Reflecting on the year’s best outdoor adventures

Bill Graves, Special to The County
3 years ago

This past weekend, instead of turning on the TV one evening, I turned on my Christmas tree and watched it. Turning out the house lights, I lay back in my recliner, relaxed and let the multicolored blinking lights mesmerize me. The winking bulbs reflected along the garland and tinsel, on each glistening ornament, and even glittered off the walls and ceiling of the room. 

As I watched the ever-changing cycle of colors, the vivid flashes triggered a flood of memories from my past year of outdoor adventures, and I realized that all of this season’s gifts hadn’t been under the flickering fir. Rays from the pink bulbs brought to mind the iridescent pink color along the flanks of the hard-fighting, high-leaping rainbow trout in Joshua Creek. My premier trip to Texas last winter was highlighted by a fly fishing foray to a beautiful brook near San Antonio filled with feisty fish.

Those flashy pink tree lights were a fair imitation of the hot pink strands of crystal flash that highlighted the wings of my small drab-bodied streamer fly that more than a dozen regal colored rainbow trout just couldn’t resist. As radiant as the fly was, it paled in contrast to the spectrum of pinkish purple shades that sparkled each time a trout somersaulted into the Texas sunshine. Rainbow trout: anglers never forget their first, longingly remember their last, and always look forward to their next.

Pulsing blue lights stirred my recollection of the vivid azure sea along the rock-strewn shoreline of Costa Rica. Even more memorable was the almost neon blue color along the sides of my first sailfish as it chased and slashed its long bill at a bait trailing our boat. As the first mate and I hauled the 120-pound brute over the transom for a quick photo the fluorescent blue changed to a cobalt blue along each side that faded to turquoise along the belly. Blue also described my mood as the plane winged me away from that country with its diverse fishing opportunities.

The bright green flashing tubes take me back to a fall duck hunt from a green reed and brush blind, dressed in mottled green camouflage, using green Remington shells to make a satisfying series of shots. Three shots at a close decoying flock brought down three ducks, and the last splash was made by a male mallard with an iridescent green head. It didn’t hurt that my hunting buddies were a bit green with envy.

The amber Christmas lights reflect their color from many outdoor scenes of the past year. The tawny shade of a cut barley field in Fort Fairfield that four of us shot a limit of Canada geese from within an hour. The golden hues of the tamaracks and rust colored falling leaves from which the pointers worked up woodcock and partridge in area covers. As each scene changes with the blinking lights the golden colors of a rising and setting sun in my daydreams brings out the true meaning of the amber lights as I reflect on so many great outings.

The clear lights sparkle with the intensity of dawn on morning dew, a sight too few people enjoy. Only the reflection of the sun from a buck’s antlers or off a leaping salmon’s silver scales gleams so pure and bright. Or perhaps it’s the sparkle in a young boy’s eyes when the torn paper and ribbon reveal his first gun, or a father’s eyes when the son proves his ability with it.

The red lights? They represent the sporting blood in the veins of every true sportsman and the mixture of accomplishment, pride and slight momentary sorrow for each hunt that goes in our favor. More often the red is the rush of excitement when a sportsman prevails or the blush of embarrassment when we are outsmarted.

The many lights on my Christmas tree provided me with a rainbow of colorful memories the other evening. My pot of gold at the end of that rainbow will be another year of hunting and fishing to help the colored lights take on new meaning and memories. These are the real Christmas presents. The boxes under the tree just provide me with the tools and toys to enjoy the outdoors. 

Happy new year, friends and neighbors.