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richard lloyd cederberg

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mountain magic ...
By richard lloyd cederberg
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011
Last edited: Monday, May 19, 2014
This short story is rated "PG13" by the Author.
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holiday in southwestern colorado...
image: micheles victory


There was little enthusiasm for a traditional breakfast this morning; coffee and granola bars would have to do. Something special was going to happen and we'd both been unable to shake the feeling since the evening before. Hurriedly we arranged our backpacks and tackle boxes, and, after bundling up, we departed the cabin aglow with all good possibilities. It was invigorating outside. Above us the sky was crystalline blue, and a hint of winter was still lingering from Sunday’s storm. Across the high mountain reservoir, Michele pointed out, a hodgepodge of geometric snowy shapes still dappling the far ridges.

“Beautiful aren’t they? Betcha its cold up there…” she shivered exaggeratedly.

Agreeing with her we then began our way down the steep path, nearer the shoreline. Along the way the temperature seemed to drop 20 degrees and began biting at our faces so fiercely that we had to wrap scarves over our mouths and button our jackets up tight. I could see uncertainty in her eyes, now, but these misgivings lessened as slivers of approaching sunlight warmed the air and began turning the larger pine needles into (what seemed like) tiny glowing magic wands. Impulsively she plucked one and began waving it in my face laughing. A murder of crows heard her joyous outburst. Rustling from their perches, they began cawing loudly as they circled around us.

“Pray for mountain magic they’re sayin’ ’cause they know I’m kickin’ your butt today buckwheat,” she taunted…

“Yah right… in your dreams,” was my flippant response...

Upon reaching the shoreline a sudden frigid blustering wind, from the west, tousled our hair and stopped us in our tracks.

“Whoa …. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all sweetpie,” my wife quetched. “It’s really freezing out here.”

Despite her apprehensions, and following my assurance that the sun would continue warming things up nicely, we continued north, walking briskly towards the end of the lake, where the Animas River was rushing and foaming down from the distant mountains. Clouds of red clay silt were being spewed out here, for a hundred plus yards, before blending into the emerald waters. It was really beautiful, actually, being that this part of the lake had a small bay carved back into moss-covered granite walls and thick mist hovered magically just a foot above the water. After taking several pictures we gingerly tip-toed past a hodgepodge of slimy rocks exposed overnight from a lowering of the reservoir. And then, moments later, the sun began filtering down over the far ridge in a grand display of warming yellow fingers, at which time the crows returned noisily, from beyond a dense stand of pines, and began circling above us.

“You can feed them all the minnows you catch,” my wife laughed hysteric…

“Ok honey, have your fun, we’ll see,” I groaned…

A short time later we rounded a rocky peninsula and found our first place to hunker down and try our luck. As far as we were concerned, and despite any negative notions to the contrary, our primary goal today was catching trout; any kind of trout - speckled, brown, rainbow, or lake - we weren’t picky. The thought of corn-breaded trout fillets, fried to perfection, had already begun making our mouths water.

It takes unique skill interpreting the mysteries of pristine mountain lakes. And while apprehending frequent changes (sometimes) requires the administration of intelligence, which comes and goes for most like thumb fairies, I’ve found it prudent, in my experiences, to listen intently to lake birds, and the wind rustling through trees, instead of trying to intellectualize every detail. In this way one might hear heady guidance being murmured, concerning the lakes secrets, or perhaps even the songs of its ancient ancestors pointing to the progeny of the ones that eluded them in past personal excursions. As it were, understanding physical position, what bait to use, how to rig the line, what pound test to use, how far out to cast, how fast to reel in, testing depth two feet at a time, finding the layers where fish hang out at different times during the day, and where the supply of food is nutritive and dependable, is something you learn from long hours of experience, not from books or TV shows.

I’ve discovered from other, more seasoned, fishermen that interpreting the waters secrets becomes (at times) a matter of logic more so than hunch. Given this, and after having moved around most of the morning exploring a half mile of shoreline - setting up, casting out, testing bait and technique, and after feathered spinners were tried and had failed - I suggested that we rig one of our lines with a lead weight and use rainbow power bait on a three foot leader. Knowing that the lake had just recently thawed from an incarcerating winter; I was convinced its inhabitants would be famished and prone to recklessness. After suggesting that one of us try our luck beside a fallen Ponderosa, lying out seventy feet in twenty feet of water, Michele said she was game so I began setting up the rig. Upon completion I explained to her that if she cast out and let the line descend to the bottom the buoyant blob of smelly bait would float the leader and allow it to meander with the currents around the fallen tree. It made sense to her, and, after several awkward casts, she finally put it exactly where she wanted it. When she felt content I moved south to continue with bottom lures.

After some time…

A sudden blood-curdling scream pierced the still environment. At once I was beside myself and threw down my pole. Glancing at my watch I realized an hour had passed since I’d last seen her. Good lord! What in the world had happened? Was she in danger? Had an animal made an appearance? What a fool I was not keeping her in sight. For several moments a wash of fearful possibilities slapped me silly, and only after I shook them off was I able to take off stumbling through the rocks like some gawky mountain goat in her direction.

When at last she came into view a fit of belly-laughing overtook me. Of course! This was why she’d become so ardently vocal. Her pole was bent double and she was involved in a most animated fight with what, to any on-looker, may well have seemed a lake monster. Screeching with excitement and with me as her cheerleader, she wrestled fifteen more minutes with an obstinate foe before successfully landing it. According to the owners of the lodge it was a record lake trout. Seemed to me the mountain magic, the ravens had told her about earlier, was hers today. Congratulations Michele!

richard lloyd cederberg – 12-2011

Web Site: A Monumental Journey Novels  

Reader Reviews for "mountain magic ..."

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 5/30/2014

well said

Reviewed by J Howard 12/17/2011
oh i thought it was going to be one of those prehistoric looking "muddpuppies" or some such. fun story!
Reviewed by Joy Hale 12/17/2011
In the delightful story you have written, you were able to make the words come alive on the page. So realistic that I felt as if I were a spectator watching as the action unfolded! The mountain magic you and Michelle enjoyed was indeed special. A great catch, Michelle.

Joy L. Hale
Reviewed by Michael Hollingsworth 12/17/2011
Enjoyable story and well written. It almost made me believe that I also love cold weather. My bride would never think of going fishing with me on a cold winter day. I wish, but she would rather sleep-in under those warm covers. I can almost smell the frying of the trouts in the cold air of the day. Congratulations to Michelle I bet that catch was a lot of fun.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Biddinger 12/16/2011
~Richard~ A wonderful and delightful story of the mountain lake,
and mountain magic with you and Michelle ~ great catch Michelle !!

Lady Mary Ann

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