Red maples, flowering dogwood and black cherries along the stream bank are the first to announce the chill of autumn. Bright red leaves appear nearest to the water and within days will engulf the entire crown like a flame. Yellows interspersed in the green leaves of beech, birch and tulip poplar begin to pop like sparks off a campfire. Sycamore leaves hold onto green the longest before turning into golden, dinner plate sized rafts edged with the bronze patina of inevitable winter. Their journeys down the river will be their last, but new buds are already beginning to continue the cycle. Each day is a new canvas with a new work of art. 

Standing in the river, pulling line from my reel, I take a deep breath. Through the damp air I noticed someone nearby had a wood fire burning. Soon there will be a fire in the fireplace and my wife will be sitting on her stool holding her clasped hands close to her chin. Football will be on the television, and we will be thinking ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas. A walnut falls into the stream sounding like a cannonball, startling me from my cozy memory.

It’s raining and cold, water drops off the brim of my hat and lands in my fly box, reminding me of the task at hand. There is plenty of time for fires later, an overcast and rainy fall day is prime for fishing. My excitement to rig up flies and feel a trout on the line is enough to keep me from worrying about my comfort.

Colors of Fall on a Rainy Day

Sediment laden runoff from the ongoing storm stains the water a brownish olive hue. The red leaves of a leaning red maple frame a riffle-run transition begging to be photographed as much as to be fished. Fishing in the fall has the added blessing of a museum quality landscape with each turn in the river. In an explosion of color, leaves abandon their chlorophyll engine of spring and summer to fall to the ground, lessening the burden of Winter’s snow and feeding roots for future growth.

Beneath the water, trout undergo their own metamorphosis. Decreases in daylight and temperature signal brown trout and brook trout to prepare for spawning. The physical change of their environment induces hormonal changes within their bodies. Male fish brighten skin colors in a display to rival the leaves above them. Bold colors mark increased fecundity to attract potential mates to further their line and species. 

Along the inner seam of the slowly moving water near the stream bank with the deeper flow of the run, my sighter hesitated, and I set the hook. A bright yellow flash interrupted the haze of the tinted water. The line moved upstream with the flash. Retrieving the line with clumsy hands, I was able to bring the energetic fish to the net. 

Relief at landing the fish is quickly overcome by admiration and appreciation. Brilliant, glistening yellows, reds, and blue over golden yellow and brown scales lit up my net. The colors of fall drew my eyes not to the leaves, but down to the stunning creature on the end of my line. For the fly angler, autumn not only brings artistry with each step, it brings stunning artistry with each tug of the line.

Keep mending… 

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