Essay by Dennis Coppock
“God loves a man that smells of trout water and mountain meadows.”Harry Middleton
The word itself is music, it quickens the pulse, brings memories long forgotten and left to the dust of time to the forefront of the mind to be lived again, over and over. It feeds our soul during the times when we can not be in the places they call home, the streams and rivers, mountains and canyons, aspen groves and flower blanketed meadows.
It conjures up images of high country tarns glistening under a false dawn, the horizon glowing faintly with the promise of a new day, of streams born from snow melt, tiny rivulets seeping from every pore of the fragile alpine tundra, coming together with other tiny rivulets to form that life giving water that trout require to survive. These waters are small but the trout are here, often times unmolested, unfished except by the rare intrepid individual who is willing to go the extra mile or five for the sake of solitude, regardless the size of the fish. Absorb these places through every pore, through every sense until you are unable to tell where you stop and the mountains start, absorbed by the wild.
All trout have spots, from the sun dog looking fiery orange of German browns to the delicate red and pastel colored spots of the misnamed brook trout, dark oblong flakes on heavily spotted cutthroats give way to the liquid like rainbow hues of the aptly named rainbow trout. But there are other types of spots also, spots of time where perhaps a certain fish stands out in your minds eye, held hostage in your thoughts for you to relive over and over when the need for solace arises when life’s challenges are proving to much to bear.
There are also spots held close to the heart, those places where you can go back to, time and again, and be renewed, where your soul is filled and your mind is put at ease, the gentle sounds of water flowing over the dark stones like the voice of a river Naiad speaking a language, that while unknown and unintelligible brings comfort and joy.
Yet another type of spot, one spoken of to other anglers in hushed, secretive tones while sitting around a campfire, a map hastily sketched in the dirt, committed to memory and then smudged out, are about places that are nearly ethereal in nature, almost to wonderful to be real and to few in number to support much pressure so the handful of people that know it only reveal its presence to those deemed worthy of such a gift.
Many places I go in search of trout are far down in the canyons, great fissures in the earth leftover from the beginning of time, flowing with the life giving liquid that not only sustains me physically but also mentally, for without it there would be no trout and without trout there would be no me, for I am of them and they are of me. When I go for a time without going into these canyons, into my secret places I can feel the loss, feel the loneliness, others around me can also sense it because it affects my moods and mental well being.
These places have something that is so hard to find in today’s world so full of noise and that is quiet, fathomless and incorruptible. There’s magic here also, deep magic from when the world was new that can be felt best on those still nights when the earths breath is nothing more than a whisper through the aspen leaves, the animals are quiet and the only thing howling is the moon as it silently slides across the night sky.
It’s a requirement of trout, they need it to survive, to thrive and it’s getting harder to find in this modernized world so full of gadgets, smart this and smart that, the growing sprawl of humanity that must happen to support the ever expanding human population. Truly wild fish are pushed to the fringes, away from the toxicity of modern man so it gets harder to find them, harder to find native trout on the waters we fish, harder to find solitude with the ever increasing crush of civilization.
All trout, in their native ranges are relics, remnants whose lineage traces back to the time of sabers, when glaciers covered the land and mankind lived in caves and left their stories on the walls as a silent testament for the following generations. It’s this wildness that draws me to these places. You can see a bygone era in a cutthroat’s eyes, reflections of millennia long past are visible on the flank of a brown trout, rainbows remind me of a great flood that covered the whole earth and the promise that there will never be another, brookies with their intricately vermiculated backs weave a map of the ages and hopefully of the future.
When one is hooked and finally brought to hand, I admire it quickly and let it go, the water that lands on my face from its splashing tail feels as though I’ve just been baptized, baptized by trout, baptized into the wildness, and as it slips back into its home, it’s memory is already locked away waiting for the moment when I pull it out again, waiting for the time when I need to surrender to solitude…
Dennis Coppock lives and fishes in the Rockies of Colorado. His idea of nirvana is a cutthroat filled stream at 11,000 feet with no one else around.
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