It wasn’t long ago that the hillsides seemed afire and I missed fish after fish, standing slack-jawed in awe, bathed in radiant light.
But halcyon days and late, lingering twilights have given way to brisk afternoons and an early dimness, diffused through pearlescent clouds.
Leaves rustle and dance in the wind, teeming like fish and swirling into corners where they collapse, exhausted, but only for a second before they skitter helter-skelter away. In the rain they become soggy and soft, dropping softly straight down, draping themselves over each other and creating monochromatic mats of faded color.
Dark strings of geese beat it downwind across a sky the texture of wool and the color of lead, dimly reflected in the dark water below. A chilly mist caresses the woods, gathered by branches and moss into silvery globes that fall to the forest floor with percussive irregularity. When heard up close there is very nearly a discernable beat but, from afar, many beats mingle, creating a static hiss.
A few snowflakes mix with the fine rain, joined by tiny, delicate mayflies and midges. Trout begin to feed, the rings of their rises silvery grey. A line is cast, at its end a trifling of feather on a miniscule hook, and within seconds that line is tight, streaking across the water. A turn, a flash, a run and the reel sings. Once, twice and it’s over.
A golden-orange glow appears in the tea-colored water of autumn. On a day it seems the color is slowly seeping from the world, gray at noon and only getting darker, I have found crimson, cobalt and amber and am once again slack-jawed in awe and bathed in radiant light.
Hand cupped in the cold water, I cradle the brook trout and the small hook falls easily from its mouth. Fins beat, the tail flips and it is gone, fading into the dark of the lake but just as sure to return as the once lurid hillsides now standing bare.