Soft early morning light filtering through the trees that crowd the river bank. Down river, and up, not a soul in sight, it's just you and the river. Current flowing gently around your legs, like a caress.
Almost silent, only birds chirping up there in the canopy. A lone hawk circling way down river. River smells, mixture of fertile banks wetted by the river, the live smell of the water, nature's best perfume. A fish jumps somewhere, you hear the splash but don't see it.
Water so clear you see the rocks on the bottom, there's a soft swirl of light sediment trailing downstream from your feet.. Tiny flashes of silver catch your eye, a school of tiny minnows dart around your ankles, realize you're not a tree and take off faster than light, seeming to leave their flashes behind for a second.
Up ahead, under a low hanging tree limb you see a big bump come up in the water, a quick silent swirl, then calm surface again. From the size of the bump you know it's a big one. Strip the line and begin false casting, back and forth, a little more line each time. When the line starts to get far enough out you lower your casting arm almost parallel with the water, this has to be a side arm cast to get below the limb.
Back and forth, the line gently slicing the air. You feel it, the timing and the distance are right, you let the line float and settle. The dry fly lands exactly where the bump was and it's a damn good feeling. Now it's just you and the river, and you and the fish. There are no thoughts now, your mind has become completely quiet. The fly sits on top of the water and you wait. The current begins dragging your line down stream, about to start pulling your fly with it, so you mend it, causing the fly to twitch just a tiny bit.
The twitch signals something primordial in the fish that it can not resist. It rises up and sucks the fly in. All you see is a tiny swirl and the fly disappearing. Rearing back on the rod you set the hook and immediately feel the strength and weight of the fish. It heads deep, there may be roots down there, you pull up and over to get him moving out into the channel.
He surges quickly down river, pulling like a freight train, swimming with the current. You lean the rod over and down and head him out further away from the bank. He fights, using the current to triple his strength, pulling first right, then left. Heavy fish. Full of grit and not giving up an inch. He pulls off twenty feet of line, smoking the reel's drag breifly.
Then, the drag doing it's work, he tires just a bit and instead of pulling more, he drives right at you. Your line goes almost slack and a small wedge of fear rises up in the back of your mind. Can't let the line go slack, you strip and pump furiously. He comes right at you fast as a racehorse. You strip harder, faster and keep some tension on the line. Your rod tip comes up and the fish comes up with it, launching out of the water like a missle.
The full length of him is out of the water, he's shaking his head and tail dancing on the surface, water droplets flying like crystals around him. God he's gorgeous! You begin laughing out loud, in pure pleasure at this fundamental sight, a treat too rare but all the more valuable for it. You don't even realize your laughing, it comes from somewhere deep inside yourself, came up unbidden and uninhibited. Joy of life expressing itself.
The fish drops back into the water with a splash and tries to fight on, but his strength is waning, his fight is fading. Now you pull him in as fast as you can, no need to exhaust him just for the pleasure of extending the thrill. You've got the meat of the pleasure from him already, now it's time to send him back home.
Reaching down you pick him up and hold him out so that you can see the full measure of his size, feel his weight. He's a big one, a once a year fish. After only a second of admiration, you place him back in the water, gently holding him upright as he catches his breath. He sits in your hand stunned for several seconds, then a slow twitch moves from his head down to his tail. Suddenly he surges out of your hand disappeaing down the river, blending in perfectly with the color of the river bed, heading home to rest up, to live and breed and provide the river with more of his kind.
You could go home now, you know you're not going to do better this day, but you don't go home. You wade down the river, casting into likely places. You enjoyed the big fish, but it's not what you are there for. This is no tropy hunt, no bragging rights search. This is you and the river, you and the fish, you and the best part of yourself becoming reacquainted, that's why you fish, and the conversation isn't over yet.