The fisher awoke before dawn. He put his boots on.
He took the rod from a gallery of graphite and cork and walked down the forest hall.
He moved through thick, hazy darkness — miles toward the island, with no sound but the crunch, crunch, and rustle. Footfalls on sandy dirt, on roots and rotting leaves. The log. The water. The red halos around orange spots as big as nickels, randomly speckled and enhanced by the minor refraction of cool water sliding and dripping across the broad sides of wild magnificence, the size of which as rare as any to be called legendary.
Blue was the first color to appear. Then the greens showed themselves, and the trees came into focus as the sun lent the sky its own red and orange from below the horizon.
This was the end. The end of elaborate plans, of feathers and furs piled inches deep in the recesses of some ancient wooden desk. The end of minutes and hours, of weeks and years laboring over blue meandering lines bordered by mint green contours indicating the depth of the divide between mountaintops, and perhaps the gradient and the ferocity of charging water passing through a bouldered valley. The end of fishermen’s stories.
He slid into the tailout, just off the bottom tip of the island. Quickly up to his waist, he skillfully braced against a current of murky water more than thrice the common flows for a midsummer morning . . . and then he cast.
The line sliced through thin air and thicker water, carried in large arcs by a heavyweight creation so carefully crafted that the pulsing plumes and flowing feathers, working in natural harmony with the water’s current, could create life itself.
And how could it not be alive? This fly of so many particular hours spent refining, dreaming and modifying, that it carries a piece of its creator’s soul. These moments of inspiration, imagination, belief and then conclusion. The decisive and confident hope that this one will swim with perfect, enticing realism . . . and perhaps . . . come to life.
With the eternal hope of a fisherman, he teased the living fly near the bottom, and then parallel with the fallen and submerged tree — surely this was the preeminent home of the watery beast in the stories that had brought him here.
On the third cast the fly swung and fluttered at the end of the drift and gracefully glided to the surface as if exhausted from its trip downstream — spent prey struggling to maintain equilibrium.
. . . And here comes the freight train . . .
It hit hard. A confident, decisive, straight-line, hungry charge forward and upward, deftly capturing all the life, moments and hopes conceived in a fly, and then horseshoe curving back toward the unseen depths of its address.
The fisherman saw the ambushing train charge and capture its prey. And with the patience of a hunter, he waited to feel the line tighten. (There is so much life in half a second.) As the spotted brown engine rounded the horseshoe, the fisherman set the hook.
The sharply crafted metal point found its firm hold in a bony jaw. And then . . . the line . . . broke.
Silence in the valley when the echoes of exasperation finished the chorus.
The fisherman’s hands were wet and shaking as he doubled over, kneeling in the surface fog of the water from the heavy punch in his gut.
Time passed, and then he arose.
This is the end, beautiful friend.
This is the end, my only friend. The end.
It hurts to set you free, but you’ll never follow me.
This is the end.
— Lyric from “The End” by The Doors. Copyright © 1967 by Doors Music Company
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N