The best place to begin this is at the end. I’m standing on a decidedly four-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicle road trying to figure out my fishing pals’ location. John, Paul and I have been leapfrogging each other as we fished our way up a high country stream.
Right now the subalpine forest is still dripping from a thunderstorm that ended a few hours ago. I can hear the stream rushing, gurgling and churning its way across and down the contours. I’m not sure if John and Paul were upstream from me or downstream or both, but I think I hear voices. Of course it could just the sounds of the water. I’ve heard voices coming from the riffles before. In fact, I’ve been so convinced a few times that I turned to look behind me to see if anyone was there. They weren’t.
But this time I act on the voices and head down through a boggy meadow full of moose turds to the creek. John and Paul are standing there. “So there you are,” says one of them.
Yesterday we pounded up this same 4WD road in John’s Jeep, jointed our fly rods together and headed down to the creek right as it started raining. We huddled under a subalpine fir figuring it would blow over in a bit, but it only intensified. There were waves of hail, thunder, lightning and heavy rain. After more than an hour freezing in our rain jackets and lightweight minimalist wet wading stuff we joked about who would go hypothermic first and then decided it was time to head back to the Jeep. Upon arrival we heaped our stuff in a pile, jumped inside and cranked on the heater. We then ate our sandwiches for the calories, babbled about never seeing it rain like this and watched over the creek which was now muddy and high and unfishable.
A day before that John and I fished a lower part of the same drainage. We reasoned we could go light and left our raingear in the truck. It rained hard enough for us to end up looking like two shivering, close-to-drowned rats. But we’d landed a few trout and in the process alleviated our discomfort.
Maybe the point to this is that every fishing trip isn’t about catching. Some are clearly about the power of the high country weather, autumn coming on, the understanding of how short the fishing season is and listening to voices coming from the riffles.
On the way to the Jeep that last day John said, “I’m glad you hear the river talk. I’ve always heard it, too. When I was younger I heard actual voices that said, “Call your Mother and I always did.”