Frozen tears cling tightly to each of the nine guides as the line is picked off of the water. A reel that was full of life an hour earlier, has become shocked by the cold and no longer spools. And the thought of a fish cracks a wry smile, as you realize that any tug at the end of the line will become an unintended leap into the world of Tenkara. Toes march slowly hidden under boots and wool, as fingers struggle to hold onto a rod that might crack on the next backcast. The normally bright water looks black, casting spells that taunt what’s left of any confidence you may have, teasing you back to a couch, warmth, and "Wild Cards".
But like any puzzle you stay, you stay until the last piece has been laid. You relent to a stubborn gene that was never explained to you, probably for the same reasons you won’t explain it to your children. You succumb to the fact that one fish is more important than any other digit, justifying something you can’t verbalize. You drift precariously between seen and unseen, known and unknown. While neatly tied flies carry repetitive hope, a hope that is drowned to moving shadows that decide irrelevant reality.
You play your last card of the day as you drive in silence, quietly watching the moon replace whatever is left of the dropping sun. The heat is a foreign luxury as you struggle to keep heavy eyes open, and your thoughts flow back to the water from which you just left. And as dotted yellow lines run together in empty miles, the winner is decided.