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       The Fisher, p.1

           William Danagger
 
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The Fisher
The Fisher

  By William Danagger

  Copyright 2011 by William Danagger

  The Fisher

  He was still young in his own mind. Some thought of him as old, that his best days had already passed. He was 32.

  He awoke early on the June day. The room illuminated by a warm orange light as the rising sun penetrated the glass of his windows. The man perched himself up on one elbow as he still lay in his bed. He looked out the window to the East and saw the sun rising over the green mountain that appeared dark, silhouetted by the rising orange sphere. His head throbbed, and he reached beside him for an absent glass of water on the table. He groaned and fell back into his pillow.

  “Too much whiskey last night.” He thought to himself.

  He lay there for five more minutes building up the motivation to retrieve that glass of water. The man figured he should do it soon to help the headache subside. The walls of the room were painted an off-white and the ceiling was exposed wood. One picture hung on the walls of the bedroom. It was a reproduction of a Van Gogh painting of fishing boats on a beach. Pulling the covers back, he swung his feet over the edge of the bed. The wood floors were cold on his bare feet. He stumbled his way toward the compact kitchen. It was only ten paces from his bed to the kitchen sink in the small one bedroom cabin. As he took his first gulp of water to quench his parched mouth he looked out the window. Rubbing the stubble on his face, he thought what the day would bring.

  “Looks like it'll be a beauty.” He thought to himself. “Sun risin' and not a cloud in the sky. Suppose I should get the fishin' gear ready.”

  He returned to his bedroom; his gait a little steadier now. He pulled on his thick khaki pants that he had worn the previous two days and buttoned a dark green button-down shirt. The man regarded himself in the mirror and tried to tame his thick brown hair with his hands. His head still throbbed from the drinking last night, but he knew some fresh mountain air would fix that in a matter of minutes.

  He collected his fishing gear; the box of tackle, his waders, and his fly rod and reel. He closed the door to his cabin and threw all of the gear into the back of his decaying 1992 Toyota pickup truck. Dew covered the truck in the cool morning. To the passing observer, the truck looked doubtful that it would run with any consistency, but it had never let him down. He went back into the cabin and made a sandwich for lunch and filled a bottle of water. The fisherman got a cooler and filled it with ice; he was planning to bring a fish home tonight.

  The truck reluctantly rumbled to a start. He depressed the clutch and shifted the vehicle into reverse. It was 7:28 AM, and he was off to go fishing.

  He drove down the washboard infested dirt road that ran from his cabin toward the town. The cabin was 15 miles up the dirt road from the little town of Empire in the Colorado mountains. He made a right turn four miles from his cabin onto a rough road. Lining the road and densely covering the mountain slopes were Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir trees. The trees, combined with the surrounding mountains, left the road in shadows in the early morning. Occasionally, the road would be blessed with an uninterrupted ray of sunlight. He drove with the windows down, and the cool morning air awoke him as he drove. He took in deep breaths of the fresh mountain air. It had rained last night. If you have smelled a pine forest after a rain, you know it is the freshest scent on this Earth. There was a creek that ran next to the little road. It was a small creek, only a foot or two across, though it often overflowed during a rain storm. The creek would wind close to the road and then would retreat back into the shelter of the trees and would appear again as it meandered its way down the slope.

  The road evolved from a rough dirt road to a trail populated by large rocks and protruding tree roots. The road at this point forward was only passable by four-wheel drive vehicles with substantial ground clearance. His truck had the mandatory characteristics to pass on this road, and he had done it many times before. He rumbled along the road, slowly ascending as the truck climbed up the incline towards the top of the ridge.

  When he reached the top of the ridge, he pulled the truck over to the side of the trail and engaged the parking brake. He stepped out of the vehicle and stood in the middle of the trail, taking in the view as he did every time he traveled this trail. He looked back down the valley he had come up. Pine trees lined the sides of the mountains. At the end of the valley he could make out a few buildings from the town, miles away. He looked out over the other side of the ridge. The ridge descended down to a meadow below. Mountains rose on the other side of the meadow. The mountains reached high into the mountain air. The summits of the mountains were barren of trees as the elevation was too high for them to survive. A stream ran through the meadow below, his destination.

  As he walked back to the truck he saw his reflection in the driver side window. The man was a naturally handsome man. He had dark brown hair and brown stubble grew on his face. He had blue eyes and skin that had been tanned from much time outdoors under the sun's rays.

  He got back in the truck, shifted it into first gear, and continued along the off-road trail. He was descending now, down the other side of the ridge. Trees still occupied both sides of the trail, but more light penetrated through the foliage as the sun was higher in the sky. He stayed on the trail ten more minutes until it opened into the broad meadow. The meadow was a dark, lush, green in the morning light. A stream cut through the middle of the meadow. The stream was 18 feet wide at its widest and never deeper than three feet. Grass that would come up past his knees filled the remainder of the meadow. The grass danced and swayed in the light breeze. He parked his truck at the edge of the clearing, under the shade of the last trees before they gave way to the grass. He turned off the engine, closed his eyes, and listened for a moment. He heard the cool rushing of the stream, the sound of the light breeze rustling the pine-needles and grass, and the song of a half-dozen birds.

  He grabbed his fishing equipment from the back of the pick-up truck. He took his shoes off and put the hip waders on over his khaki pants. From where he stood at the edge of the clearing, the stream flowed from his right to his left. As he looked down the meadow to his right he could see the treeless, barren, snow covered mountains that rose 20 miles off in the distance. The peaks of the mountains were 14,000 feet above sea level. He figured the meadow was at about 10,000 feet in elevation. A cool breeze descended from the high peaks.

  With his rod in hand he walked off toward the stream. Once at the stream's edge, he slowly walked into the stream and stopped about six feet from the edge of the stream. The water came up to his mid-calf. This was his favorite part of the day. As the fisherman stepped into the water, he could feel the cool refreshing water rush along his legs. The water was ice cold as it had existed as snow and ice only a few hours before. “Only in a high mountain stream;” he thought to himself.

  He made some casts downstream from where he stood. The familiar flex of the fly rod in his hand as he cast brought a slight smile to his face. He loved this spot to fish. Few other people knew of it; generally it was unoccupied as it was today.

  He hooked his first fish as the sun was ascending high over the mountains. He figured it was about 10:30 AM. It was a small cutthroat trout. He examined the fish and figured it was too small. He removed the hook and slowly reemerged the fish into the stream. The fish swam away in the cold water. Today he was looking for a fish to bring home for dinner.

  As the sun rose higher in the sky it began to get hotter. He knew the fish didn't bite much in the heat of the day. Reeling in his line, he made his way to the bank of the stream. He walked back to his truck and set his rod in the back and removed his waders. The man gathered the sandwich, that he had made that mor
ning, and the bottle of water from the truck. He found a spot in the shade of the trees to sit. After a minute, he began to get up to get a beer from the six that sat in the cab of his truck but decided he didn't need it. The water was good.

  He stood up and retrieved a jacket from the cab of his truck. He found a spot to lay down in the shade of the trees; the ground was covered with pine-straw and grass. He rolled up his jacket as a pillow and lay on his back. He looked up. His view of the clear blue sky and the few meandering clouds was partially obstructed by the branches filled with pine-needles. He closed his eyes and could hear the stream in the distance. He fell asleep with thoughts of his fly rod flexing in his hand as he cast and dreamed of the fish in the stream.

  He awoke as a cool breeze rustled the trees around him. The sun was setting in the West, and he figured it must be 4 or 5 PM. He never carried a watch or cell phone when he went fishing. It had cooled enough that the fish were likely biting again. He put his waders back on and got his fly rod. He waded into the stream and cast downstream 20 feet from where he stood.

  After 10 minutes his line
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