The stream is small, low, and clear as gin. It's home to resident wild browns and the occasional large stocker leftover from the spring. In narrow shoots they are easily visible along a bed of gravel. They weave side to side and up and down picking off minuscule midges all year round thanks to the rich limestone bedrock. All efforts are shunned except for those offered by sight and left free of weight & indicator. My preferred game to play.
The air is crisp & bitingly cold. Temperatures are in the teens and a fog emanates from the water in the early gloom. We wait for the sun to peak over the tree line and shed light into the water column illuminating our quarry. We hide behind trees on our knees to obscure our silhouettes. The flies are offered downstream, drag free, just the way they like it. Even so, most our eye balled, nudged, and brutally refused. With each inspection and dismissal the adrenaline warms our bodies and feeds are souls to keep trying.
With each change of the fly, the joints in our fingers get stiffer to the point of pain. Down the road we will pay the consequences but for now we are living in the moment and there are fish to catch. After a dozen reties, the body language of a ten inch brown changes drastically and he likes what he sees. The white lined mouth opens and closes upon my fly, a smile stretches across my face, and I lift into the first fish of the day.
My hands pay the price for dipping them into the water so I stick them in my armpits to dry. From there, they settle on hand warmers in my pockets. As the adrenaline wears away, I am cold again as I wait for the stream to settle down. Ten minutes later, the game is resumed and the process repeats itself until I can't bear the cold any longer.