Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Right as rain

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By Dave Ammons

It was going to be a wet one. In the days prior to my trip up the canyon the forecast promised showers over the weekend, although I was hoping for the intermittent variety. Nope. Steady rain Friday through Sunday. But sometimes the best moments happen when one simply allows the conditions to unfold as they should. There is a lot of zen to be found in the rain.

I wanted to try a new stretch on the river, where the water bifurcates around an island big enough to be anchored by small cottonwoods and willows, with one small rill running down the middle. From the near shore where I stood surveying the water, trying to decipher the difference between raindrops hitting the water and a possible rise, I spotted what could only have been the swirl of a trout sipping from the surface in the middle of the rill.

To cast to that spot would be impossible, but I relished the challenge of drifting an imitation over his nose. Branches and scrubby brush allowed a shoulder-wide opening so I’d have to nestle against a bank pocked with river rock to be able to extend my hand, arm and rod as one, where a wrist flip could allow the drift of the fly to begin far enough upstream to not spook the fish. Slowly, I began to cross the first stretch of knee deep current towards the base of the island.

I stopped mid-stream not to find my footing but because I became aware of something. There was a lot of noise. It wasn’t the volume so much as the variety of sounds from different pieces of the day—rushing water, soft winds, showering skies and low rumbles of thunder—all fused together into a muffled vibration of white noise. The rain was steady, dropping hard against the canyon’s granite walls, sheening the sheer cliffs. Rainwater formed a veil across my face, pelting the hood of my rain jacket pulled tight over the bill of my cap. I remained motionless, absorbing the frequencies. If someone at that moment had happened upon me standing still in that river at that time in that storm, they would think me daft. And that thought pleased me to no end.

The rash of rain was not a deterrence. I was dry and warm and willing to burrow against the river’s bank waterproofed in waders and Gore-Tex, warmed by base layer and buff. Daft, indeed! When others were hunkered down and sheltering in place until the storm passed I was there brazenly content in a wilderness steeped in sizzling downpours. I was doused in the unwarranted favor of old-growth forests and primitive waters clouded by a misty, moisty fog. Refocusing on the approach, I moved once again.

To have a chance for that fish to take the Rusty Spinner pattern I had tied on, there was only one possible position. As I lay down against earth and moss and water the world downstream had vanished in vapor and time. I was lying prone, wading boots submerged in the edge of the main channel, favoring my left side along the slope so my casting arm was free. Holding my rod tip upstream I held close quarters with the elements, my face mere inches from the water’s surface, the rain back-splashing and falling up into my grizzled chin. I lifted the rod, flicked the leader and held the tip high to keep a natural drift, not entirely certain where the fly was floating among the plops of rain. I love finding these small treasures. I love the brief moments that suspend time. I could have stayed there all day and night through a relentless rain.

The fish took my fly on the third drift.

Dave Ammons is a TU volunteer and a member of the Zane Grey Chapter in Arizona.

By Chris Hunt.