The McCloud River. Last trip for the season.

Somersaults, perfectly performed across the top of the river, heading towards me.  The McCloud River set the stage for my last fly fishing trip of the year. In October the hatches of caddis and mayflies are so consistent and big that catching fish is extra challenging. Each October caddis is so big it’s a mean of it’s own. In between snacks for the trout are little midges that are barely visible to my aging eyes.  Their desire to grab my fly is smaller than a micro mayfly midge!

In the early evening I fished deep, along the bottom with black rubber leg and a posey bugger flies. With some added weights the flies dived deep and carried along with the current.  No luck came. I looked around at the hatch as my flies repeatedly passed through a 10-foot deep channel in a mild current in a long ‘pond’.

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A smaller caddis caught my eye, a size I recognized as a good attractor. So I put one on and within a minute hooked into a large trout. So large it went straight down and pulled the tip of my rod, bowing down to a god of the river.

As a young boy a special summer included beach time.  The power of the waves, the crashing, the pulsing was mesmerizing.  After wearing out a couple canvas water mattresses and rubbing my chest raw, I began body surfing.  This learning, over and over, paddling hard, heading in and out of the surf lasted for hours. I learned to appreciate exhaustion as much as anything.

On a day with particularly large waves I paddled hard at the top of a particularly large wave; probably a good ten feet tall. With that hard paddling I caught the wave and slide down the face, scared to death and fully exhilarated.  Then the ‘roof’ fell in on me and I was somersaulting in the middle of a wave ‘storm’. I didn’t know where to go, where was up or where was down. I looked around which didn’t help. Remembering my shortage of air and my inability to gather more oxygen, I simply relaxed and let my life go. Within a few more seconds, which felt like minutes, my head was bobbing on the water’s surface and I saw the shore with people calming playing around.

The large trout hit the surface as I was winning the tug-of-war. His defense, his hope to shake out the hook in his lip, was continuous somersaulting.  As I pulled more quickly, to shorten the fight and keep the fish from becoming exhausted, the somersaulting created large splashing water; so powerful and unrecognizable to me until I thought of my somersaulting beach experience. Looking at the large trout in my fishing net gave me pause to collect myself and release the ‘hunt’ from my mind. After the initial flopping about in my net, after I pulled the caddis fly out of its jaw, the trout settled a bit and we both calmed down. The fish and I had a moment of connection, both with eyes and the passing of a bit of energy. I released him from the net, never touching him. The trout calmly collected itself at my side and then hurried off.  That night, sitting by a campfire, I listened to the river and the mesmerizing sounds of its power and current. With a bit more understanding I placed myself under the river, down with the bugs and the fish. What a wonderful home!

I swam back to shore after somersaulting out of my body surfing lesson.  Nature’s force impacted me, permanently.  With great respect and gratitude for nature’s kindness towards me, I laid down on my beach towel; shivered for a minute and then let the heat pull my spirit back into my body. The exhilaration faded and my day became just another day.