In front of a poorly lit hotel in a padded lawn chair, I looked to the night sky. A sky lit up with distant, echoing light, collected and named by humans, and alive with constellations. The river Eridanus flowed to earth by way of the mountain in some celestial fashion that seemed a bit more epic than usual. It fed the wilderness below it, like a man taming a wolf by slowly and reassuredly placing food at its paws. Wolf and river both defiant and feral, yet obedient. Though the River Po and the Nile were half the world away, a great river raged before me. A river that seemed to savagely mock Eridanus with its wild and rebellious nature. The 5th largest river in the United States is by far the most tempestuous, and because of that, humans have done their best to subdue it. They bind and regulate it like a lonely man trapped in an asylum, enraged by his own doing, shackled. The stars created an ominous glow on the water, just enough to see its black reflection. Even more was the sound. Throughout the canyon the river roared showing its discontent, asking to take notice. Upon the horizon, Orion began to raise his shield. With one foot planted within the headwaters of Eridanus, he waged a war that began with time itself and one that would wage on throughout. The slowest and most epic war of all. My mind wandered. Of all the constellations in the world, Orion has one thing others do not. The unknown. Within Orion there is a void, the largest in the known universe. So large, that it disproves many scientific theories about the universe enough that they had to create a new theory to once again prove their original theory. An unexplainable void. Absolute emptiness.
The one thing I enjoy the most about winter fishing is staying in a hotel. Coffee and hot breakfast in the morning sets you off on the right path for the day. Upon waking, I found neither available. I placed my key upon the desk and walked out in search of scrambled eggs and coffee. With no time to sit down to eat, a red bull and sausage biscuit would have to suffice. Sometimes gas station food hits the spot. I scurried up the canyon in my car, singing. It’s a habit that I have done since I was a child, I would sing and ride my bike as fast as possible. The epitome of freedom. On a road devoid of traffic, I flew. The open windows let in the cold air while I attempted acclimation of the new brisk air now warmed by the sun. A smile forged itself across my face as I pulled into a parking lot. I tied my favorite streamer with my vise attached to my steering wheel as onlookers came and went, some asking questions, some just curious. As I tied, I looked down the canyon at the river. It looked slightly peaceful from my view atop the hill. A view that would change as I made my way closer to the river. As the river drew nearer, the drone of the river’s roar became deafening. There was a moment that I wanted to turn back. I had gone too far over my head and the river didn’t want me there. I have fished rivers like this, and really, this was just a larger version of another river that I love. I sat next to a slow pool and rigged up. The wind was enough to sail roll casts just beyond my normal reach. Fluid and accurate, the casts found their way into seams and pools. Every few casts a fish was expected, but none were found. With more time brought more of nothing. Four miles of river, four miles of desolation. Six hours and no bite, no tap, no fish.
Eridanus is not commonly known for fertility, but it feeds fertility to the Po. This energy was used to harbor irrigation, farming, and fishing. Even plumbing and construction, it had magical powers only legend could explain. At the time, who would have known any better? The more science irrigated those fields, the less the Gods made sense. Slowly but surely, they died. The only evidence were these shaped stars in the night sky. Man’s grand scale of connect the dots. Even though the God’s were dead, the stories lived on through history as a way to navigate the night and to entertain children. Orion himself is used as a guidebook for the rest of his immortalized brethren.
The sun began to drop behind the canyon walls, seemingly clinging to the peaks as he bid his daily farewell. I fished the seams now armed with only hope which clinged to the mountain tops of my mind, ready to fall dark at any given moment. I stopped at a familiar pool and cast into a deep current uninhabited by living creature. To my surprise, a fish found my streamer. A big fish. A fish as wild as the river itself. A fish with a strength that I have never felt before, and five feet before me laid the biggest Brown Trout I had ever seen in my life. “Chewie” hung from a mouth I could fit my closed fist into. After a well timed shake of the massive head, Chewie became dislodged and hung suspended as the fish moved on. I dropped to my knees. Maybe I sat and cried for a few, the details were fuzzy now that I try to recall them. All was quiet, and giving up now would leave me with a skunking I had never felt. I cast again, fish. Still healthy and very strong for its size, a small brown found its way to my hand and the skunk hiding in the bushes waddled away.
Depending upon the stories you have read, Orion is a hunter or warrior. In his left hand could be a shield, lion, or bow. His right, club or sword. Maybe when we stack the deck, that left hand could be a fish, and the right could be fly rod. Maybe he is just an ordinary man, like me, on a mission to enjoy life by fishing. Now that the sun was setting behind the earth, I laid out my last few casts. One last cast produced a final ultra-fat rainbow. I sat in awe and hope that one day I will return for my well deserved monster. As I sat on a rock enjoying the fulfillment of my day, I looked up at the sky and upon the top of the canyon was, Orion rising. Maybe after all, that unexplainable void was just a trick of the eye.