The waterfall pours like silk over the edge of the gorge and separates; bursts of white spray plummet down the rock face, carving a path with the sharpness of a knife. The droplets sting as they land on your cheeks. They are hard and cold.
Water explodes into the stream; an injection of adrenalin that makes it swerve and twist, washing over boulders with foaming ferocity. The channel narrows, slicing through slate earth, roaring past the slick stone path that we are slipping on. It tumbles over itself, throwing kicks and punches as it hurries to get away, swirling through bulbs of rock and churning up the heavy air with a scent of pure freshness. Your nose tingles.
The trout are here. Struggling against the current that relentlessly pulls at them to turn back. They are stubborn. They work their tails, swimming nowhere.
The stream dips away, lost amongst the tattered remnants of trees ripped up and thrown casually downstream.
Trout have made it up the spluttering rock channels. See them like punctuation marks amongst the fragmented sentence of the stream. The current thickens, bunching its muscles as it prepares for the last descent, down into the Devil’s Cauldron where it spews forth in a torrent, only to be silenced by the black iciness of this water. Deep and dark it lies.
Light glances off slate-rock walls that are slick with spray, and a fine mist rises where the water plunges into itself. Life comes here exhausted, battered and bruised by the tunnel falls. Trout make their weary way; slipping and sliding that last rainbow of water. Their scales shimmer in the inky depths, their gills flutter as they suspend themselves for a moment of calm.
The trout gather the last of their strength and we watch them glide the freezing waters to the trout pool. The gorge sizzles with silence in the overhanging forest that peers into the pool. The trout will spawn and then turn back along that bubbling trail, back to the slow snake of water in the valley.
But their eggs lie beneath the surface, beneath the gravel at the bottom. Once the winter has passed we shall see the fry emerge, blinking in the sunlit waters. It will all begin again beneath the canopy of dappled leaves and the rippled surface of the trout pool.