The Crossing was the name given to the place on the creek where the willows and sagebrush had been cleared to allow Jezebel, the old tractor, access to the upper fields of wheat on Aldredge's farm.
Alrdredge's farm was a special fascination of the young men who were fortunate enough to explore its mysteries. Summers would have been a lot less fun had it not been for invitations from my boyhood friend to spend some time there.
It was at this farm that I learned to shoot a .22 rifle with enough accuracy to hit a jackrabbit running 35 miles per hour from 50 yards away. It was also the place I learned about deer, rattlesnakes and coyotes and where I first felt a newly-discovered feeling of self-reliance and freedom. It was where I learned to love solitude.
The most enjoyable thing I learned at the farm, however, was how to catch brown trout with grasshoppers. The creek was not large. Not many people knew of its whereabouts, except a few locals from town, it was rarely fished, and I can remember fishing two weeks without ever seeing another soul.
The small creek had deep holes and holding areas beneath the overhanging willows. The willows were so thick it was almost impossible to see through them. The water made its way down from springs higher up in the mountains and ran down through hills and flats covered with sage and juniper. The banks were almost always covered with willows, except for small openings just large enough for a small boy to stick his head and fishing pole through.
Grasshoppers were the best bait. They were overabundant in the wheat and grasses and sage. The best way to catch them was to throw a handful of sand at them. On the way to the first fishing spot I would stop occasionally to secure the hoppers I needed for bait.
The best way to attach the hopper to the hook was to thread the point of the hook through the thorax and then follow the abdomen with the point until the hopper was sitting upright on the shank. After securing the hopper to the hook, it was lowered into the water for its final fate.
Fish could be caught with hoppers all along this creek except for one place: the Crossing. I don't know if trout like to sun themselves but it sure seemed like it. There were always about 15 trout holding in the crossing. These trout were uncatchable. Every time I walked up to the crossing, I would spook them and they would race upstream into the cover of the willows and deeper water. No matter how sneaky I was, I could not approach the Crossing without scaring the trout.
I tried to sneak through the willows from above and below the Crossing but my shadow would fall upon the water or my movement would startle the trout. Sometimes I felt I had finally gotten close enough without making an error in my approach, only to find the browns were gone when I peered through the brush. It was like the trout had ESP.
As I got older, the trips to the farm ceased. Many years had passed and I advanced from a natural grasshopper-fishing boy to an adult fly- fisherman.
The desire to catch a trout from the Crossing drew me back to the area as an adult. After two and a half hours of driving, I found myself going up a small canyon road, weaving my way through a multitude of childhood memories.
I parked along a dry creek bed and leaped across a sagging barbed-wire fence, then stared at the tractor tracks that led to the Crossing. As I started up the dirt road, I picked my best hopper from my fly box and quickly threaded it on the leader.
Standing way back and viewing the situation, I decided my only chance for success would be to kneel down and cast the fly from about twenty feet out. I wanted to cast so that as my line straightened out, the leader and tippet would turn over gently and land on the water without much disturbance. False casting was almost impossible but I managed to do it long enough to get the right amount of line out.
My cast was long enough and the imitation hopper landed at the head of the Crossing with no noticeable disturbance. I watched intently as the hopper floated down through the middle of the stream. A brown trout lazily approached the hopper and sipped it in. I raised the rod tip and felt the struggle of a trout on the end of my line. As I stood up, I noticed all the other trout flying upstream as they always had, but I had one of them on the end of my line.
The trout I caught was about thirteen inches long. It was a fat little brown trout. I looked it over for a few seconds and then returned it to the Crossing. I knew I would not be able to catch another trout out of the Crossing for some time, but the thrill of catching that one little brown trout from the Crossing is a satisfaction that will last a lifetime.