April 2021 - 42

A river otter chomps down on a
freshly-caught brook trout in a
tributary of the Snake River.

a knee-deep swirl of remarkably clear water flowing
over fine sand rather than a carpet of needles. The
river flooded throughout the forest as far as I could
see, although sand had been deposited in places to
form small islands amidst trees, some still with green
needles at their crowns. Where the current of the river
was strongest were small clearings among the trees,
littered by the occasional strainer, where the sediment
had been carved away to leave brilliant blue pools
likely to hold trout. Here I would stop to cast my fly
through beams of the late-afternoon sunlight that
glittered on the surface of the moving water.
Adding to the ethereal feel of the place was the
unmistakable sign of elk. Their musky scent clung to
the skeletal branches like the swaths of green lichen
that dangled from them. I had never been in a place
where the smell was so strong, almost as if it had
seeped into the damp wood and was now permeating
into the sodden air. Their tracks crisscrossed where the
fine silt had settled beneath a couple inches of clear,
slow-moving water, leaving the hoof prints remarkably
intact, if slightly blurred by the flow above them. A
trout darted through a column of sunlight toward
my foam bug floating innocently in a slow moving
eddy. Just as the fish went for the fly, I heard an elk
bugle. Startled, I set the hook too soon and pulled
the fly from the trout's mouth before it had a chance
to grab hold. My airborne fly narrowly missed snagging on a low-hanging branch as I squinted into the
darkness on the opposite side of the pool. I began to
creep upstream in search of the bull, hoping another
spectral bugle would reverberate through the trees.
42 | April 2021	

A great blue heron along
Flat Creek near Jackson
tosses a small fish into the
air before it gulps it down.



April 2021

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