Half a mile downstream from the crumbling bridge,
The river began to break up too,
Into washouts and rock-bound pools.
Aged promontories, sandy shores, from
Primeval rivers, compressed by time
From granite, stood sentinel over the rush.
Against these broke hurtling, grey-green waves,
Spitting high in defiance at the rocks’ impasse,
Slowing but briefly, swirling angrily
On their way back to the waiting sea.
Upon a high outcrop, I took up my post
Rod in hand, watching the helpless worm
On his way to death, by whatever claimed him first.
I had not put him there, being squeamish,
“Mindless flesh,” a poet friend had dubbed them.
Still, my companions rigged him on the hook,
In exchange for keeping their joints burning.
Not smoking, I thought, but taking puff after puff,
As my bait was laid on the rack for sacrifice.
We scattered after all our poles were baited,
Claiming ancient pools and all inside them as our own.
I stood highest, near the fiercest waters that shook the rock,
Braced in the March air against the icy spray.
I was there, I told myself, because two men
Needed to catch a fish and prove themselves.
Yet they faded like ghosts into the gloam of evenfall,
As absorption overtook me, and I began to care.
Cast after cast into the roiling waters
Just where the waterfall fumed and broke.
Soon, it was only my goal, and nothing else,
To wage an age-old war against a artful foe.
Each strike brought me hope and each loss determination
Not anger but resolve to outwit them at a game
Invented eons ago by humankind,
And learned by trout to save themselves.
What happened after was of no concern to me,
But let me catch them for the sake of having it be.
The contest alone was all to me, it seemed,
Yet winning the only outcome I could see.
I had pulled three young trout from the churning water,
Energized despite their mediocre size,
When there came a tug just beneath my perch that taunted,
Promising the battle I craved.
So I cast the remnants of my sacrificial bait
Upstream, where currents swept it beneath my feet,
And there he was! No doubt the oldest trout in the hills,
Lingering below me to tease my newfound lust.
I set the hook well, so I thought, and reeled him high,
Fifteen inches long and heavy as he twisted in mid-air.
He thrashed like a madman above the rock,
Just beyond my reach,
--Then was gone…
When all was over, I had three fingerlings, not much,
While my helpful companions had none for all their work.
I told them not to fret, that it was merely luck,
But I knew better. When they asked me what I did
To catch the few, wee fish who now sizzled in the pan,
I answered haltingly, already memories fading of my quest,
Finally telling my rivals that I knew not why
Capturing a fish meant so much on that day.
“I do,” said one with a laugh.” I asked “Why?”
“It’s easy to explain,” he said…”you were high!”
Based on a true story from long ago.