• Time Alone

    Time Alone - by Ben Smith

    A Saturday morning usually finds me knee deep in one of the few Arizona streams, whose names are guarded like valuable jewels and only spoken of in hushed tones. The Arizona sun hangs high in the sky for most of the day, but the tall ponderosa pines shade the streams and keep their waters running cold all through the summer. Aside from a small box of flies, a tube of Gink, and a pair of hemostats, a bottle of water and peanut butter and jelly sandwich are usually all that fill my pockets on these glorious days. On these small streams, I work systematically across the pool generally only allowing a couple of drifts before moving on to the next pool. Most of these small water fish are opportunistic feeders willing to take the bushy dry and if there are no hits, I assume no fish are present or are already spooked.

    I am not a hermit, for I occasionally will fish with a friend. But the days spent by myself with only the wind in the trees and the sound of moving water as companions are cherished memories. My mind often wanders even though my hands are working quickly and my eyes are always looking ahead. Each day is full of so many small pictures that hang in my memory like paintings in a gallery. Whether it is the way the dry fly bounces off the rock and swirls in the calm spot of water, or the sight of darting crayfish swimming for cover as my boot strikes a rock, each memory is vivid picture that once captured is as real as the moment itself.

    There is one stream I am especially fond of where I know that even on a busy weekend I can go and find solace. The stream is lined with high willows and flowers which make casting difficult but creates a gorgeous landscape within which to fish. The wind blows steadily most of the day but as the sun goes down and the fish begin to feed ravenously, the wind abates and allows for perfect casting and presentations to unfold. The stream is inhabited by beautiful brooks and bulky browns that do not care about the color or the design of the fly, only that it is presented neatly. Here, footsteps must be soft and shadows must be kept off the water if one is to be successful at catching one of these energetic trout.

    One particular day found me picking my way from pool to pool gently placing the terrestrial fly as close to the opposite bank as possible. I skirted wide and low trying to stay out of the troutís line of sight, and as I moved to the next pool, I saw a large fish rise and send ripples radiating towards the banks. I ripped more line off of the reel and snuggled the #12 hopper right up against the base of a half submerged log, watching as the fly drifted in the current only to be lost in the jaws of a dark fish. Lifting the rod, the line became taut and the steady vehement head shakes of a bigger fish were unmistakable. The first run was to the submerged log and the second was to the far bank full of weeds, but a firm hand and the bend of the rod protected the light tippet from breaking. Several substantial jumps later, the large trout began to grow tired and the line became easier to strip towards me. My hand slid into the water and slowly cradled a healthy brown trout whose red and cream coloring caused me to stop and admire the bounty that this wild jewel of a stream produced. A quick photograph was all I or the salmanoid had time for and as I lowered him back into the cool waters of the stream, the fish, with one powerful kick of his tail, rocketed back into the dark corner of the pool from where he came. The ripples in the pool slowly reached the edge and the pool became quiet and still once more. The events of the early moments were no longer evident as the gentle sounds and movements of nature rambled downstream.

    The scene plays over in my head and seems as real to me know as it was then. On my knees in a small stream, aware of the silty water filling my boots and the sun baking the back of my neck, I can almost feel the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. Hearing the sounds of the cicadas in the grass, the wind through the trees, and the water over rocks of this particular gem does more good to my soul than all the other riches in the world. In that moment, I can lose myself and find myself over and over again. What I then realize is that this story is not uniquely my own, but the story of everyone who takes the time to pick up the long rod and walk along the banks of a small stream alone.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Time Alone started by AZWanderings View original post