On the Fishing Fly

by Thomas Lynch


After days of rain, the sky cleared a few hours ago. A wisp of cloud lingers in the ridge-top firs. Evening’s purple light settles on the hills. Mountain’s shadow casts darkness on the water.

        With pants rolled up, I stand in the current, lean upstream. Toes grip slick stones—north fork of the middle fork of the Willamette River.

        I watch my fly—grey caddis—drift downstream. Suspended on the riffle of the sky reflecting stream, the fly drifts, drifts, and then . . . vanishes.

        After the catch, my firm grip relaxes. Trout’s silver tail flicks and disappears. We are released from the anxiety of death.


                river holds darkness—

                a drop of blood glistens

                on the fishing fly


        Later, almost asleep, I hear a leaping trout splash. A few stars glitter among the tall trees.


[above Westfir, Oregon, 8/2/89]



First published in Rain Drips from the Trees, privately published, 1992. Reprinted in Wedge of Light, Foster City, California: Press Here, 1999, page 15.

Thomas Lynch is a professor of English at the University of Nebraska, where Ted Kooser used to teach. Tom’s 1989 PhD dissertation from the University of Oregon focused on American haiku and Emersonian poetics. He focuses on ecocriticism, nature writing, and poetry of place, particularly western and southwestern American literature.