The miracle of water

Water is everything.
Without it, we don’t survive. Without pumping an entire river’s worth of it from hundreds of miles away, Southern Californians wouldn’t be hydrated enough to get to the store to buy gluten free and free range stuff.
Without water fish wouldn’t survive and then I’d figuratively perish before I literally did.
The water situation has been weird the last few summers thanks to a poor snowpack. Don’t worry, I’m not going on a global warming, El Niño or Fukushima rant, I’m going to be a lot less like a bioregionalism activist and more like the dude with a fishing rod who shows up to the river, sees the flow and says, “Huh, look at that.”
So a few years back I was fly fishing on a river I don’t want to ruin by naming, because it’s already pressured enough, and saw cutthroat trout taking flies on the surface. I tied on a No. 18 elk hair caddis and hooked a few cutthroats, then a 20-inch rainbow pushed its way through the crowd and took my fly. The water was so clear, I could clearly see the red stripe down its flank. I had one of those moments that was part, “Yes!” but mostly, “Oh man, please don’t lose it.”
I’ve fished that river since, but that little slot where all those cutthroats and that huge rainbow fed only gives up a fish or two at the most. Most of the time it doesn’t seem like there’s enough water to hold that many fish. I’ve analyzed the picture on my laptop a few times and decided I’ve fished it at comparable levels, but there’s a lot more that goes into catching, or not catching fish where you once did. Water drops and rises quickly. High water makes the river change course and can fill feeding slots with riverbed. Fish move. Fish die. People kill 14-inch trout for dinner or lunch. People kill trout and salmon smolt while trying to untangle barbed treble hooks on big lures meant for big salmon. People kill big, old salmon about to spawn, thwarting the miracle of the return days before completion…

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