October is that deep-breath month we take when the sizzle of summer begins to fizzle and fades into the joys of autumn. The month always puts me in the mood for a walk in the mountains. With pipe, of course.
Fall colors depend upon weather, shorter days, and cooler nights. These events limit sunlight, starving deciduous trees of chlorophyll, its sugary food.
So, following the natural chemistry of deciduous trees leads us down a trail of transformative annual colors. Greens change clothes from green to reds, yellows, purples, and a painter’s palette of art-worthy other hues, showcasing special autumnal moments in the natural world.
And no, the Pundit is not a arborist. He just thinks he is.
Each fall deciduous trees in the mountains do their best to festoon hills and ridges with so much beauty. When the mists rise over the ridges, and lift away, beneath lie the changing hills and valleys.
During this short, in-between season of nature in its rainbow of natural blush, it seems as if the slopes rust from tiptop to their root tips, in nature’s full kaleidoscopic fashion.
Back in the Pundit’s flyfishing days on burbling mountain streams in fall, it was de rigueur to make sure pipe and tobacco pouch were firmly housed safely in flyfishing vest.
On one of these precious long ago days, Pundit waded an Arkansas mountain stream, a beautiful four-mile stretch of water known as the Norfork. The river was a tailwater of the famed White River, a trout fisherman’s paradise.
Here rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout frolic for a variety of watery bugs, such as hatching mayflies.
I had just purchased a special German-made trout knife that hung around the Pundit’s neck for quick access. The shiny blade was housed in its nice leather pouch, sans button-down leather flap to hold it secure.
Pitching a fly line into this water one fall day with knife—and a pipe clenched tightly—Pundit found a willing customer nibbling one of my special hand-made ties.
Excited, I fought the big trout and watched it leap in attempting to dislodge the fly hooked in the trout’s hard upper lip. There was wild acrobatics swooshing up and out of the stream with more leaps and frantic tail flapping.
And—as the Stoics warned, do not become attached to things, for they are not forever—I hastily leaned over to haul in the big boy with my net when suddenly, away into the wine-dark water flew my lovely knife vanishing ‘neath the billows like Odysseus’ Ino (Goddess of the Sea) veil. With sincere apologies to the ancient Greek poet Homer.
Like our mortal hero lost at sea, I yelled expletives. So aghast I was, I believe I heard dark Poseidon himself reply, “Go! Go, rove your high seas if you must, and take your blows!,” for right then I lost my most precious pipe as “a wave suddenly took it and Nymphe Ino’s hands received it” away into the fast-running water.
Dear reader, pause a moment if you will, and imagine my shock at the burbling, green-blue stream so immediately thieving away my treasures, along with the now dislodged trout as if for good measure. Just a moment earlier I was a placid hunter in the god-loved lands of the Phaeacians.
Now I was a forlorn man.
A complete loss! Total discombobulation. In addition to losing the big one that got away, Pundit lost a fine German-made trout knife and a very pricey pipe.
Lesson one: Never purchase a German-made blade and hang it around your neck in an open leather pouch while flyfishing fast-moving trout waters.
Lesson two: When flyfishing fast-moving trout tailwaters below power-producing rivers, smoke only inexpensive cobs—they’re the best smokers for the money. And if they drop into the “sucking ebb sheeting with foam” of our finest fast-moving trout waters, at least you haven’t lost expensive blade and pipe, which continue to float in the mists of dreams to this day!
These days, Pundit is content to stroll about in the color sensation of the moment in mountains, pipe firmly in hand. Flyrod left at home.
My enjoyment today sitting next to mountain cascades is watching others wade the streams, whilst I confidently puff and marvel at the splashy canopy of colors.
Which reminds old Pundit of one of his favorite poems by one of his favorite poets, Robert Frost.
A couple of lines if you please, maestro, will do here:
From the poet’s autumnal poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay: “Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.”
If you are a poetry, buff, ahem, you can read the short poem at
Now for a few more short takes.
This time of year, I enjoy pure Virginias. Okay, call me flaky, that’s perfectly fine. I love Virginia flakes as well when ridge-chilled winds rush into the valleys.
I am among those who bemoan the demise of the cherished McClelland blends, most especially the famed nonpareil 5100 Red Cake Virginia.
And, of course, the much-lamented loss of McClelland’s annual Christmas Cheer of outstanding broken flake Virginias. I first found this fabulous blend in 1992.
One more to whet the tobacco appetite is Iwan Ries IRC slices, another favorite this time of year.
This is a fine Old Belt flue-cured Virginia flake with a dollop of perique. You can find its review at https://www.tobaccoreviews.com/blend/2725/iwan-ries-irc-slices
Now, a couple of old pipe smokers of the past: Günter Grass, Nobel Prize winner in Literature and a prolific German author of novels, poems, plays, and graphic art. He was born, Oct. 16, 1927, and died April 13, 2015.
And Evelyn Waugh, British journalist, novelist, and travel writer, was born Oct. 28, 1903, and died April 10, 1966.
A parting quote from Waugh sums up the autumnal comings and goings:
“Change is the only evidence of life”–Brideshead Revisited
Photos by Fred Brown