American 95
 
After taking H and N to the airport for a flight to Texas, I
pottered sleepily about the house for a while until I almost woke up.
Breakfasting, I ruminated over where I should go. The moon was
waning and half, so the tides wouldn't be favourable for striped bass
in the Delta. I was also reluctant to do battle with the motorboats
from my humble canoe. Folsom Lake is close and easy, but I didn't
want to fish in all the traffic noise off the dam road. Plumped for a
hike into one of the side canyons of the American river system, so
even if I didn't catch anything there would be the consolations of a
decent walk.

Drove first to work to submit some jobs to run, but all the data bases
were down. Off into the hills, where it grew steadily colder. Clear
sky and sun, the final few miles of steep windy road were lined by
snow. I was a little concerned by this, driving out on icy roads
without chains would not have been entertaining, but the skies were
quite clear. Besides, I was going fishing, I'd worry about getting
back later. Arrived in the tightly-knit little village of ? (can't
remember its name) which is where the road ended in a muddy
turning circle at the trailhead, surrounded by lots of unfriendly signs
saying 'NO PARKING AT ANY TIME'. Thank you, and welcome to
?. Parked on a little patch of grass where one of the signs had fallen
down, earning myself an icy glare from two local residents setting
off on their morning walk. Well, tough. Frozen mud and ice over the
first stretch of trail, some deer prints and some dog pawprints
embedded. A long view across the canyon, a mix of evergreen and a
few deciduous trees in colour, to the far white Sierra, where the real
mountains started. An occasional thrush in the trees, otherwise a
remarkable silence.

Hiked down and down and down. Found some bear scat, full of
berries and acorns, on the trail. It was hard to tell in the cold how
fresh it was, so I started talking to myself anyway, just to make sure
I didn't surprise anyone. Feel something foolish, babbling away to an
imaginary bear while hiking through a forest with a fishing rod.
Luckily I didn't meet anybody. Arrived at the river, El Dorado creek,
like a North Carolina tunnel stream, overhung by trees, vines and
bushes. The hope was that the creek was sufficiently negligible that
no-one else would have any interest in fishing it. The last few trips
I've done were fouled by other fishermen whose primary interest was
in getting something for the freezer, and other attitudes to match.
Followed the stream down for a mile or so, then turned to fish up.

The canyon runs north to south, so the sun was just beginning to
enter the gloom as I began fishing. Clear rills of water, very cold.
The fly bouncing down the riffles seemed improbable at best, but
made a pretty show. After an hour I arrived back at one of the
stream crossings, where dampness on the rocks from my previous
crossing had not yet dried out. No sign of a fish, though I had
expected to find a number of small eager troutlings. A downed log
was steaming in the pure light of the sun. Although it was afternoon
by now, the quality of the light was still that of morning. Found a
good campsite just above the stream crossing, though not quite far
enough from the trail for comfort.

The next pool started deep between two rock walls, one mossy
green, the other black stone. A dense roof of vegetation made
walking up to fish it like entering a dark room. In the shallows
below the deep water, a trout was moving, feeding on something too
small to see. I retied my leader, going down to 0.005", and tied on a
number 18 gnat. The fish in water so clear and shallow would be
very nervous, so a quiet presentation was needed. Usually I drop the
line on the water too heavily, or do everything right as best I can
tell, but still startle the fish; so I had no expectations. Thirty feet
away, the fly vanished as it lit onto the black water. I proceeded on
faith. As it drifted down the nose of the trout broke the surface near
where I thought the fly was. The fish was about 15" long, a pound
and a half, but very sluggish when hooked. After landing it, I
realised that the water was probably only in the high 30's, much too
cold for the small trout to be active. I climbed out of the stream and
walked back up to the trail.

The sunshine was retreating up the hill, so I pursued it until I found
a warm rock with a few minutes' light left to it. Sat quietly and ate
my lunch, the heel of a loaf of stale bread with some water. The
frugality of this was due to my laziness in preparing it. I'd rather fish
than eat, so I simply grabbed the first comestibles in sight as I left
the kitchen this morning. I saw the ground moving underneath the
grasses - closer investigation showed a carpet of orange ladybird
beetles crawling determinedly out into the light. It was still too
damp for them to fly, and the sun was going rapidly. I wondered
how many of them were going to survive the night. At least three of
them did, hiding away in my backpack to travel to the warmer
climes of Sacramento. When I opened my briefcase on Monday
morning, the third appeared, and I had to capture it and take it out of
the office, where there isn't much nourishment for man beast or
ladybird.

On the way up, a deer and I startled each other. I'd just passed the
bear scat (doobe doo), so when rustlings and crashes came out of the
thickets, the deer and I bolted in opposite directions, eyes wide and
staring in terror. This considerably reduced the time to walk out of
the canyon .