TITLE: World of the Tailwater 9/16/16
By Mike Hill
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n the wee hours of the morning, my life is the embodiment of a living, breathing dichotomy. Awakening with a wry little smile on my face, I knew I had dreamed of the river, big brown trout, and sweet 3wt bamboo rods. My body screams – “Where’s the coffee”, while my brain questions the sanity of getting up this early on a Saturday. Oblivious to the cacophony, the hairs on the back of my neck tingle. Betraying logic, they forewarn that this pre-dawn moment was the premonition of a great day ahead.
The Caney Fork River, in its precociousness, is not usually an early morning river and you don’t “have” to rise early to fish it. But this morning I wanted to avoid the “canoe hatch” – a seemingly endless chain of loud, alcohol guzzling paddlers with their beer coolers in tow. The quintessence of modern reality, the “canoe hatch” puts a damper on quality fishing experiences.
Grabbing my fishing gear, a stale sausage biscuit and my ancient Stanley Thermos filled with strong dark roast coffee, I jump into my truck and surrender to my muses. Arriving at the river, I abandon discretion and resolve that this morning I’m going to wade wet. With my pulse quickening and clutching my rod and fly pack, I venture forth on a quest for one of my favorite and secluded fishing spots. Covertly slipping into the river before the break of day, I finally relax and in the dim predawn light experience a moment of intimacy with God’s Creation.
The Great Smokey Mountains have their smoke, but the Caney Fork River has its fog. Cold water interfacing with hot, humid air awakens the fog from its slumber. Exhibiting deep primal instincts, tendrils of this fog entwine my world and encompass me in a cocoon of near silence. Exquisitely, the minute suspended water droplets achieve near faultless isolation from the babel of the world. Basking in my separation, all I can sense is the fog. The only sounds the fog allows is the soft gurgling of the water and the occasional soulful lowing of a cow coming down to get her drink.
In deep introspection, I am only vaguely aware that I am standing thigh deep in the cold clear waters of the Caney Fork. Suddenly the sun decides to peek out from behind the surrounding hills, splitting the heavens wide open and spilling its golden treasure. Preoccupied with its daily ascent, the morning sun serendipitously turned my fog into a golden mist. At that instant my world turns golden. Everything is golden – the air, the water, the shadows – everything. Mesmerized, I blissfully stand at peace, somewhat dumbfounded and speechless, taking in all of God’s Golden Splendor. Could it get any better I was thinking? Little did I know!
Within the blink of an eye, those little hairs on the back of my neck began tingling again. Something was stirring, but what? I didn’t have long to wait.
Even before I am able to see him, I hear the harsh rasping call of a Great Blue Heron coming from upstream. Instinctively, I pivot toward the sound, and he materializes - a big prehistoric flapping shadow, backlit by the rising sun. As he nears, my focus is clearer and I distinctly see swirling golden vortexes of air turbulence rolling down both wings and off his wingtips. Illuminated by the rising sun, they glow intensely.
Revealed to me at this instant was something that I was taught, had read about and knew was there, but had previously remained unseen. Time for me stopped. I knew I was in the presence of a great, living, all-powerful Creator.
Instinctively I prepare to fall to my knees in thankfulness, but I quickly remember I was thigh deep in a cold river. Absent my usual cognizance, I stand with an open mouth and with a smitten, reverential look on my face. I have often said that I more often experience the Presence of God when I am out in His Natural Creation than when I am around people, and this moment is no exception.
God did not reveal the secrets of the Universe to me today, but He did once again reveal His Greatness. I almost feel that my life is complete – this day certainly is. I could leave (without having caught a fish) and feel fully content. Is this what the French mean by Joie De Vivre? I most certainly delight in being alive today!
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