Part 3 by Joseph Carlson
“Good poetry has layers that take time to perceive and enjoy. So a person who reads a lot of good poetry has often learned patience and comes to take joy in growing slowly.”
The forever-maddening part is being able to see them, the trout that is. The crystalline waters of the Kings River are particularly unforgiving in this respect. The aquamarine depths of even the largest pools yield themselves easily to an eager and educated eye. Similarly the clear, quick currents of the shallower runs were hosts to the shimmering’s of smaller trout. Beyond that, Kings Canyon just feels fishy. Like you should be getting into trout right and left. Tucked between Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, the LA Times once called it the “forgotten National Park”. To be perfectly honest, I’ll be more than happy if it stays that way; more trout for me and mine.
Anyway, back towards the trout. Long ago, I recall reading in a book, “If you can see the fish, they can see you.” Maybe, that was the reason Kings humbled us. Those clear mountain waters are surely a two-way window. Or, maybe it was the heat, or that last glass of whiskey the night before, or the extra sleep. Abandoning deep runs as dusk descends and choosing instead the evening hunt for prime spots to take photographs certainly doesn’t get one any closer to a full creel. Magic hour applies for photography just as much for fishing. Regardless, we saw plenty and caught few, and I’ve been haunted by the place ever since.
The Brown Trout I caught was the biggest I had ever hooked, nothing to brag about, but a healthy 17 inches. The one I lost after him was the biggest trout I’d hooked on a fly rod. He laughed at me after a bated-breath, ecstatic, and tremulous-1-minute stroll he took up the pool I hooked him in. I thought I was doing an exemplary job ‘playing’ a trout that was clearly out of my league when, with a flick of a palm-sized tail-fin he snapped my 6x tippet like it was gossamer and left me weakkneed and love-stricken. His nonchalance was the hardest part to swallow. Grieving that loss as I was for the rest of the trip did nothing to diminish my gratitude for each decidedly smaller fish I gently cradled, thanked, and relinquished back unto the river.
Granted, I never truly got into “fish-mode”, where one is fully baptized into the present moment, abandoning human cognition to adopt trout-like perspective. But, I doubt it would have made a difference; to catch fish on the Kings in those conditions you have to slow waaay down, and this trip was about brotherhood more than it was about fishing. It meant just as much to sit on the bank untangling knots for Jeremy, or rigging up two and three fly set-ups for Elias, or smiling to myself after they let me “coach” them on how to effectively nymph. Such are the layers of slow poetry. I’d be lying if I said that I’m a patient man when it comes to flyfishing, and so many other things, when measured against those who have dedicated themselves to the art. Yet, the prospect of being able to take joy in growing slowly when it comes to trout, mountains, rivers, and my brothers (either by blood or time), is a joy I’ll gladly sacrifice for.
For the photography nerds: All photos taken with a Pentax Spotmatic on 35mm film.
Joseph is a man of many talents: singer-songwriter, fly-fisherman, writer, and deep-thinker. When he isn’t writing clever, thought-provoking blog articles he can be found over on tumblr waxing theological, sharing the latest great music, or spreading some form of truth, beauty, or justice. If he’s not there, you’d best check the nearest river.