Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Evening Rise

I'm sitting among tag alders on the bank of a dark, tea-colored, northern Michigan river, killing time by writing this on a smart phone while chewing and spitting sunflower seeds in between cigarettes.  Its easy to get in the river and just start fishing, but the trick is to get there too early and then just sit and wait.  Sit until you've been sitting there so long your legs fall asleep and you become part of the landscape.  Its like being in a cartoon as the fauna forget you’re there and start coming out of the woodwork, talking to each other like people, wearing clothes and playing pranks on each other.  The best part is the small band of birds and chipmunks playing Grateful Dead covers with tiny guitars and flutes.

Waiting out the evening rise is like high chess.  You wait and wait and wait, letting the fish get happy, and pretty soon you’re seeing things 17 moves ahead.  First the pawns start eating.  Whatever you do, don’t let the pawns draw your queen out, they’re only there to set things up for the forgotten, middle-sized fish.  Those gorgeous trout in the high teens come next and as tempting as it is to get up and make that first cast, you know that if you wait just a little bit longer-- usually when the pawns have fallen-- the river will castle and expose its king.

Except the sky has darkened, and while you think you heard him once or twice, you aren’t quite sure of his location as you keep getting distracted by how the air is so clear that the crescent moon hanging over the alpine tree line seems so close you could reach out and touch it.  

So you sit and wait, alone but not lonely, captivatedly bored, patiently watching the river give up her secrets as the sky is now filled with bugs. 

One more cigarette to keep the mosquitoes and no-see-ums at bay.  One more cruise through your Facebook and Instagram news feeds.  The river should castle any time, but the pawns go silent.  The middle-sized trout are neglected once more.  Those enticing fish in the high teens all went home with dudes their own age, and the castle never came.  You consider waiting a bit for it to get darker and try mousing, but its been a long winter and you really just want to play chess, not go all pumping cheat codes into your Xbox. 

It never dawns on you that you drove 45 minutes each way to sit on driftwood and watch trout rise without ever making a cast.  It won’t be the first time or the last.  The time was well spent despite the expectations being contradicted.  The game took an unexpected turn, and perhaps that’s the whole point.

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