The rest of the stumble downhill and into camp is lost to a haze of painful complaining feet and sore tired screaming legs, but I am positive that I made it … … and the good news was that I lived to tell about it afterwards. We took a little while and let our bodies recuperate, which to an old man like me means I took a nap. I still say taking a nap is one of life’s greatest luxuries and should never be taken lightly. I mean how often do most of us get a chance to just relax and let our mind doze, not even pushing to fall into a deep sleep but just letting yourself drift off to a contented doze with the sound of the thundering waterfall right outside your tent. I stayed in that hyper-suspended state of rest until the twitching of my casting arm got so bad it woke me from my nap and demanded that I make some fishing occur … … and screamed that I should be pretty d**n quick about it as well.
There was a nice little stream that joined the main body of the river running right through camp. I do love little streams so if figured this would be the perfect little starter stream for our late afternoon fishing sojourn. I hadn’t been able to find any fishing reports about this little stream or even the big river in this part of the national park for that matter, and to be honest I wasn’t sure how much fishing success we were going to have as this area was famous for scenery and hiking but I hadn’t found much press about the fishing. But lack of press isn’t always a bad thing in the fishing department is it, so I just rigged up with a typical fishermen’s optimism and a natural skeptic’s sense of detachment. The two half’s of my personality warred against each other right until I felt the cold bite of my first wet wading step into a late September trout stream at over 8200 feet in the high sierras. At which point the extra pound or two the waders would have added to the pack started to seem like it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. I had a royal stimulator and a small gray soft hackle dropper tied on, almost more out of instinct than as a specific well thought out fishing game plan. I flipped my first cast down a seam that ran under a series of brush, and was rewarded with a dark shape of reasonable size rising from the crystal green depths to slash at my dry. I missed him of course just as I miss nearly every first strike I get on a fishing trip. It is almost a warm up ritual with me. But I laughed to myself when I turned around and realized I could still see the front door of the tent and had already had a strike. 4 or 5 minutes of fishing later, and the skunk was banished back to Georgia and this pretty little jewel was lying in my hand bringing a natural chill to my palm and soothing balm to my fisherman’s soul.
And in quick succession I caught I half dozen of his friends and relatives, each one seemingly more beautiful than the last. My mind struggled to capture the beauty of each of these and to give them their due space in the mix of beautiful fish and beautiful places that my travels have taken me. I smiled when I remembered my worries about not finding fish in these waters and laughed right out loud when I remembered my worries that I wouldn’t be able to catch one. Here were ten or so in the first thirty minutes of fishing… …. Just like these.
Including one of these which as strange as it seems to be to a southern Appalachian brookie lover like me …….. are the true native of this stream …… and the brookies are transplants.
The little stream was as pretty as the fish that it held and I never could make up my mind which I was more impressed with … … the fish or the scenery.
The rest of the afternoon was the height of luxury for a small stream fisherman. Peacefully tag teaming the stream with a good friend, playing hop scotch over holes and trading off after each fish … … many times that meant trading fishing control after every cast. It is always a pleasure to see a good fisherman work but this type fishing was so relaxing and peaceful that I really didn’t even focus on him or what he was doing I just flipped my casts where I wanted them and reacted to strikes when they came, which was so often that I smiled and laughed at the misses just like the hookups… … it was truly a no pressure fishing afternoon. We fished till we got tired and then stopped to rest for a while and let the other one fish on alone for a few minutes then caught up traded places and did it some more. I spent enchanted minutes watching Bernard working a hole only to look up minutes later and find his watchful eyes observing me while I fished yet another hole. How long or how far we fished I had no clue. I wasn’t conscious of the passing of time or even of the existence of those same personal problems that had been the bane of my existence for the last few months. I just fished … … and for once the fishing was much more important than the catching, probably because today the catching was the easy part and that made the fishing “the art”. Casts rolled smoothly and the world was at peace. And for the rest of the afternoon I felt that peace deep in my soul and even more importantly deep in my brain, which meant that my brain shut off for a while and just let me be… … like my afternoon nap … tranquil and restful … … wrapped like a warm blanket in the beauty of the high sierras. It was still the first afternoon of our trip and I had reached that rare balanced state of nirvana when the catching is great, the fishing is just an extension of my soul and the scenery and the moment is the sole purpose of my existence.
I was where I wanted to be in the exact state of mind that I had been dreaming about for months ….I had arrived at my mental destination the very first afternoon, when it normally takes a few days to find the rhythm and the soul of a place… …. But Yosemite and I have always been close and I slipped into the skin of the place as comfortably as slipping into my old camp moccasins and it felt just as good. I didn’t think I could feel any more relaxed at peace and wonderful than I did as we strolled contentedly back to camp … … …. That is until I realized that I still had two full days to fish and one gorgeous day to hike out left in this adventure… … but I will save that part of the story until next time.