There is a river. It cuts through mountains and carves out canyons. Its belly swells deep into the rock, slowly growing deeper as it ebbs and flows with each season. There is a river. It is powerful, relentless, and mysterious. It breeds life, it shapes the earth, commands its world.
Where there is a river, there is a trout. Where there is a trout, there will be an angler. This particular trout, was high in the mountains. The king of his pool. The largest fish in the upper reaches by far, his genetics raining supreme in the volatile world with which he was born. A fish aged and strengthened by the furious river that tugged at his now tattered fins and scales. A solemn trout, a solitary trout, a trout like no other trout. The trout that could only reside in such a pool, in such a river, so high up into the wild where no trout was thought to be.
Where this trout resides is seldom visited by an angler, and an angler would have to walk the blue unnamed lines of the map to find such a place indeed. This place could be on any map, but for each angler that understands, there is only one map, one blue line, one mental note about the location of such a place. No markings on a map unveil it, no names befall it. It is unknown, but known, to the few that know, and it is held in secret to all but a few in a lifetime. The lucky anglers have a few maps that have unnamed and unmarked blue lines which hold the above described secrets. Whether through self discovery or loose lips, these places are discovered and forgotten, rediscovered, and lost. Fished 20 year ago and maybe a few luckily anglers stumble upon it once again. It happens in even the most popular of fly fishing areas.
The joy of my homewater, is that the area for which many of my maps belong to, are within the glorious National Forest and Alpine Lakes Wilderness we have here. A little taste of the wild sandwiched between the west and east. The edge of the Cascades. An angler can hike and fish to their hearts absolute content here. Stillwater and trickles, creeks and streams, rivers and lakes, ponds, and backwaters. Its all here, and it is ever inviting to the lover of mountains and woods, and rivers and trouts.
My solemn, solitary, trout that is like no other trout; lives here in the upper reaches far up river, into the mountains, away from the world and off the trail. A solitary pool, near a mountain waterfall, hidden behind the woods and the folds of the mountains. A blue line barely graces the map near the place of which I speak. Such a special place, unlike any other I have ever witnessed. A place of birth, of life, the very roots of the homewater, with the ancient roots of the trout that populate the system below. The trout lies there for me. Chance and bordering on truly being lost brought me into the embrace of this place. The trout that should not have been. There…feeding…on the surface…
The rod in my hand felt heavy from the hours of casting before happening upon this elder of trouts. Nothing but the sound of the falls and the forest were present. The surface broke as a mayfly was delicately plucked from under. A slight ripple and a slosh of surface water broke the silence. The heart syncs with some unknown rhythm lost in the fray of mobile phones, freeways, and crowds of people…civilization. The cast beats the rhythm…one…two, three…four. The feel of fiberglass and line whipping through the air just a few feet more. “We don’t want to spook the trout.” The worry of hooking a large trout on small tippet, and a 3 weight.
The drift falls to far right and the fish feeds on a natural in the correct lane and not the imitation 6 inches off. The tension is quite intoxicating. “Will another cast spook the fish?”
The cast falls correctly and the fish rises to the fly, only to refuse it.
One final cast, out of respect. “I tell myself this fish deserves to be left alone should it not want to share a moment with an angler today.” The cast places the fly upstream for a longer presentation to this old and smart trout. The fish rises…rises….rises, and refuses once again. The angler in me desires one more cast. The human in me disagrees. This place will be left undisturbed after my retreat, and I will be able to find it once again.
But…the angler in me always gets the better of me. I would not be a fly angler if it did otherwise. I leave the pool and give the fish time. The hatch is early, the sun is high, and the trout is withholding. I rest out of sight but still have a watchful eye on my quarry. I enjoy a smoke while writing in my journal of the place I am in and the awe for which it deserves.
The sun gives way and begins to touch the tree tops. The trout is feeding once again. I give him a wide birth, staying low and down river. The pool just large enough to cast across, but the trees behind made a proper cast quite impossible. A roll cast would surely spook the creature once again. A steeple cast was not a desirable solution either, but presented a higher chance of success as the shadows were in my favor. Waiting for the fish to stop feeding in between the drifts of the naturals presented an anxiety filled moment that seemed to last ages.
The window opened and a high cast laid the fly slightly off target but without spooking the trout. The fish rose but the fly was too far out of the lane. “One of the most finicky trout I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.” A slight breeze rippled the water and a large swath of naturals began floating down into the pool. “The trout may have been withholding but the river, was not.” Another cast and a perfect drift was granted to me. The fish rose and my imitation was in position….Silence…
I could feel my fiberglass pulse with the thrash of the trout. A surprise to us both, he by the imitation that foiled him, and I by the disbelief and amazement that I actually foiled him! “A quick but enjoyable struggle and the ratchet of my click paw drag was F’ing nirvana dude.”
The Elder Trout, was in my grasp. The trout and I shared a brief moment while holding him there in his pool…his lair…his ancient castle high above the river below. A Wild Trout that resembles his ancestors that lived in this river before Lewis and Clark met the Yakima where it enters the Columbia. Before the native peoples that lived off the river that this pool resided over high in the mountains.
I paid my respects to the trout. Released him back to his dominion and thanked him. I still visit his castle from time to time. He is long gone, I found him seasons ago while discovering the secrets of the mountain streams. Other trouts that resemble him reside there now. It has been several seasons since I was there. A visit is in order, with a fiberglass rod and a box of flies.