Saturday, August 13, 2011
The Anglers Year- August
July fooled you, you thought it was going to last forever. August continues the ruse, for a week. Then it dawns on you- it's August. What have I been doing? I had so many plans. Rivers to fish and paddle, new lakes to try out, camping and hiking trips, or even the great American Road Trip. But somehow the work, and the graduation parties for kids you hardly know, the weddings of friends you fear for, and a couple of family barbecues have sidetracked you, and now it's August.
So you panic. You go back over your list of must-do's and prioritize. You haven't gone on that kayak trip, or driven to that distant river, you haven't fished for a new species. You set some new priorities- to eat a s'more, to go to the beach, to go to an ice cream stand at dusk, to sleep outside in the yard and watch the meteors. To eat a hot dog you've roasted on a stick. Because August, with all it's subtle charm, is telling you something. It says that all good things must end, that this impossible dream that is summer is mortal, that the light and heat and balm can't continue, that frost will return. You will be cold soon.
Change does indeed occur in August. First it's the little things- You notice all the Queen Anne's Lace in bloom along the roadside. You notice that the corn in the store is local. Then you notice all the "corn for sale" signs along the roadside, lettered in hand-written scrawl.
About ten days in you see it, stark, grim, beautiful- that first harbinger. A limb of scarlet leaves, saying "it's not forever". That this whole world of green and blue and warm won't last. The frost is coming. You try to ignore it, you go to the beach, you pick a summer novel to read, you start wearing different clothes, clothes that say summer (desperate). That first front just blew through, here in Trout Country, and you're forced to acknowledge it, to wear a sweatshirt in the morning. August is the month of subtle change. The air, the grass, is sallow, they take on a barely perceptible patina. The clouds change, and you realize that somewhere up there in the atmosphere, there is snow. I love August, for it reminds me of all that is precious in life- green, blue, the brevity of life and the preciousness of loving something, even if it's just a chocolate swirl single soft-serve cone, the laughter of children as they play in the surf, good conversation with a friend on the front porch, in the dark, reflecting on your lives. The geese are doing test flights, teaching this years brood how to fly in formation. Young robins, spotted and awkward, hop around the yard learning to forage. The hummingbirds get aggressive, for soon they must make one of the most astounding migrations on earth. They always leave my house on September 9 and I mourn just a little.
Oh, right, this is a fly fishing blog. I never stop. Hoppers are hot. The night game continues. But there is a tension to August, as if something is about to tear loose. The water is low, the water temp is high and you wait for something to break. There are several things I do in August. I hopper fish, usually on the Manistee. I troll for salmon on Lake Michigan- I make this killer salmon jerky that is to die for, and it's worth laying down my fly rods to experience the big water. I try something or go someplace new. I try to savor this flavor that is August, an ice cream combo that is both Blue Moon and Superman, Tres Leches and French Vanilla. August is a warning, but not serious, a slap on your wrist. Those big browns and chinook salmon are moving in, and the steelhead aren't far behind. Is your gear ready? Got Streamers? Can you strip-set?
August- I roll that word around in my head, and it reeks of old, age, wise, and yet I can't shake this feeling of it being youth revealed for it's fraudulence, a temporary stop in our migration, that the things we learn here will continue with us when the leaves are gone, and the bite get's tough, and we look back to this day when all was pleasant, when the riparian flowers were in full splendor, and you could streamer fish in water shoes and a T-shirt. If you understand that line you're a fly angler.
So join me- let's celebrate this August. Go to the beach, take a trip, learn to double-haul. Eat a soft-serve chocolate twist ice cream cone. Make it a double. Go on, enjoy August. It is fully as brief as the other months.