Pretty Little Creek
The slanted light of a late summer afternoon in Montana is perfect in memory. So is the Madison River, in its valley where you can see a long way. Once, half my lifetime ago, as I hiked back down the river, I saw a fellow fly fishing far, far below. He was elegant. The sunshine caught his back cast and the water droplets his line threw off set him inside a rainbow. I knew I would never forget seeing that, but this guy was puzzling. He would only fish for a few minutes, before wading back to the bank, where he disappeared. A little while latter, here he would come out again. Several times he did this, and I had plenty of time to walk and wonder about it. I had almost reached him before I realized this was my dad.
Dusk settled. That’s the easy time to talk beside a river, and it was a blessing for a father and son who never quite understood each other. I told him of my day, and could tell as he listened that he was seeing it exactly as it had been. He was good at seeing things; the landscape, a river, and in the failing light, the son he was proud of. He was a watcher and kept an eye on each day, paying attention to what it brought him. I had caught plenty of fish and nice ones. So had he. I had covered miles of river, skipping from one hot spot to the next. His 300 yards were enough to last until evening. He missed nothing. My dad's was the better way.
I live in New Jersey now, which is a long way from grand vistas. But even here, there are still pockets of country where small waters lie, largely ignored. I don’t travel much. I don’t cover ground. I work every day I can up a little neighborhood creek. I’ve tried to depict some spots many times, dozens of times, thus far without success. I get discouraged, but I keep going back because what I'm trying to do takes determination. Dappled shade, running water, captured light and reflection, the slow motion rush of an endless cascade of moments; how can I make great pictures of this? I suspect it has to do with a patient rhythm: you spend some time doing, spend some time watching and if you keep at it, answers come.