One At A Time

May 1, 2013 by  

By Nick Simonson


While on my way between two of my favorite spots on the little trout stream near my house, an older gentleman and his wife slowed down in their Jeep and stopped me on the road back to my car.
“Did you leave any for me,” he questioned.
“Yup, they all went back, safe and sound,” I replied, “the midges are hatching pretty solid and they’ve really picked up since,” I added, as we chatted some more about the stream, just recently stocked with feisty brown trout which, despite the foot of snow on the ground and highs in the low 30s, seemed to make it feel more like spring with each one I landed.

Brown Trout

I set the hook into a 14-inch brown trout

They continued on down the road toward the last bridge in the park and I was only a couple of minutes behind them.  All of the parking spots in the recently-plowed gravel parking lot were taken, including the last one filled by the couple’s Jeep.  I made a spot of my own off to the side of the lot and got out, making my way toward the river.  I looked up to see the man making his way back on the foot-print trail through the snow.
“Any room down there,” I asked.
“There are six people crammed under the bridge,” he said, “so I don’t think I’ll be able to use this,” he concluded, lifting an old fly rod with one of those 1960s reels that looked like a pop can bottom.
“Ah, come on, I’ll show you a spot downstream that I did well at last night,” I replied, as I introduced myself to the man, whose name was Don, from the small town just north of the park on the river.
Don, in his sixties by my guess, gingerly stepped his way down the bank after explaining that he had recently injured his knee and was set for surgery this summer.  That capped off an eighteen-month stretch where he had also suffered a stroke and his wife had been diagnosed with cancer.
“We try to take our tragedies one at a time,” Don laughed, “it’s easier that way.”

I smiled and sat down in the snow bank along side the small pool and watched Don ready his rod, running the old brown floating line through the guides before tying on a large elk hair stimulator and flipping the coiled filament out into the pool.  We discussed past fishing and hunting successes in the area as I watched midges make their way to the water’s edge, fly free of the surface tension and land a short distance away on the snow-covered shoreline, standing out like flecks of black pepper on a baked walleye fillet.
One fish exploded just behind Don’s large floating offering, but for the most part, the rises we witnessed were scattered and he struggled to connect with the dry fly.  I explained how a bead-head nymph had led to my success earlier and I picked one out of my fly box and handed it to him.  As he tied it on, he suggested I take a couple of casts; so I did, and on my third one the line jumped and I set the hook into a 14-inch brown trout.  His wife, Bev, had joined us at the small pool down from the main fishing hole and commented on the trout’s spots which were jam-packed on each side of the fish, as if its Creator attempted to cram every bit of color onto the canvas. I slipped the trout back into the stream and watched it tail off into the pool.

“Your turn,” I told Don, with a smile.
Despite the chill of the white shore underneath me, I laid back and stared up at the sun struggling to melt the snow and ice attached to the branches of the still leafless trees of this late spring as the hatching midges fluttered in and out of view.  The three of us talked about the events of the week before – the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, the Texas plant explosion on Tuesday, a third blizzard in as many weeks on Wednesday, the bombers’ shootout with police on Thursday, and the capture of one of them on Friday night – a lot of stressors and tragedies crammed into a tight timeframe.
“Still, just one at a time,” Don reiterated in a sort of quiet, confident wisdom.
After catching a bit of a rest, I said farewell to Don and Bev and wished them both good luck, knowing that their challenges – and those of the world in general – which lay ahead were greater than just a few fickle fish eating tiny hatching insects.  But like targeting the rising fish, they would take them on, one-at-a-time, and they’d be okay along with rest of us, whether in the doctor’s office, at the dinner table or on the banks of a tiny trout stream…in our outdoors.


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