tracks

there are no cars in the parking lot and no tracks in the snow. when i stand still i can hear the snow flakes filtering through the trees. the river is the only sound i hear all day.

i wade cautiously. a few recent falls and wader shots have me thinking about the air temp, the long walk out and the destroyed iphones that litter my past.

under a sky as grey as a whetstone, the day feels monochromatic. the only bits of color are in my flies and the sluggish brown trout that eat them.

when the weather is at it's worst i find some midges circling in a back eddy and catch an unexpected rise out of the corner of my eye. i warm my hands on the back of my neck and slowly rebuild my leader.

with numb fingers i chip the ice from my guides and redress my small emerger after every fish. for an hour the snow is sideways and it collects in my beard. i keep telling myself to wade to the bank and stomp around so i can feel my feet again but another fish rises and i choose the less logical option.

eventually what little light there has been, starts to fade and i think about a warm house and a decent meal. i finally call it. on the long walk out i painfully regain feeling in my feet and look for grouse tracks but only find one set of footprints on the trail. they are my own.

they are tracks left by a fisherman with low expectations but still hopeful for the day ahead. someone who is ready to exchange the wind and the cold or a few hours of quiet solitude and for time to stop thinking about a year that has not gone the way he planned. i wish i could tell him about the rising fish he'll find. i wish i could tell him there is nothing to do but take things one step at a time.

but then i look at the tracks he has left, one in front of the other, and realizes that he already knows.