The snow is crisp and hard, crackling under my waders like shards of glass, sending tiny ice crystals flying up in the air behind me with every footstep. I have made this walk alone a thousand times over yet each time I get closer to its banks my heart starts palpitating anxiously in anticipation of our re-union. The air is cold and redolent with the smell of pine and fir; all the other trees have long lost their foliage and stand like naked and forlorn sentries against the grey and foreboding sky. My breath hangs in the air, a fog that slowly dissipates behind me and rises above the trail like a cloud formation. Winters has laid its hand to rest and all, save for the river, is seemingly at a standstill. It is as though the world had taken a deep breath and forgot to exhale.
I come here once a year now, usually around the time when all the others have long since left the water, and I can fish for miles without seeing another soul. The solitude of this stretch of water, boundary water, refreshes me and I bathe in the peacefulness of its pristine splendour. The tug of its gentle currents against my waders comforts me and welcomes me back like the warm and heartfelt embrace of an old friend. Like a close friend that one hasn’t seen for awhile and although visibly changed by the intervening years, we still recognize each other and pick up seamlessly where we left off last. It was here that I discovered how caddis moved about imperceptively on the riverbed wrapped in their brown husks, and how the big brown trout would lie vertically in the stretch of water under the old covered bridge and gracefully sip flies during a mayfly hatch with an audible slurp. It was here I caught the giant rainbow while a whitetail deer watched from the opposite riverbank, unbothered by my presence. It was here I came to find solace in the weeks following my father’s death and it was the river that comforted me in my grief and gave me the strength to move forward. It was also here one wintry day that I almost lost my life after being swept away by the current under an ice floe, re-surfacing a few seconds later on the other side like a cork bobber.
For the most part this river is largely unknown or ignored and very few people bother fishing its cold waters. I like it like this and sometimes feel that this section of the river belongs to me and that all its trout are waiting for me to return. The melodic rapids whisper hushed secrets to me, telling me where the good trout are lying and along which seam or pocket to drift my offering. This river is like a good book that must be re-read every few years in order to pick up things missed first time around, either by lack of experience or attention, or simply to remind us of what a good story is really all about. Like all things temporal, the river’s character changes every year – it ages, widens and narrows in places, matures, deepens. New pools form, boulders are re-located downstream, new deadfalls appear and old ones blow downstream with the ice melt every Spring. I have learned from this river that the only constant in life is change. I have also learned from it that it is impossible to fish the same river twice.