Too many choices for not enough fall


Reaching Labor Day on the calendar is like listening to the song “Closing Time” at a bar after they flick the lights on to let you know the fun is over and it’s time to move on. Another summer has come and gone.

Even though it was great, and you hate the thought of having to endure the long wait before again basking in the sun, you’re ready for the comforts and relaxation of fall. Flannel shirts and coffee on cool mornings return to the mix, along with the much anticipated arrival of hunting season.

The only problem with fall is it doesn’t last long enough. There are many hunting seasons that are only open for a short time during September, October and November, so it’s hard not to prioritize those. But also, fishing really heats up, and I don’t think there is a better time to hike, camp, paddle, or really do anything outdoors. Big brown trout run up rivers to spawn, musky gorge before their lethargic winter state, crappie return to the shallows, and largemouth find their aggression again.

Yet nothing in my book compares to float-camping rivers now void of traffic with a fly rod in search of smallmouth bass.

Picture yourself stepping from a tent mere feet from the river’s edge. Fog is rising off water warmer than the air and the whole valley is socked in. You stroll over to the fire pit and stoke the coals from last night and add a few pieces of kindling. After a few short, powerful breaths, flames begin to dance. You drop coffee in a pot and add water, then you set it in the fire and grab your cast iron skillet. Moments later, bacon is sizzling. A blue heron squawks as it passes overhead, hidden in the mist.

After breakfast, you break down camp and stow your gear in waterproof dry bags and plastic containers. As the first rays of sunshine descend over the high, eastern ridge, you shove off. The first dip off your paddle cuts through glass like water, and you glide downstream. As you near a riffle, you pull the canoe to the bank and step out with your fly rod. The water feels cold against your legs. You stop when it reaches your thighs. The sound of the drag as you strip line from your fly reel signals the start, like a horn being blown on European hunt.

Just as you expected, a chunky bronzeback was laid up in the pool just above the swift water. She smashed the streamer you slid into the strike zone and now is taking line as you rear back to add pressure on the rod. A large arc tells you this is a good fish. There’s no reason to rush. Eventually, you win the battle and glide the beautiful bass into your net, then gently remove the hook and release her back into the depths.

Two hours into your float and you’ve landed a half dozen fish. The sun has fully appeared and burned off the morning fog. You take off your flannel and stow it away. The temperature is set to reach the mid-70s. You remember what grandpa used to say about it being 12 o’clock somewhere and reach into the cooler for a beer that’s been on ice since yesterday. With the pop of the top, you take a deep breath and exhale slowly while soaking in the grandeur of the pristine scene around you.

Yes, September, it’s good to see you again.

See you down the trail.

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