Autumn Ramblings by Mick McBrien
The evening air has a definite
edge and this morning's mists were slow to lift. Like
me the valley seems reluctant to rouse itself from slumber
and awakens in slow incremental stages. In the cycle
of nature's rhythms this is a tranquil and measured
time of year, there is an air of unhurried deliberation,
a savoring of the moment. Autumn has about it an air
of civility and a meandering gentle pace that tends
to set the mind to rumination.
The leaves of the willows
and poplars in the valley have already turned, decorating
the river banks and backwaters with their fallen leaves.
Theses heralds of the approaching close of season float
bravely out in the currents, delineating the bubble
lines and eddies that meander down between banks swathed
in green and gold. Their colours are heightened by the
soft afternoon light that baths the valley at this end
of the season. It bathes the valley with gentle warmth
and imbues the surrounding hills with a golden glow.
The aerial ballet of the
swallows and swifts seems less frenetic than usual as
they sweep, glide and pirouette above the water. Occasionally
one makes a swooping pass at my fly on the water, but
is never fooled by my clumsy imitation. Lucky for me
my quarry often possesses a less discerning and critical
eye than these feathered acrobats.
The rains are late this
season and the tributaries and smaller streams are low
and slow, tantalizing and tough. Their usually boisterous
flow has ebbed to a sedate trickle and the glass smooth
pools have become testing and somewhat unforgiving arenas.
It's a time of long leaders, fine tippets and tiny flies.
Engrossing and exasperating all at once. Perhaps it's
a form of masochism, but it's at times like this and
in places like these that an angler's skill is truly
tested and it's through this testing that we all continue
to learn and develop.
For myself it's the ones
that get away, the fish that kick your butt and scorn
your best efforts, these are the fish that keep bringing
me back. Amongst the sharpest memories from any season
are those that come from encounters where my spotted
adversary has been victorious. As the years have gone
by I've come to accept these defeats with a semblance
of grace, I don't rant, fume and throw rocks anywhere
near as often as I used to. Doubt not that I have sworn
and plotted bloody vengeance on many occasions. But
I must confess that on those occasions where the return
engagement has gone my way, the elation is tinged with
a disquieting feeling of something important lost.
It must be autumn that
sets the mind to wander down paths such as this; its
pace allows ample time for reflection on the season
past. A review of fish caught and lost, new waters explored
and old haunts revisited. Mental notes to return and
explore that creek, stream or stretch of water that
time didn't allow this season. It's an extensive list,
that last one. A list that would probably take at least
three lifetimes to exhaust as it now stands. Strangely
this stark fact never seems to stop me from regularly
adding to its number.
We anglers are an optimistic breed by nature. Neither
logic, nor even, a growing awareness of the limits of
ones mortal span can seriously diminish this rampart
optimism which is the identifying characteristic of
all true anglers.
There are few bugs about
on the water today so I reluctantly remove the dry and
start search about with a nymph. Waiting for the hatches
that I just know will start any minute now. Truth is
it's still a bit early for the Olives and Sulphurs,
the headline hatches of this time of year. But then,
when has anything as mundane as truth swayed the mind
of an angler on the water?
On queue a fish rises in
the bubble line. It's a splashy energetic affair most
probably the work of one of the many fat little rainbows
that dash and dart about this stream. These belligerent
bundles of pure energy are normally the first to get
onto an insect hatch, but they are just as likely to
rise once or twice then vanish without a trace. Today
it appears to be the latter, but hope springs eternal
and there are still many miles of river still before
The gravel crunches softly
beneath my feet and the crisp air has an earthy autumn
river smell. It's a very different scent to the heady
perfume of spring, with all its vibrancy, promise and
vitality. This autumn smell is tinged with elements
of sadness and finality. For just as surely as the cycle
of the seasons shall return again next year, this season
is already on its way to becoming memory.