If the trout died it would not be
as motionless as it is now,
in a current a man cannot
stand in and under which looser
stones go tumbling from their sockets.
Across its back it seems sunlight
is what’s swimming, and still the trout
is still, not the least fin flick or
tail motion, but a curve of meat
held in the river’s swift rushing.
Only then the skwala stonefly
drifts above it and, unbending,
the trout rises, drifting upward,
and slurps the fly from the surface,
then sinks back down to where it was,
resuming its stillness, too deep
for even the spring’s last eagles,
and believing, if it sees me
at all, that I must be no more
than a tree or a tree’s shadow.
I move, like all shadows, slowly,
almost imperceptibly, east,
on such an afternoon as this,
when the river has lost its ice
and the first fat terrestrials
have hatched, so that fish might again
feed, after the long dark winter.
And this is how it is I am—
moving more slowly than I can—
in perfect position to cast
my feathery simulacrum
of the sort of bug just eaten,
that it might drift on the current
exactly as the real thing had
moments or even years ago,
I made my way to where I am,
and concentrated, and did not
give myself away, but waited,
just as I am waiting right now.
For the fierceness of the long fight,
run and reclaim, leap and tail walk,
patience and deep concentration;
the netting and admiration,
gratitude, and the quick release;
a gentle holding of the trout
in the wash of a hard current,
as it recovers and bolts off.
Forgive me, we are not there yet.
Even now the fly in its drift
has not yet entered the trout’s ken.
It is moving as shadows move.
Its motion is planetary.
This day’s same sun will set and rise
a million times or more before
what is is permitted to be.
The river glideth, you might say,
at his own sweet will, as does time,
which I am in charge of just now,
as otherwise I never am.