This river lures as many lovers and photographers as fishermen to its gorgeous gorges, waterfalls and tempting boulder-strewn banks. Today, I’m solo and toting a camera but I’m sure it won’t be long before I see the first rods of the season. And where there are rods and reels, there will be fisherpersons to stalk and shoot.
After an hour of shooting waterfalls, birds and forest scenes, I turn south along the McCloud River’s narrow footpath towards Nature Conservancy land. The late spring warmth caresses my face and the roar of rushing water now calms into a steadily flowing river, skipping over boulders and flowing into deep pools. I stare into the river hoping to see the indigenous Rainbow Trout rising to the stoneflies or caddis. The river is running fast. The fish are hiding from view.
However, along the bank below, emerging from the vegetation, I see the tip of a fly rod poised motionless at the river. Then it disappears. A few moments later, rod and owner step out onto a wider stretch of bank a few yards away. He cannot see me. I feel like a stalker and adjust the setting on my camera as he chooses a fly and after a moment, expertly roll casts into the ripples and eddies nearby.
I follow him as he wades downstream and watch him cast, studying his technique, his aim, the careful placement of his boots on slick rocks in fast water. Suddenly, he senses my presence and looks up. A broad grin lifts the trailing edges of his droopy white mustache and he nods, his eyes dancing with mirth at the woman with a camera stalking a fisherman who is stalking a fish on a warm Spring day, when he thought he had the river to himself.
He reels it in and walks towards the bank; my cue to join him.
We meet up and he offers his hometown-boy fishing advice freely and, as if I am his paparazzo, gives me a glimpse into his life. He and his wife live down in Redding, one hour away but camp here in their trailer to escape the Spring and Summer heat and try out the flies he tied all winter long for such a day as this. Today, the fish are not rising to his fly. But when he opens his sacred case, I realize that for him, the joy of fishing lies as much in the mid-winter dreams he spins on fireside clamps as it does in the motion of the cast or the wading after the fly.
If I hadn’t stalked him, I would have missed seeing the true artistry of the fisherman on the McCloud – not in the catching, but in the fly.
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J “Kat” Loren is a recent convert to fly fishing and is an avid explorer of the beauty of life. Her travel articles have appeared in national magazines. J “Kat” Loren is also the author of more than a dozen books. She currently focuses on writing health, fitness, conservation and travel articles. Her blog “Crazi Culture” is a popular read among those who like eclectic topics and travelogues about odd places and adventures. http://www.craziculture.com
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