It’s nineteen degrees and still dark. By dawn it’ll be colder. Overnight we were bombed with the season’s first real powder and it’s still falling. Two days ago it was raining and brown. Two days from now, it’ll be raining and brown. We play the hand we’re dealt.
Daylight reveals the unfamiliar weight of snow on the pines and sagging brush along the road where we’ve parked. A plow truck slows and grumbles by as we climb into our waders and boots. We exchange head-nods with the driver. Silence settles back in around us.
First tracks on the trail, we drop in on a run to get our bearings. We know better than to sleep on trib water even this far upstream. Milk-gray swagger and swing. It punches above its weight. Small water. Big steel. Lake-run haymakers after a first round KO.
But first, they wait till you’ve spent some quality time with snagged-flies and reties. They wait till you’re fingers are bloodless and you’re thinking about your thermos of coffee. They wait till you get that thousand-yard stare. Then they remind you why you’re there.
Photo credit: Lucas Carroll