Everything in between

Is it the reason you're out there?
fly fishing small stream
Photo: Chad Shmukler

There is magic in between. The cadence of the cast, the poetic loop of the line, the soft landing of the leader, and the anxious anticipation of that one thing you think you can’t live without but always do. The sunlight bleeding through the trees, the aspen leaves telling jokes about the pines, and the white-throated sparrow singing the song that always makes you want to cry. The rotten smell of mud, the sour taste of wind, the warm embrace of the river, and the weight of another fool’s monkey—another fool’s circus—lifting from your shoulders.

In between, a mayfly gets eaten by a waxwing, a waxwing gets eaten by a hawk, and the clouds above see everything and nothing at once. A mink steals an egg, two otters trap a frog, and a dozen turtles warm their shells, toes, and tails on a log. A lone dragonfly paints the air, a doe’s ears light up like beacons, and an eagle spreads her wings and leaps from the dying branch of an ancient pine, trusting air the way a shaman trusts intuition.

The sun burns your nose, a mosquito bites your neck, a tick buries its head in your forearm, and mayflies emerge in the one style, size, and color you don’t have in your box. Still, these are disappointments, not appointments, and tangled lines are better than deadlines. Leaky waders are still waders, and that soggy ham and cheese sandwich in your pack tastes better than anything on the menu at Zingerman’s. At least out here, it does.

A grouse drums like an old tractor refusing to start no matter how hard the farmer tries. One rock, a small one, is freckled with bird poop—it’s pee, actually, but you missed that part in biology class. A log is littered with crawdad pinchers—the only parts the raccoon wouldn’t eat. Bears, wolves, gulls, squirrels, and deer make tracks in the sand. If the wolf tracks don’t show claws, it might be a cougar, and cougars don’t fight fair.

But in between is neither a time nor place for worry. It’s the time to smell woodsmoke and wintergreen, pine sap and eucalyptus, damp earth, death, decay, rotten wood, and the coming rain. It’s the place to watch tadpoles, minnows, ducklings, kits, pups, cubs, and hatchlings see their first stroke of light on a wash of black. It’s the place for you to find some light too.

Your line tightens, your rod bends, your heart beats faster, and the entire world is now a straight line from the last titanium guide to the stainless steel hook in the corner of that mysterious jaw. This must be the pièce de résistance, the magnum opus, the jewel in the crown, the point of the game. It’s the reason you’re here, right? Or is it for everything in between?


Beautifully written, Mr. Tim. Perceptive and imaginative at once. I will broaden my attention next time.

Awesome! T Schulz can flat out write! (You had me at "is freckled with bird poop")