Halfway Lake

The small seven-acre lake was a good choice for a meeting of the clans. My son and his wife would drive north from Arlington, VA to meet us at Halfway Lake, a feature of Raymond B. Winter State Park in mid-state Pennsylvania. The 695-acre park is situated in a Ridge and Valley Province roughly halfway between my son’s home and our own place in the Southern Tier of New York State. Rocky ridges, covered with oak and pine forest, proved to be a pleasant setting for us at Rapid Run and Halfway Lake, a cold-water fishery impounded by a hand-laid sandstone dam.

spillway from the CCC dam…

Rapid Run…

Raymond Winter was a young forester who dreamed that a park could be created from the ruins of massive lumber operations and forest fires in the early twentieth century. Winter devoted his life and labors to establishing a site of natural beauty where original European settlers had traveled the “14 Mile Narrows Road” between Center County wilderness and the Susquehanna River.

the site is also along PA’s long Mid State Trail…

The original stopping point at Halfway Lake was known as the Halfway House– a barn and tavern built along the tannin-colored waters of Rapid Run. The teamsters could stop and refresh themselves, half way through their travels over Sand Mountain and through Pine Swamp. And here, during the pandemic of 2020, Brent and Catherine, and Leighanne and I converged for a family gathering, respecting the dangers of Covid-19 and trying to maintain our distance from other Memorial Day celebrants.

walking the nature trail…

forest in succession…

My wife and I had reached the park before the two Southerners were scheduled to arrive, so I had an opportunity to fly fish for native trout and stocked fish dwelling in the laurel shade of Rapid Run. I didn’t do too well. I broke a bamboo rod tip under abject circumstances, thus joining the “UB Broken Rod Club” just days after UB (a faithful reader of this blog) disclosed a similar misfortune up near Slate Run. Luckily I had a spare tip handy for continued casting.

another tip bites the dust…

native trout not responsible for broken rod…

The Rapid Run Nature Trail, traversing “one of the first State Park Natural Areas,” presented a white pine and hemlock forest pretty much “as it appeared in 1850.” Painted trillium blossomed beside the trail. Warblers sang from the multi-green shroud above. We found gelatinous orbs of wood-frog eggs and salamander haunts in the vernal pools adjacent to the stream.

vernal pool with eggs… photo by Brent…

Our stop at Halfway Lake provided a good holiday visit, live with food and conversation, as in simpler days before the age of Zoom. Spring was shifting its weight toward summer and the halfway point of the year. The past few months have been strange ones, for sure. Let’s hope that the balance of 2020 is a healthier half for all.

the beach at Halfway… photo by Brent…

painted trillium….

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Spinners, the Final Stage

“Spinners” form the fourth and final stage in the life cycle of a mayfly. The aquatic insect lives through egg, nymph, adult (dun), and spinner stages. The adult typically rises from the stream as nature says, “It’s time to mate.”

Genesee, the stage is set…

The back of the newly hatched adult splits open and the spinner form emerges, frail and ghostly, to collect on nearby vegetation till it swarms above the water. Spinners have opaque or transparent wings that splay on the surface of a stream or stick together once the females have deposited their eggs. This final act in the life cycle can provide a food source for the trout, as well as an exciting opportunity for the fly fisher.

Jim K. works the Kettle…

Marion A.’s “Super Spinners” came to me as a gift, a medicine to lift the spirit of an old spinner-tier from the existential gloom of worldly matters and, let me tell you, it was good, a medicine that worked according to script.

Good stuff… A-Flex-Arod comes to bat!

I marveled at the Hendrickson and March Brown spinner imitations in sizes 10 and 12. The doc explained how the March Brown spinner was constructed: “The two colors in the body are achieved by using a dubbing loop and dubbing each thread with the different color… then twisting and winding on the hook shanks.” The effect is neater than the spinners of my own construction.

A March Brown spinner…

I’m reminded of  Marion’s “Two Old Spinsters” designation– two pursuers of fishes who could be defined by the Cortland Line Company in 1962:  “… A FISHERMAN is a composite. He has the appetite of a bluegill, the digestion of a shark, the energy of a muskellunge, the curiosity of a native brook trout, the lungs of a farmer bawling out a trespasser, the imagination of a lure manufacturer, the irresponsibility of frayed tippet, the usefulness of a backlash on a dark night, the glamour of a hellgrammite and the staying power of a relative…”

I was anxious for an evening on the Genesee, looking for a spinner fall, perhaps a swarm of March Brown breeders that would have the trout looking up and tasting frail meat on the surface.

As it was, I saw few insects on this bright, cool evening, but I did okay. The catbirds mewed behind me in the bushes. Sparrows flew across wide riffles, scarfing up occasional caddis flies or Blue-winged Olives as they hatched. And brown trout rose to Marion’s “Super Spinner” dry.

Egg sac ready to deposit…

sweet medicine…

I thought about the two pandemics of our day– coronavirus and stupidity (techunionnews.xyz), believing that all good people would do well to heed Bertrand Russell’s thoughts on graceful aging… Russell, the philosopher, advises everyone to…Widen your interests gradually and make them more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.

The wife’s river pose…

Genesee hatchery ‘bow…

In other words, be like the river on which the mayfly settles when its life is done. Be like a river that is small, at first, a river that’s contained yet passionate in its rock-bound flow. A river soon to widen and to slow down as the banks recede, as it merges quietly with the sea. A river transformed. Like a medicine, perhaps, a gift to be acknowledged as one character is exchanged for something more.

Genesee brown took the doctor’s medicine– w/ different side effects…

Golden ragwort stars the Kettle banks…

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Between the River and the Rail

Railroad fever gripped the nation during the latter decades of the nineteenth-century. As the New York and Pennsylvania timber and tanning industries burgeoned from dreams of endless forest and mineral wealth, many towns in the region clamored for a train link to the outside world. Industrialism gained a heavy hand throughout the rural East.

remnant of an area rail bed…

The New York & Pennsylvania Railroad (The NYP, or the “Nip,” as it’s been known) was an obscure short-line railroad 57 miles in length with an on-again, off-again history. Its origin can be traced to the 1870s and a junction with the Erie Railroad in Canisteo, New York. Its problems were rooted in the national economy as well as in local threats of floods, wash-outs and abandonment.

springs & marshes along the rail bed formed a good stage for bird observations…

A railbed had been laid from Canisteo south for 15 miles until its funds ran out. Two decades later it was joined by the Olean, Oswayo & Eastern Railroad that had swung northward out of Potter County, PA, setting a stage for the end of muddy horse roads and the problems stemming from dramatic seasonal events.

on the Baltimore & Ohio…

Influential businessmen and property owners helped to make the railroad possible. Three locomotives, two passenger cars and 23 flat cars brought visions of a booming economy to the agricultural district. A first thru-train left Oswayo, PA in 1896, transporting passengers to the Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hornellsville, NY. The railroad offices would be moved from Pennsylvania to Canisteo. A local poetaster sang to Progress, “There’s grain upon the hills,/ And lumber in the woods,/ The cars will carry them away,/ And bring us back our goods….”

great hemlocks still remain along the river & the rail…

Sawmills, tanneries, glass-works, chemical producers, and agriculture flourished for a while… “The rocks are cleft, the trees are felled, the stumps are blown to flinders;/ The grade is laid, the ties are made, there’s little now that hinders.” In 1903 The NYP leased mineral rights between Rexville and Whitesville, NY to Standard Oil, but despite industrial potential, it was hay, milk, potatoes, and fertilizer that sustained the railroad’s ledger.

back in those days, trout fishing was strictly for food…

Additionally, the railroad often carried schoolkids, mail, and people eager for activities in the larger towns and cities. It was never noted for its speed. A passenger might step from a moving train, grab a handful of blackberries then jump back on most casually, but the train compensated by accommodating special needs. It could wait at the station for a late ticket-holder or even stop along the line if someone flagged it down.

Throughout its history, The NYP was plagued with difficulties. A weak infrastructure was unable to withstand the yearly floods. Accidents occurred on a regular basis, often staging photo-ops for the curious and vain. The snow and ice curtailed months of operation. Once, a car broke loose from a Rexville siding and rolled away through Greenwood, following its downstream track till stopping, finally, in distant Canisteo.

Fuel became expensive. Stockholders disputed power and control. Plans to terminate were drawn and redrawn until 1919 when purchase came from the New York & Pennsylvania Railway Company. The new organization scrimped and saved and trimmed its labor force. Booster groups appealed to farmers and community members to help save the industry, to no avail. Ironically, The NYP’s final transport hauled supplies for road construction– tools to nail down its own coffin.

a wild brown from the headwaters…

Daily passenger service ended in 1923. The Great Depression offered a glimmer of hope for a merger, but the Flood of 1935 delivered the final blow. The last freight was run in April 1936. The NYP’s fate was similar to that of many small railroads at the time. The company dismantled and sold its scrap to a business in Japan.

Nature has reclaimed the path formed by The NYP. Slight traces of this former economic backbone can still be witnessed through private property– the trees and brush and backyards near my home ground in New York.

nature has erased the railroads from many locations…

A green railbed of the Baltimore & Ohio, a neighboring track in Potter County, PA, offers an opportunity to walk and fish the headwaters of the Genesee. In fact, between the river and the rail today, I had my senses loaded with not only trout and wildflowers, but also an eagle, a bear, and a bundle of migrating warblers.

Couldn’t have asked for more.

trillium– sepals, petals, leaves– in threes…

 

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An Early Canisteo Cabin

[On the first white settlement in this watershed– a place that became my permanent home two centuries later… Understandably, no photo of original cabin is available.]

Image result for images of old log cabins

The American Revolution had ended. General Sullivan, acting on the orders of George Washington, marched through western New York destroying Iroquois homes and native life (sadly enough), effectively opening the land to European settlement. A scouting party from the East, having found potential farmland on the flats near present-day Canisteo, stacked huge piles of summer hay for two families who would travel up the river in late autumn. The fodder would provide for driven cattle, the first livestock in these vales and rivertop heights.

old cemetery, names and dates effaced, near Adrian, NY…

The Stephens and the Crosby families, with their cattle plus a herd belonging to several other prospective families, started for Canisteo in 1789. Their trip began near present-day Elmira. The Chemung River narrowed into the Tioga and then the Canisteo River, navigable for their seven-ton shuttle laden with provisions such as food and furniture and ammunition. Several young men and boys drove the cattle on an Indian trail along the waterway, striving to keep the herd from bogging down in marshes or scrambling off on small streams tumbling from the cliffs.

There were logs and driftwood to be cleared with axes. Cascades and shallow riffles would require everyone to line the bank and haul the boat to deeper water. Autumn woods were drab and bare except for evergreens and chalky birch trees leaning from the river bluffs. The cold November wind brought fears of animal and Indian, anxiety of an unknown wilderness alleviated only by an evening’s fire, food preparation, and sleep. Their progress was slow, discouraging, and pressed by an oncoming winter.

They passed through the future settlements of Addison, Rathbone, Cameron, and Cameron Mills, arriving at their destination through what historians would describe as “howling wilderness,” a distance easily traveled in an hour’s time today.

the backside of Addison village on the lower Canisteo…

The stacks of hay, cut months before, seemed wonderful, even as the first snow squalls of a season blew across the valley. Cattle were fed. The first large pines and hemlock trees were felled. Teams of oxen hauled the big logs into place. The outlines of a log house, 24′ x 26′, rose beside a tributary soon to be known as Bennett Creek. Flat river stones and clay were hauled for fireplaces built into each corner of the house. And the boys began to plow…

The high brown grass was cut. The deeply matted roots were ripped from the resistant earth. The bottomland was burned, and smoke filled the sky. Three acres of land were sown with wheat.

cabin site near Canisteo, 2020…

Then came months of winter isolation. Days and nights of hunting, fireside plans and stories told. In March the wild geese would pass high overhead. The Stephens and the Crosbys would be joined by friends and families from the East– their summer dreams unfolding, labors just beginning, minds and bodies always leaning toward the West.

shadbush, or Juneberry, blossoms– often appearing in May as the shad begin their spawning runs…

Canisteo River near Cameron, NY…

 

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Picket Pin

One of my older fishing pals told me that his favorite fly pattern for night angling on the home river was a Picket Pin. Another elder told me that he likes to cast the same time-honored pattern (first developed in early twentieth-century Montana) on the upper stream because it imitates the plentiful stick caddis when tied with only peacock herl and squirrel-tail for a “wing.”

a typical meadow stretch…

I tied a few Picket Pin dry flies but they didn’t look right. Hopefully the trout like them better than my photo editor does. Other than a trout fly, a picket pin is a steel stake with a rope and swivel useful for tethering a horse. Additionally, it’s a nickname for several Western ground squirrel species that stand up on the prairie, looking like a stake, while gathering sensory data for their own survival. The Montana fly pattern took its name from the  squirrels and eventually became an angling favorite across the land.

old rail trail at the river…

springs like this provide cold water through the seasons…

It had been a good week fly-fishing the upper stretches of the home river, rambling through some interesting hemlock woods and pasture edges in Amish country. I was fascinated by what appeared to be unusually good numbers of wild and holdover browns– much better than I found in larger, downstream sections of the river. I surmised one reason for the difference: the upstream water had sufficient shade and more than ample springs to keep it cool throughout the rainy seasons of the previous year.

wild brown…

one of many holdovers… larger browns ranged from 14-16 inches…

The Hendrickson mayfly hatch came off each day at mid-afternoon and lasted for the better part of 90 minutes. I was lucky to observe the feeding habits of hungry trout before the local Amish families finished their work in order to fish the big pools that were new to me. I spoke to several of the pleasant farmers, young and old, and they were eager to fill their grocery bags with trout. Where Jim K. and I had fished one pool in solitude on Tuesday afternoon, there were close to a dozen family members on Wednesday slinging earthworms as the mayflies reemerged.

three Amish boys fished a deep pool while standing on this fallen hemlock…

Jim lands one during the Hendrickson hatch…

I want to go back and find new holes and undercuts far from boot tracks and discarded bait containers. They’ll be found, I’m sure, and maybe I’ll report on them while keeping old Ben Franklin, scientist, diplomat and inventor, in mind.

trout lilies were abundant…

one of many new river scenes…

I’ve been reading some of Franklin’s inspirational letters that reflect his multi-faceted interests and I’ve noted what’s been said of his own requirements for good writing. Everything that the good doctor wrote had to be “smooth, clear, and short.” The writing helped to keep his unusual talents focused and attractive. Like a Picket Pin on a riffle or a short stake in the ground.

[And from the picket pin of Benjamin to the horse of a different guy with identical surname, a gentle reminder that his latest is available on Amazon if you still need some tasty literary fodder…]

 

bonus pic#1: Canadice Lake, the smallest of the Finger Lakes…

#2: tried for lake trout with a fly… no dice!

 

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River SCOP Rambles

Scop, you say? Well, my dictionary defines the word as a bard, or poet, of the Anglo-Saxon days in ancient England. I was drawn to the word and to the scop’s role in medieval time because of the pandemic and the way its subsequent restrictions have revised my own approach to the environment.

Unlike all other photos here, this one is from Pine Creek where I saw no sign of trout.

A midday visit to the upper river struck me as the start of something new. Although I’ve admired this particular stretch on numerous occasions while passing by on other fishing trips, I had never taken a closer look. This was my home river and I should have known it better, but the word had been out– the water was marginal, of minimal interest to an angler looking for wild trout and its habitat.

on the new stretch…

My inner scop was ready to begin from scratch… To fly fish on a clean stream of experience close to home, to scope out the poetry of earth the way that minstrels did in days of yore, if only to appease my need of trying something different in these difficult times… It was like teetering on the brink of new creation all over again.

heading upstream…

I saw a woman walking to the mailbox with her dog, then parked my car along the road nearby. Was it still okay to fish the posted river out beyond? Certainly. I thanked her and began my walk into the valley with its views of tamarack slopes and greening fields. The old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad bed provided a scenic walk along the river with its prospects of wild trout or holdover browns.

large hemlocks shade a portion of the stream…

For a fringe-dweller like myself, imagining a scop’s intent was fairly easy. April sunlight and the warming air felt good; there would be no one else around for hours. Spring could make a rambler feel both old and young at once, and I was hell-bent on investigating the river and its poetry in whatever form it might be given.

just can’t get away from phones these days…

As I said, the stretch was new to me, but I had recently enjoyed two previous occasions on this river. I had learned to be ready with a landing net. There had been several encounters where I could have used one.

The hemlock-shaded holes and riffles were productive. I ignored the hatch of blue-winged olives and the smaller blue-quills since I saw no other interest in the mayflies. The fish were hungry for a bigger meal, and they readily grabbed a Woolly Bugger– each fish a surprise here in the woods where I had thought the stream had largely given up on trout.

The scop’s surprise received a double shot of wonder as he worked the longest and deepest pool without success. What the hell… Not a single fish responded to the big fly in this pool. Then he heard a loud splash in the riffle just upstream. Imagination? No, another splash, and then a first large mayfly– the blue-gray Hendrickson (E. subvaria)– fluttering past his vision.

the long-awaited hatch…

3 p.m., April 20th, northern Pennsylvania. The time and place coincided perfectly with past experiences of fishing to this hatch! The Hendrickson was on, emerging in profusion, and this was where the dry fly season kicked off new excitement for the angler. He would net five brown trout in that riffle with a floating Hendrickson and then return them with a shake of his head.

The fish, from 12 to 16 inches long, appeared to be holdovers from a year gone by… The scop looked around… A dream? No boot track in the mud, no discard at the water’s edge. The river spoke with syllables of water over stone.

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The Wild Trout Throw a Party

I woke up around 3:15 a.m. with several lines of silly thought reverberating in my head. For better or worse, these lines may have given impetus for this latest post. One of them was close to a throw-away: “We’ve got NO BEER for the party. Just a PEACH!” Well, I wasn’t going to that party anyway. Another line, echoing a well-known Dylan song, made more sense: “O Mama, can this really be the end, to be stuck inside of GREENWOOD with the Covid-blues again?”

the big brown called the party…

I don’t really feel so stuck here in Greenwood. I’m fortunate to live in some woolly country with a lot of space for getting lost nearby and keeping others safe from my special brand of nuttiness. Here the wild trout call me to some streams in the area, one of which has proved rather interesting this year. It’s the headwaters of my home-river, the exact branch of which remains necessarily vague.

every party needs some fresh wild leeks…

The state opened the regular trout season early– by surprise– in order to facilitate social distancing of expected crowds. I got to the stream on the first “real” opening day, alone with the clouds, cool air and muddied water. I was way above the highest stocking point along the stream, not expecting much more than the satisfaction of being free, unstuck from the confines of our social crisis.

who invited this guy– exoskeleton on hemlock bark…

The stream is not a popular one. It flows gently through a valley filled with farms, old meadows and patchy forest land. It feels remote, although in actuality it parallels a quiet road and has some issues with flood-borne litter and sedimentation. Ninety-nine percent of its limited fishermen prefer to angle for the stocked trout hosed in at its lowest bridge.

a 14-inch brown emerged from beneath this tire…

I last fished it in the early spring of 2019 and lost a large brown that broke off in a log-jam. This year I returned to its muddy water with a short stout leader and a weighted Woolly Bugger. I quickly had a fight on my hands. The seven-foot four-weight bamboo took a mean bend but I landed then returned a heavy 21-inch brown– a wild fish or, if not, most certainly a holdover from the golden days before we ever heard of Covid-19.

one of numerous wild fish…

I made a second visit just the other day. Upstream, even closer to the source, farther upstream than I’d fished before. A quarter-inch of rain that fell the previous night presented cloudy water once again, enabling me to fish confidently with a streamer. The old fields and the hemlock woods felt wonderful. I couldn’t believe my luck– wild browns and holdovers, many in the eight to nine-inch range, with several of them close to 14 inches. And a painted rainbow, obviously a holdover, pulled out from the logs and measuring a full 17 inches long.

the old rainbow fought me underneath this bridge…

another holdover…

I remembered a throw away line, an image, that bounced around my thoughts that morning at 3:15, or minutes later… It concerned an old guy who I met at the city transfer station where I’d taken my recyclables. The septuagenarian passed me in his car, driving slowly with his window down. He held an empty bottle of Scotch as he headed toward the bin containing a variety of clear glass. He told me, “It was fun getting this thing ready for recycling.”

It was fun revisiting an old, unpopular trout stream close to home. A treat getting reacquainted. Like a one-man party where the beer had vanished, but where the lonely peach was worth the tasting.

the big fish from a small stream…

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On the Duty of Staying Home

April is National Poetry Month and, one week into it, I was pleasantly surprised to get a postcard from a friend in Richmond who wrote, “Trying times for us all, but there are moments of clarity. I was drawn back to your poem The Stones Deliver a Sermon on the Duty of Staying Home.” It’s not often that a poem of mine (or a book that includes it) gets noticed by either friend or enemy, so I started thinking.

Dyke Creek…

I’ve been fishing the New York trout streams near my home this past week (maintaining requisite social distance, of course), and looking for… well… poetry and fish. It’s been a satisfying endeavor, although certain streams were frustrating– shy of their usual numbers of trout, if not of poetry.

Genesee River…

The poem that my postcard pal referred to starts with “Verily we say unto you/ O passerby: We were cursed,/ called stumbling stones,/ fragments fallen from/ a single rock in Heaven’s field…”. Yup. Fishing this week, I probably stumbled over some of those stones (I need cleated soles again) and cursed the poor things more than they deserved. Nonetheless, there were elements of poetry in the wild and hatchery fish, in the chorusing of song birds on the streambanks, in the greening mat of wild leeks on the forest floor.

Spring Mills…

I’d been mindless of National Poetry Month, but reading works by Frost and Pound and Boccaccio nonetheless– the latter’s ancient volume, The Decameron, is especially apropos given our current health crisis. I mean, a guy can’t just fish and hike all day, without a dash of culture… for balance… can he?

My friend’s postcard quoted the last few lines of “The Stones Deliver a Sermon on the Duty of Staying Home”: … Blessed are the persecuted and the lonely,/ blessed, the poor who stay at home,/ for the righteous and unknowing find/ no Heaven there. Please don’t tell me that those stumbling stones, the old stone fences near abandoned fields (having aided farmers till the “futile harvests followed”) are dumb as rocks.

Black stonefly…

Rail Trail, Wellsville-Addison-Galeton…

And lastly, from Wings Over Water (please forgive, but there’s no other way to plug a new book in these days of global turmoil)… “I like to find poetry in the world, in the elements surrounding us, waiting for connection and interpretation. I like to translate what is raw and flex it into ordinary words. That process, I suppose, is one facet of my job as naturalist…”

Everyone has a personal framework in the world of nature, but so many have forgotten what that framework is, or allowed the social world to smash it. Still, “We have ways of realigning our humanity… with the history of our kind and with our hope for future days…” The lands and waters can assist us in getting straight, or realigned.

“They speak directly and to the point. They speak the poetry of life.”

 

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The Gnats

I parked 20 feet from an old black truck at a pull-off by the river. I began to pull on my waders when I saw two fishermen with rods and nets returning to their vehicle. Before I knew it, I heard the husky round-faced angler saying to his partner, “I know that guy from somewhere.”

upper Allegheny…

Looking up, I finally recognized the speaker: Phil, Jr., along with his nephew Jake. Phil’s dad had been a fine companion whom I’d fished with on the Genesee, as well as on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc for a three-day outing some dozen years before.

“Oh yeah, Phil! How’s it going? I’m Walt… Franklin. It’s been years!”

“Yeah, it’s been a while, hasn’t it…  Jake, remember Walt?  He gave me those Griffith’s Gnats to save our day when we were out on the Willow that time. Dad was fishing downstream, near camp. The trout were fussy as hell, but the Gnats were what they wanted.”

“I remember now, ” I said. “A  great visit with your family… So, any fish today?”

“We didn’t see anything, though Jake might have had a strike. I don’t think they’ve stocked this section yet. There might be a few holdovers scattered around, who knows.”

“There’s always a chance to find one. At times like these, especially when the weather’s nice, we’ll take it, right? Even without the stockers. Upstream, you might find a wild fish or two, and there’s often hatchery trout from Pennsylvania. But due to the virus, hatchery drivers aren’t distributing with their usual help from volunteers. Their buckets are getting emptied mostly at the bridges.

Fishing could be spotty this year. Still, whenever I fish down through this section, I think of you guys, especially of your dad. He sure loved the river and its wildlife. Loved to tie those soft-hackles and match them to the hatches. Loved to help out anybody who took an interest in the sport… He really had it down.”

“Definitely. He was good. And probably fishing right now. Up there, if you know what I mean… But since he died, I haven’t gotten out a lot…

Jake and I, well, we were laid off from our jobs last Friday. With this staying home and being distant, and all, we’ve been going crazy and just needed to be on the river.”

hemlock on Genesee…

“Yeah, for sure… Economies are grinding to a halt; we’re making decisions left and right.  Fatigue sets in, morally and physically, so there’s reason to be out here, aside from the typical enjoyment that we get.”

The three of us lifted an arm in farewell to each other, as if with a fly rod in our grips, on the Genny or the Beaverkill. I think we departed with hopes of seeing each other some day down the road.

Chester2…

Those tiny gnats I happened to have on a June day long ago were floating in my thoughts. Those miniature #20 hooks, wrapped with peacock herl and grizzly hackle, rose there sympathetically. It wasn’t even April yet.

comin’ in, then back…

…alright, the last of my “skunks” this year….

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The Far and Fine, from Home

1. The sun on rusted rails extending through a chain of ponds. Sun that softens the edge of ice; walkin’ blues colored by a smile. Sun reflecting from an eagle; thermals of the western ridge. The sun on a leaning barn still ripe with scented hay. The sun on a redwing’s throat; geese paired quietly in reeds. The sun on Appalachia; Earth in winter traces; the immobile who would fly.

…ain’t blue no more…

2. A good reminder: Anne Frank and seven others sheltered more than two years in a tiny attic, fearful of making even a sound. The world closes in but life takes care. With thanks to service providers, to supporters of small business, and to those inside the trenches. Meanwhile, dig the far and fine from home. Don’t die before you’re dead.

3. Eighty geese battle into the wind. The skydogs (of ’76) clamor for the hare of spring. “Come quick! Look up!” The ice cracks. Cows and sparrows stir. The red buds fatten. Music courses through the blood.

…Rail Housewives of the Erie Line…

4.                                     In dark evergreens

ice drips from stony ledges–

quiet waterfall

…the lines they are a’changin’…

 

Plastic milk bottles

drink the sap from maple trees

through long purple straws

…Beaver-lodge B&B…

Under April stars

the peepers ring–

baby listens

…Flat-tail Shanty…

5. …I love the deep woods for the way the forest brings the ego to its knees, and for the way it reconstructs a balance in the seeker of solitude, the wanderer who needs to see the wild resurface in his or her life. I love the deep woods for the magic that’s imparted there, and for the hint of danger, too. The act of balancing the wild and civil elements within the self may be only short-lived but, if tumbling water sings of rocky passages or the wind strums its way across the hemlock boughs, the balance there is real…

…approach…

A home is the place where your life feels right. It’s a framework that extends beyond the body and gives meaning to the heart. It’s a place as small as an apartment or as large as the globe. It’s a place worthy of our songs and praises. It’s organic and ever changing, a place that a thrush will sing of in the hemlock trees, a place that I’ll try to write of in an essay or a poem…

From Wings Over Water (see sidebar or “About” for ordering info). Take care.

…no straight lines in nature…

 

 

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