I pulled the truck off the dirt road. The old house and the barn had been gone a long time, but I could still see them in my mind. Over 70 years ago this had been the place of my birth. Now all that remained were cracked concrete pieces and weeds, everything else was gone except the river.

I took the rod and my vest from the truck and walked towards the river. On both sides of the dusty road grasshoppers rose in flight in great profusion. They were what brought me to the place of my birth, the grasshoppers and the hopper wind.

As I moved to the river my thought were of my grandfather. As a small boy I would join him in the mornings. Breakfast at the large table. Cooked on the wood burning stove. He had milked the cows before I had crawled from bed. Some mornings I would join him in the truck as he delivered the milk, still warm in heavy steel cans, to the creamery in town.

My grandfather didn’t fish, but my uncle Bud did and he would take me with him occasionally because I was too small to venture down the bank alone. Bud had a bamboo fly rod the color of burnish gold and an automatic reel. Mine was a hand- me-down steel pole with an old reel spooled with braided line. A snelled hook was looped to the line and two or three small split shot adorned the leader.

During those summer days I learned the basics of fishing.

August and September were the best times for a boy to learn to fish. Grandfather grew hay for the milk cows and the fields that surrounded the river were infested with grasshoppers, much to his disdain. Unruly fliers, these hoppers, would take to the air like fighter pilots. As the hay mower approached, with a pair of big horses drawing it, they would take to the air and the hot wind would sweep them away. Some would not make it across the river and would land clumsily on the moving stream. At the crash landing site awaited hungry trout who fed on the hoppers ravenously..

When the summer winds blew the hoppers to the river, the trout fed on them almost exclusively. Hatches of caddis and mayflies were unscathed. A single hopper provided as much protein as a hundred caddis and the trout knew this and often threw caution to the wind. Bud and I sought to take advantage of the usually wary trout’s gluttony. I gathered the fat insects along the river. Armed with a mason jar I would run in front of Bud gathering the easy ones that were relatively immobile in the mornings chill. My fingers were covered with the sticky “tobacco” they spit when they were grasped. When the pint jar was so full that more would escape than I would put in, we would start to fish.

The snelled hook would impale the grasshopper just back of his head. This didn’t appear to injure them mortally, as they would live long enough to fish through several holes unless a trout got them first. Upstream we would go, man and boy, fishing the holes and taking great advantage of the trout’s gluttony. In the nearby hay field my grandfather urged the team of horses along, spotting us he would lift his old sweat stained cowboy hat from his head and salute the pair of us.

These were the memories of those days a half century and longer ago. Today I returned to this beautiful river that flowed through my grandfathers’ ranch to fish and to remember. To fish it, perhaps for the last time, and to hope that as I moved along the river, more of those fleeting moments that revisited my mind would return. I was here to pay homage to the old man who had given me so much in the only way that I knew how.

Although my vest was laden with boxes full of artificial hoppers, some almost works of art, I had chosen to fish like I had as a boy. Live bait fished through the deep holes. Trout lairs that held sausage fat fish.

Catching the wily hoppers proved far more difficult than I had envisioned. Although the infestation was tremendous, it took me a long time before I had six fat hoppers in a plastic box. Crouched like a waiting lion in the weeds and grasses I clumsily managed these few.

I waded the river slowly. The current pushed at my legs in the deeper runs and threatened to sweep me away. Quietly in ankle deep gravel bars, I approached the hole. Stripping line from the reel, I flipped the hopper, impaled on a light wire hook, into the head of the pool. The hopper floated indignantly until the two tiny split shot drug it underwater and into the mouth of the brown trout. No need to set the hook. The trout did it itself as it turned to return to the depths. At the feel of the steel, the heavy trout shot from the water as if catapulted. I could not hold back the smile of sheer joy.

For 5 or 6 minutes the struggle took place. The trout first tried to find escape in the deep snags that filled the hole, but I managed to keep her away by applying as much pressure as I dared on the leader. When she discovered she couldn’t get into the roots and snags, she turned and raced downstream taking advantage of the swift current. I stumbled down the stream after her, determined not to lose her.

The run was only thirty yards long, but swift and deep. She knew her habitat well and it took some effort to get the fish through the run and into the tail water where I managed to get the thrashing fish to the shallows.

I killed the beautiful fish quickly and not without some remorse. As one grows older death is not taken lightly.

The trout was now quiet as I removed the hook and took my camera from the vest. For a long time I set there watching the river and the hen brown trout with her olive and gold coloring. Dark spots with halo of crimson covered her thick sides.

Over the symphony of the moving river I thought I heard my grandfather gently urging the big horses on as he mowed the summer hay in the field nearby. I waved my hat above me and saluted. “Thank you old man, I whispered as I moved up the stream, “Thank you for the trout…..and the river”