I pulled into Red Quill after dark. When I stepped out of the car I stretch my hands to the sky arching my back and almost immediately a great horned owl hooted, greeting me to camp. The stars were bright, but not piercing the way they are in winter, and the air was laced with the smell of melted snow and spring. Even though I was tired adrenaline coursed through my limbs and the Great Horned Owl kept me company as I assembled my fly rod on the porch before bed.
A little after 5 am, as soon as it was light, I walked to the Rangeley River with my rod in hand. I wasn’t sure if it would be crowded or not and wanted to get a good spot at my favorite pool. I discovered it was not crowded— in fact it was completely empty— perhaps because it was 33 degrees, or perhaps because the river was really still too high and swift for good fishing. My line bristled with ice crystals as I stripped it in, but I was happy to be on the river again watching the morning light creep around the bend and illuminate the mist rising off the dark riffles of the river. I cast, getting the kinks out of my arm. My body became still and I became part of the landscape, melting into the space between the river and the shore as my line looped back and forth in the air. Fishing isn’t just about catching fish. It is about being outside, being still, and being present for the magic of the mist rising off the water, sharing the river’s edge with a moose, and feeling your line loop through the air overhead.
(By mid-morning the small ice-crystals on my line had melted and by mid-afternoon it was a balmy 70 degrees. For all you fishermen the Magalloway and the Rapid River are good right now and green caddis flies have brought me luck.)