The Battle

by Marcus Rodriguez

Johnny and I made our way upstream from the rusty steel bridge. The river was flowing strongly and we hopped from boulder to boulder to cobble to boulder. We moved swiftly, not talking, but concentrating heavily on our footsteps. One bad step could lead to a twisted ankle or at least a dip in the river. It was as if we were in a race with the oncoming night. Our goal was to make it to one of several rock gardens and fish little channels of the braided river. In this particular section of the river, there are hundreds of separate little streams. These little streams are boulder strewn, fresh, clear, and full of bass and bream. One could consider this type of fishing as extreme hiking and extreme angling. For the most part, the fish do not get too big as many of the small freshets are not big enough to support a large bass, but occasionally one will happen upon a large bass feeding in a deeper pool. Many times, I have been deer-like and able to make a delicate presentation to one of these fish. There is nothing like hopping onto a boulder, and peeking over bunch grass to see a bass sitting in a seam of water, waiting for a morsel of food to tumble from a rapid.

There is a magic time. It is a time when the day is equally split with the night. One can witness this, simply by looking up at the sky. The magic happens two times a day. This magic is the time, when crickets start to chirp, mockingbirds sing, deer come out into clearings, and fish move into the shallows. It is a time when sound culminates, each sound blending into another, rapids roaring, crickets buzzing, and the click of the fly reel. The sounds, if you stop to listen to them are deafening, but if not paying attention the sounds can go unnoticed like a whisper. The deafening sounds where shattered by silence when I made my cast to a small Guadalupe Bass, waiting just out of the current, behind the large stone.

To the west and behind me, the sun was going down. To the east and slightly downstream, the night marched on to overtake the day. Sunlight stabbed into the night from the west. Night and day struggled and battled above me. The battle raged in shades of dark blue and stripes of pink, yellow and red. The night was winning, pushing the day westward. In the peaceful eastern distance stars sparkled in the early evening.

My first cast at the Guadalupe Bass was short. The bass did not see the fly and I picked line up for another cast. My soul started to shiver. The fly landed and the bass turned, somehow knowing that the disturbance in the water meant a meal was at hand. I made a small strip and the fly pulsed lightly. The bass swam slowly to the fly and stopped. My soul continued to shiver, and I knew that the only remedy would be a bent rod and wet hands afterwards. I made another strip and the bass inhaled the fly. I set the hook lightly, the light rod bent under the weight of the small fish. As the battle raged in the sky above me, I battled with the small fish. I lifted the rod high and swung it back to the left, to keep the fish from diving under a small root filled cut bank. We both fought each other. The fish fought for his life and I fought to save my soul.

Johnny, seeing my rod held high, ran towards me. Somehow, during my battle I saw him coming. He ran boulder to boulder to cobble to boulder. When he walked up to me, I had already won the battle. In the span of a minute the fish and I attacked, counter attacked, parried and lunged. In the end, I was the luckier of the two. I lifted the fish from the warm amniotic water. They fly fell out of the fish's mouth as soon as some slack played into the line. I turned to Johnny to show him the fish. The battle in the sky raged on, though the night had pushed the day farther westward. The crickets and the river roared.

"That is a nice Guadalupe!" Johnny said, his words added more noise to the magic evening. "Did he fight well?"

"Johnny," I said looking down at the fish. "It was a battle of epic proportions."

I put the fish back in the water and let it slide from my wet hands.

Note: Marcus Rodriguez is a club member and one of the "Guides of Texas"

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