When it comes to night fishing, I don't mind being kept in the dark.
Some of my favorite fishing has been after the sun went down. When I was a kid, my dad would take me out on a boat to fish for crappie, bass, bullheads and whatever else would bite in the dark. This summer, I spent several pleasant evenings fishing off my friends' dock, talking, drinking and reeling in the occasional fish.
Last week, I pursued reports that big brown trout were coming in close to shore at a nearby lake once the sun went down. We were lucky with the weather - no wind, temps in the 40s, and a Hunter's Moon to illuminate the scene.
A pack of coyotes howled to our left, answered by other songdogs serenading to our right. And the browns were hitting wooly buggers, tearing line off the reel on long runs into the darkness.
We wondered where these fish go in the daylight, when they seem to disappear from the lake. In this case, the answer reminded me of a line from a book: "Life begins at dark."
I woke up to snow this morning, but was still thinking about the day before, wandering through green, yellow, orange and red aspens in search of blue grouse.
I hunted a spot that I found last year. It held a couple flocks of grouse then, and the gunning was good enough. But this year it was empty, and I really wanted to get Xena her first bird of the year.
We tried a spot lower on the mountain that looked like grouse habitat, but produced no birds the year before. As soon as I crossed the fence on the closed, old logging road, a grouse flushed behind me. Luckily for me, not him, the bird flew across an opening, and I was able to recover from the surprise and knock him down. Even though Xena had run right past the bird in her excitement to get out of the truck, she did retrieve him.
That was the only bird we found all day, but it was just the icing on the cake. Temperatures were in the 40s, the aspen trees were surreal in their colors, and fall was officially here. My favorite time of the year.
I returned to Juneau this July, taking my son Dave and friend Jan to sample Alaska's outdoors. We were not disappointed.
This year, I focused more on stream fishing, particularly for Dolly Varden char. Drifting bead eggs through schools of spawning chum salmon in Sheep Creek, Jan and I caught dozens of Dollies when we could avoid the surly chums. The Dollies weren't trophies, but were big enough to give a good fight in moving water.
On Cowee Creek, we fished with Humpy Hooker streamers for pink salmon and had a ball catching 5-8 pounders. Bear sign was everywhere - tracks in the sand along the creek and scat all over the trails - but we didn't run into any bruins. Jan lost his salmon virginity on our first afternoon at Cowee.
Here's a video of pink salmon in Echo Cove:
The plan was to drive south to Cameron Pass on Memorial Day and ski the backcountry down there. We arrived at the trailhead after nearly two hours of driving, and started to get our gear ready. I had my telemark boots already on when Marty announces, "Guess what. I forgot my boots."
We debated leaving him at the trailhead while Jan and I made a few runs, but decided to play nice and go back to Laramie to retrieve his boots.
Hours later, we skinned up Medicine Bow Peak and made a couple runs, even getting snowed on during the second one.
Of course, Marty was reminded several times about his earlier transgression. But a couple nice ski runs and a few restorative beverages afterwards heal old wounds.
With Winter Storm Yogi supposedly dumping a foot of snow in Laramie over the next three days, my thoughts have turned to fishing during better times.
Two weeks ago, Sam and I headed to a lake that treated us well last spring, and it didn't disappoint this year, either. He had a six-fish day that included two nice browns, while I managed three rainbow trout that included a 21-inch rod bender. Wooly buggers fished deep were the patterns of choice.
Since then, though, we've had wind, cold and snow, so I haven't returned. But I'm certainly ready to, once I get done shoveling snow.
The 2012 flyfishing season is ending a lot like it started - with brown trout on ice. Back in the spring, my first trout was a brown that I landed while standing on an ice shelf.
Yesterday and today, I landed more brown trout that I skidded up on the ice and snow along the riverbank. Several trout also came out from beneath ice shelves along the shore to attack my woolly bugger.
The prolonged fall has yet to give way to winter here in southern Wyoming, but I know that flyfishing is all on borrowed time as December approaches.
You don't need to travel all the way to Alaska to catch salmon. Kokanee salmon can be caught on the fly in Wyoming lakes. The spawning fish turn bright orange in the fall and school up close to shore within easy casting distance.
I caught at least 20 today on a woolly bugger from shore. They gave a decent fight and are just incredible looking. I wouldn't be surprised if they glow in the dark under tonight's harvest moon.
It's not quite Alaska, but it's a lot shorter trip.
Eric is retired and living in Laramie, Wyo. He taught journalism in the University of Wyoming's Communication and Journalism Department for 26 years. Before that, he worked at the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle for 11 years.