Jim McGuire: Gather these fleeting autumn days

October’s streams are special—ebullient mirrored avenues along which the beauty of this most dramatic season seems impossibly-but-wonderfully multiplied.

There’s simply no finer place to be—no better vantage point for viewing the breathtaking peak of autumn’s stunning splendor—than along the shimmering, burbling corridor of a river, creek or brook.

Light and color are somehow transformed; intensified and altered through a mysterious application of natural magic. A synergetic coalescing takes place; a wonderful merging of earth and sky and moving water along with the entire paintbox panoply of gaudy autumn leaves.

October’s streams are alluring; their beauty invariably beckons.

Once the weather starts to change and leaves don their amazing patchwork hues, I find this siren call irresistible. Being an incorrigible fisherman, I always try to make at least a few windup trips—last-hurrah sojourns—to various favorite smallmouth venues.

Action-wise, it’s the best time of year to be a’stream. The bass are hungry, active, eager to strike. So I slowpoke my way from riffle to pool, casting and catching fish, missing strikes, having a marvelous time! And all while immersed smack dab in the middle of October’s fantabulous decked-out stage!

But October’s streams aren’t just for us lowly bronzeback seekers. Anyone with a passion for witnessing nature at its most picturesque owes it to themselves to experience the peak of autumn’s display as seen from a stream-side perspective.

I occasionally leave my angling paraphernalia behind and just amble along the leaf-carpeted banks, or shuffle through the shallows if I’m not concerned with keeping my feet dry. You don’t have to tote a fishing rod to take in the incredible show! And because I’m not engaged in trying to conjure up a smallmouth bass, I can be single-minded in my viewing and appreciation of all the color and wonder which surrounds.

Streams are typically lower this time of year. Rains during the first half of autumn are generally minimal.

I’m constantly amazed by the clarity of water.

Pools and runs reveal their secrets. Bottom stones sparkle in rainbow hues. A sunken log is festooned with caddis. And on the bottom of a deep, dark hole, the morning light catches the reflective pearly cup of a white mussel shell.

Flows are slower, too. There’s an unaccustomed quietness to a familiar stream’s usual merry voice.

Currents now glide in sibilant whispers. Riffles murmur. Cascades purl with barely a splash or gurgle, like water poured slowly from an earthenware pitcher.

In this diminished state, it’s as if the stream has settled and softened; its business now being conducted with the quiet efficiency befitting many previous months of practice. After all, October’s streams have had the year to get comfortable within their banks.

The light is dramatic, low-angled and golden illumination which comes sweeping across fields and forests during these weeks beyond the equinox.

October’s light sifts through those brilliant bankside leaves—along the way picking up hues of gold and red, purple and yellow, bronze and green and ocher. Transformed, this cathedral-like light pours onto the stream, shaping and coloring the water, giving line and texture, shadow and form, highlighting, scintillating, animating.

During the coming days I’ll do my best to squeeze in as many stream visits as I can manage—whether I’m fishing or just gaping. I know this epitome period won’t last forever.

The one abiding certainty of an October river is its message that time is short—an all-too-brief annual affair drawing quickly to a close.

Change will come. Weather will grow increasingly cooler. The bright autumn leaves will flutter down. The divested landscape will become open—views growing longer, thinner, more monochromic.

I try as best I can to save a few dollars in the bank. Our pantry shelves hold extra food and staples. And if I get to splitting, the woodpile will soon be stacked with more than enough firewood to carry us through the winter’s heating season.

Call it prudence. Insurance. Or plain old common sense.

In the same way—and for the reasons—I like to gather these fleeting autumn days. I visit October’s streams. Enjoy them as fully as I can in the moment…and store their memory and magic in my heart and mind. A tomorrow may come along when you’ll need one.