John Swincinski

48 x 48 in
The sun hung low in the sky, just above the hillside guarding the end of this sweeping meadow. It was the golden hour and the whole landscape was warm and vibrating. A narrow stream wound through the tall grasses. It was the Gibbon River, above the Virginia Cascade, and I was convinced that a warry brook trout was sipping caddis flies in the gentle current. I crawled on my hands and knees to a position about 5-yards downstream. I knew that if I stood up, the trout would bolt and my chance at a final fish of the day would bolt with it. With a single false cast, I dropped my deerhair caddis imitation to a spot three feet up from where I had imagined that I last saw the surface broken by the trout’s rhythmic sipping. The water boiled and I pulled tight. It wasn’t a long battle and soon the fish was to the net. I slid the basket under him and as I lifted, my jaw dropped, and my pulse quickened. “A grayling!” I exclaimed out loud, only to be heard by the local deer mice and a muskrat I had just recently encountered. The Arctic Grayling is a rare species as far as trout go. There are only a handful of places in the lower-48 where they can be found. I had never caught one before. I never imagined that one would be in this narrow meadow portion of the Gibbon. But why not? A few miles upstream is Wolf Lake, and upstream from that is Grebe Lake, headwater of the Gibbon, and home to an early 1920’s grayling stocking program. I gently removed the hook from the corner of his mouth, and as I slid him into the water the last of the day’s warm sunlight electrified the pale green scales and purple cast of his unique dorsal fin. And I noticed the tall grasses around me appeared as though they were made of wispy strands of gold. The grayling in his golden meadow, returned to the edge of the current and to the sipping of caddis flies.