energy and innocence juxtaposed with the frayed edges of my worn body and the wisdom of years of choices they have yet to face. They all know the secret; they just don't realize the truth. It is on.

The week moves on yet the weather holds firm, high pressure holds off the moisture but the cool dry air still creeps in from the North. The sun is bright but stays so very low on the horizon, blocked by the towers of downtown it searches for streets it can get a clean shot down; bouncing along the glass walls, intermittent avenues of brilliance. Warmed by the city's lights my wife and I make our way to a mid-week play. The hustle of a city, the fluttering of dresses, anticipation of Art; it is on.

The play is well done and the evening reminds me of the good things about living in a large city. It revolves around the theme of what we will sacrifice in a life of chaos to experience a state of grace, if even just for a few moments. Obsession and art form, ignoring all else just for a fleeting moment of clarity; I too possess this weakness, trimming the edges of my responsibilities to make room for time on the water. I can't help it for I am convinced it makes me whole. It is on.

The lake is famous in these parts for its "ya should have been here yesterday" personality. It fishes pretty typically year round with Chironomids and slow retrieves, but years ago we discovered that it lights up for a couple weeks at this time of year. The big boys come up from the depths and forage on minnows and such in the shallows and under overhanging and downed brush. At first we thought it was a spawning instinct but the rainbows show up too, so we settled on the theory that they are just fattening up for the winter. At this time they are packed along the bank and will charge streamers stripped through the branches and rocks. Streaking wakes behind your fly and violent slashing strikes; Pike come to mind. Once hooked up you have to kick the boat backwards with all your might, battling to pull them out of the cover, which they know is their best chance for protection. Then comes one of my favorite moments of chaos; they are too damn big to fit in my net. It is on!

Friday finds me scooting though morning traffic heading to the lake; it's an easy drive because sunny Fridays always seem to diminish the need for work in the Northwest. My brother in law is already fishing when I get there so I row out to see how it's going. Slower than the week before but still action packed is the report I get. Five minutes of casting at the bushes and then the water explodes under my un-weighted streamer. The Ross G is loud but my whoops, hollers and laughter drown it out and a fat 18" brown is folded into my net. Big teeth and red spots; it is on!

I pull in enough 18 - 20 inch browns and rainbows to make it a very memorable day but by mid afternoon it becomes quite tough to find a fish willing to chase and inhale a fly. Other people begin to show up and fish the ledges of the lake with no success, and no doubt question our sanity for pounding the shore. The float tuber who asks me how we've done doesn't seem to believe me when I tell him we caught plenty within a few feet of the bank striping streamers. Like most of us in our everyday lives he can sense in the air that something is happening but can't quite grasp it in entirety. Without some outside force snapping us into attention we fall into man made rhythms and forget the simple truth that anywhere, any time, it is on. ~ Paul Dieter (pdieter)


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