The harvest is pretty much over, the grain piled high in farmyard silos, the rolled bales sprawling against a backdrop of snowy peaks and the first prairie frost.
It's September, and despite the hot afternoons, the water takes longer to warm in the mornings, the mist burning off the rivers as the trout start to stir and the first insects take flight.
Autumn colours are everywhere. Golds. Yellows. Reds. The same shades as the markings and strokes on the native cutthroat trout which rise to fall flies with names like slate-wings, mahoganies, and October Caddis.
The October Caddis is my favourite fly of all. In these parts it emerges as early as late August, and observant anglers imitate its bright orange abdomen with size 6 foam. Females skitter across the water as they return to lay their eggs, and I instruct my clients to "move it ... move it ... move it ..." to impart the necessary motion on their flies, which would otherwise be ignored.
The trout strike in eager slashes, sometimes chasing the fly for five or six feet before catching up to it in a boiling take.
Rainbows this time, caught on a stretch of river so remote that ours are the only bootprints in the sand. I tell Charlie, a regular and trustworthy client, that he's the only person I've taken there this season. He'll also be the last. One client a year. Maybe. I first discovered this place thirty years ago while pheasant hunting. A trout rose.
That's the way it goes on the last bastions of solitude.
Another night in Pincher Creek. I love the little ranching community tucked into the southern Alberta foothills. The Ford and GM dealerships aligned on one street, pick-ups dominating the lots like boss trout nudging the fry to either side of the pool. The lone steakhouse and ubiquitous Chinese take-out. Leo's saloon with cowboy hats draped over the worn pool-table felt.
Thanks for another great season at Dave Brown Outfitters. It's been a blast, as always, in large part owing to the best clients in the guiding world. See ya'll next year on the 'Cowboy Trail ...'