You can see it in your mind’s eye: the dew-dampened earth, the ferny forest floor, the cries of the crows, and the sharp taps of the woodpeckers making their late summer rounds.
Our native fall wildflowers peeping from unlikely places—in deserted railway beds, in the creases of unkempt walkways, or along woodland paths and trails, shrouded in dense undergrowth, growing out of rotted, hollow logs and stumps, bedded behind rocks.
Turtles dozing in the sun, watching the world drift by.
Wind-rippled waters, a world of blue and green under a cottony canopy.
Fish flashing their silver sides near the gray-black banks: smallmouth, largemouth, perch, or an occasional trout.
Few areas can equal Southern West Virginia for fishing variety this time of year.
Name your favorite stream or lake, and it’s probably swimming around somewhere within a sensible driving distance.
The availability of waters is almost beyond measure.
From the rugged mountain streams, where anglers toss their flies for trout, to the scenic lakes where fishermen pursue musky and striped bass—it’s all there, waiting.
From sleepy farm ponds to raging whitewater, from brooks enclosed by walls of hardwoods, with a scattering of pines, to the meandering creeks and murmuring eddies, quaint and curious, where woods stop at the water’s edge—all are waiting to be explored by the adventurous soul, all waiting for life’s gentle footfall.
Fishing is not competition; not stuffing a creel, live-well or stringer.
It’s much more: a warbler’s hymn, swallow wings whirring, the warmth of the sun, flowers nodding in a caressing wind, the quivering tug of an inquisitive perch, the swirl of a walleye, or the slam of a hungry bass.
Worm fishing can be counted on to produce results when nothing else works, but there is a price: digging in horse manure and loamy earth to uncover the fat, sassy baits before impaling them on a hook.
Somehow, no matter how much you scrub afterwards, there remains a barnyard perfume that lingers amid the seasonal aroma of fried chicken and apple pie.
While cleaning out some debris from my desk—old banquet menus, score cards for baseball games, old hunting and fishing licenses, defunct lottery tickets, overdue library notices and obituary clippings—I came across a letter from an elderly fisherman who has lived by the New River and abided by his rules for decades.
He wrote last autumn to offer his observations on the weather: by his reckoning, we’d have a cold, snowy winter, and a mild spring. Later, he sent me a follow-up note saying we were in for a wet summer.
I will not elaborate on details but must admit he’s been right so far.
Later, friends call and invite me to an outing.
My fly rod reclines across my oak desk; the leader is broken off, the line tangled, feathery lures scattered.
I decline the offer, accepting the penalty for lack of preparation—some other time, perhaps.
Meanwhile, a typical day…the words are flowing; where was I?
Bird song and blue skies by the riverbank.
Waters are dark and alive behind every rock and log.
The crisp fresh aroma of fish frying, the laughter, and the warming sunshine merging in the making of the season’s fleeting magic—all waiting for life’s gentle footfall.
Top o’ the morning!