Small Stream Shuffle and Forest Romp

Over the past week and a half the streams and rivers of this region have settled into normal summertime flows, and I’m actually looking forward to a bit of rain again. The fishing has been good, and the streams and woodlands have been fine companions. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s a summary of where I’ve been since my last post, given in the spirit of sharing the outdoor wonders…

Hello Chenunda Creek. I fished you on a muggy morning, keeping an eye on the sky for storms, and catching a wild trout or two. You flow through the upper Genesee drainage. You have new fishing regulations that are open and more liberal (dare I use that word?), but you need an easement from the DEC, declaring public access.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHey there, Dyke Creek. The “Miracle Mile” in the upper half of this Genesee feeder stream was considerably lower than on my previous visit. The sun and the wind were up; the black ducks, the great blue herons, the green herons, the belted kingfisher, and even an osprey mocked a modest catch of wild brooks and browns, all of which reinforce the notion that when I fish alone, I don’t exactly fish alone!

Ms. Genesee. The popular Genny “No Kill Water” at Shongo. Beautiful summer morning; the season passing all too quickly. Fishing was slow, but a brightly-colored rainbow snuck up on a drifting nymph and took it, coming in for a measurement of 16 inches. Love that bamboo casting stroke, so easy and relaxed, quite sensitive and strong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI met a pair of “Water Sentinels,” volunteers from Wellsville monitoring the river water, lowering a small square device from atop the highway bridge. They check for dissolved solids and report on water quality to NYS Sierra Club. Kudos to these people for what they do. After all, “We drink this water, too.”

Back at ya, Slate Run. A lot of guys were fishing down on Pine Creek, but I met a refugee from Richmond, VA coming up to fish on Slate Run for the first time ever. He had questions for me and I answered him with Slate Run anecdotes based on 30 years of fishing here. He started off by casting at the Mowry Pool, and I worked upstream for a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhalf mile or more.

My god, the wild brooks (7) and browns (4) hit that Stimulator as if it was the last stonefly on the planet. It was like the “old days” today, before the weather closed me down. Leighanne would joke and say, “I guess they don’t need to stock it,” referring to the camp owner who traditionally complains about the slide in fish numbers and who wants Slate Run stocked as it was back in the 60s and 70s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time I climbed back out to the car, I noticed that the Virginia angler had departed, probably having gone back down to Pine. That’s okay, I thought. It takes a while to get the hang of Slate. If it wasn’t for the possible dangers to be found– poison ivy, rattlesnakes, broken legs, and thunderstorms– this wild place would get overcrowded fast, and where’s the fun in that?

Heh, heh, a wild one in the upper Pine Creek watershed. I was wet wading, and my first step into the 57 degree water was a cool one. I love this little stream for chilling on a hot summer morning. Brook trout rose eagerly to the dry fly, one of them measuring more DSCN6893than nine inches. In the farthest pool upstream, I remembered a sizeable fish that almost took the fly a year ago. Today I dropped a dry fly at the pool’s grassy bank and hooked a lovely wild brown (unusual for this brook trout water) about a foot in length. It didn’t want to be photographed, and who can blame it.

So the fishing goes, and carries me along. As does the local forest, where I’ve had my share of evening walks this week.

DSCN6915No more bear encounters, but the Hemlock Woods still ring with the song of hermit thrushes, and a few wood thrushes, too. The ringing tones are getting quieter as the woodland nesting season closes for another year. Again I wondered what it is about the deep forest grove and the way of thrushes that keeps the place rocking when most of the other habitats in my area have pretty much quieted down completely.

DSCN6911It’s a fine thing to stand among the big trees at dusk and listen to these small, ethereal choristers. Oddly enough, I was reminded of the less gloomy aspects of “The Bells,” a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. I looked it up when I get home, and read, once more, about that euphony of sound…

…How it swells!/ How it dwells/ On the Future! how it tells/ Of the rapture that impels/ To the swinging and the ringing/ Of the bells, bells, bells/ Of the bells, bells, bells, bells/…To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells…DSCN6928DSCN6896DSCN6939

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The Slate Run Trout and Senior Citizen Update

I’ve never been good at remembering people’s names, and it doesn’t get any easier with age and experience. Allow me to explain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The weather forecast for Slate Run, Pennsylvania wasn’t looking good: a high of 87 degrees, with drenching humidity and a solid chance of storms, but I was going there to fly-fish, come Hell with raindrops or big water.

The Pine Creek watershed, including all of Slate and Cedar runs, had been hit with heavy rains all week, and the streams looked fine for kayaking but not so much for casting with a fly.

It had been a couple of years since I fished on Slate Run proper. I was interested in seeing if the ebb had bottomed out, and if the wild trout populations had recovered. Several years ago, a Slate Run survey by the Fish & Boat Commission suggested that recovery was imminent, based on the number of brown trout young-of-year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACatching an 8-inch brook trout on my third or fourth cast of the morning, and then a 9-inch brown trout shortly afterward, I was starting to feel that maybe Slate was finally coming around.

It wouldn’t be an easy task. The stream was flowing very high and mostly clear. Wading was close to impossible, especially without an implement for support.

Retrieving my beadhead Prince nymph from the pocket water, I felt a big fish slam the fly and turn over once. It vanished in the whitewater with a fly in its lip. Things were looking better here on Slate, for anglers if not for trout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw a man about my age, or older, walking the streambank under the pines. I stepped out to say hello. I didn’t recognize the fellow, whose name was Ed, but he knew me from the Slate Run Sportsmen meetings, and we quickly got to talking on the ways of people and trout.

He’s a fly-fisher, but had broken his back a while ago, and now has to use a cane or a walker on his Slate Run rambles. He enjoys painting, and often works from a photograph that he takes while checking on the water.

Just before I got back to my fishing, I told Ed it was good to speak with him along the creek, and added, “What is your last name again?”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ed’s heritage is German through and through, and even though I’ve had plenty of experience with complicated surnames from the old country, I could not remember Ed’s last name. I still can’t remember it, damnit.

With due apologies to my new acquaintance, I know it’s not as simple a name as “Schmidt.”

Giving me his full name for a second time, Ed recalled a joke that he had to tell. He said, “You’re a senior citizen, like me, right? Well, listen to this…

“An old couple came home from a big dinner date at a restaurant. The old man and woman got out of their car, and a young neighbor who’d known what they were doing saw the couple and wondered how the evening went.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“The wife had gone into her house, but the neighbor stopped the old guy just before he got away.

How did it go? asked the young neighbor.

“The old guy said it was fine, not bad at all. Then the young man asked him where the restaurant was.

Oh… down the road a ways. Not far.

So what did you have? What was the food like?

Oh, I don’t know, remarked the old fella, with some apprehension and concern. It was pretty good, I guess.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat’s the name of the restaurant that you and the Mrs. went to?

“Oh shit, thought the old man. Now he’s got me…

Uh, the name has something to do with flowers, he said… A spring flower… What’s it called… with lots of smell and color, but with thorns.

Rose? asked the neighbor. Is it Rose?

Oh. Yeah, that’s it! exclaimed the elder. He then put his hand to his mouth and yelled to the house…

HEY ROSE! What was the name of that restaurant we went to?”

Ed and I departed, laughing loudly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I went up to the next big pool on Slate Run and quickly got a nice wild brown trout on the line. This colorful specimen, just before release, measured 16 inches along my new fly rod.

Maybe I should run into Ed every time I’m on the water!

Although the sun’s heat had pervaded the depths of the gorge, I felt like making a joyful noise. It might be a little premature to say, but I’ll say it before I forget— the Slate Run fishery seems healthier and more abundant than it was a while ago.

Now, speaking of joy, let’s have a listen to Harry Nilsson’s “Joy,” and… chuckle.

 

 

 

 

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Close Encounters

1. The upper Genesee is my home river, and it had not been fishing well through a DSCN6875period of heavy rains. This  morning, however, it was flowing normally for July, and the trout were rising for a while before the sun shone down.

I caught several trout, a brook and browns, on a Blue-winged Olive dry fly, and it seemed my luck was improving when I wasn’t fussing so much over my new fly rod. I was just casting the thing and having fun.

2. The first good photographs of the dwarf-planet Pluto were arriving on Earth and even my chair-ridden mother saw that something new and positive, for a change, was being plastered onto CNN’s steady stream of overkill. An alien world was entering consciousness with something like a Welcome sign.

DSCN6885The spaceship New Horizons passed the little planet like a pair of good binoculars in the hands of an earthbound explorer looking into the trees. It seemed that what is out there in the farthest region of our solar system has a heart and sense of mystery, a certain warmth that our self-centered civilization finds so puzzling.

3. It’s fascinating to receive high-resolution images from the realms beyond. As an earthbound spaceman, myself, I enjoy stepping out with my modest collection of data-gathering instruments– a fly rod, memo pad, canteen, binoculars, and walking stick.DSCN6867

I recently launched myself into a series of neighborhood hikes, long hill climbs into the forest at my door, looking for reclusive birds and mammals while the summer still afforded the opportunity.

The unbroken South Ridge forest is approximately four miles long and has an average width of more than half a mile. Each summer I like to ramble on an old lumber track through its “Hemlock Woods” and listen for the evening (and early morning) songs of hermit thrush and other avian notables.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI stood in the solitude of evening woods, with “singing hermits” on each side of me, along with robin, wood thrush, and hooded warbler. The wet, matted leaves on the forest floor had sprung to life with various mushrooms and polypores, but as the light grew dim, the songs of the hermit thrush filled me head to foot.

The hermit has a velvety, flute-like song that’s damned near impossible to describe, although many have tried. The notes, ascending and descending the musical scale like the European nightingale and beyond, can take an attentive listener to unusual heights. In his book Wake Robin, the naturalist John Burroughs wrote about a hermit’s song: DSCN6859… Listening to this strain on the lone mountain, with the full moon just rounded from the horizon, the pomp of your cities and the pride of your civilization seemed trivial and cheap.”

4. On one of the most perfect of summer days, I ventured into the clear and cloudless heights over a local trout stream. Casting my new rod with a feeling of confidence and ease, I surprised myself for fishing the first half mile in two hours without seeing a single trout. I forged on, however, sort of like the New Horizons spacecraft (?), trying various wet and dry fly patterns till I found productive water way upstream.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI caught a mix of nine trout, wild and hatchery specimens, ranging from a seven-inch brookie to a brown of more than 15 inches, all of them on a singular Prince nymph in an afternoon that had looked to be headed for a skunk.

And yeah, the new rod was a pleasure.

5. One evening I descended from the Hemlock Woods in the dim light of 9 p.m. Peering into the forest I saw a black bear that hadn’t seen or scented me as yet. I stood still on the edge of a ravine, watching the dark shape amble closer, figuring that the bear would descend the gully then climb away, but it turned to me and closed the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wanted a camera but didn’t have one with me. Would a flash terrify the bear? A moot point. I had a walking stick and could use it to bop a nose, if need be– if this odd encounter with a bear turned suddenly weird. It’s not unusual for me to find a bear near home, but inevitably it’s hightailing in the opposite direction.

The animal’s face was probably 75 feet from mine and coming closer when I broke and simply said aloud: “Whoa, Bear! Close enough!” It was getting too dark for this kind of thing.DSCN6854

I don’t know who was more surprised, but we were like two aliens in a new world, ready for other places. The big bear bolted uphill, passing the point where I first saw it, and there he paused to turn and check me out. I looked back also. If it’s possible to feel the “Plutoid Effect” (coined by Bill Nye the Science Guy?)– the energy of exploration when beyond our customary orbits– we were feeling it then.

My feet stepped quickly toward the friendly lights of home.DSCN6887

 

 

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“I Write ‘Um the Way I Feel”

The skies can’t keep their secret!/ They tell it to the hills–/ The hills just tell the orchards–/ And they the daffodils!… (from Emily Dickenson).

prairie warbler

prairie warbler

There’s nothing more resplendent this wide morning than a singing prairie warbler on the hill. There’s no prairie on this great hill, only the clusters of young emerging trees, the ten to twenty-foot trees that prairie warblers need.

The zi-zi-ZI notes, rapidly ascending, are almost imperceptible among the background calls of sparrows, finches and other warblers. The prairie is a small bird with an olive back and streaked yellow underside. It’s careless of a watcher with his eyes and ears wide open. It forages deeply in the summer shrubs. The prairie’s wing-bars and tail-wagging come at me as if from the hillside– from a steep hill in the mind.

milkweed

milkweed

From Emily Dickenson… To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,–/ One clover and a bee,/ And revery./ The revery alone will do/ If bees are few.

So, what is out there waits for no one. It engages us, if and when we take the time to care. There is poetry in it, nudging and turning with a flourish. It is wild and has a voice that fills the air.

What’s here?

Blossom of the black-eyed Susan. Black raspberries in the hand. Flat rocks overturned

fisher

fisher

and flung aside by a hungry bear. The night eyes of a white-tailed deer with velvet horns. A red fox running with a small black woodchuck in its jaws. And best, for me– the dark-furred fisher, porcupine-eater, loping across the gravel road!

What is out there holds its place against the darkness. Simple speech confronts the babble of our world. I listen and write what I hear and feel. No theory now, and no experiment. “Unlimited eventfulness” (Kenneth Rexroth) comes to mind.

Brian Kleinchester

Brian Kleinchester

My long-awaited fly rod comes to mind. It came to me in the mail, from an event two years ago when I placed an order for the rod. No, I won’t catch more fish because of this new rod. But it’s a thing of beauty built from scratch– from bamboo culm, from original taper tested on the stream, from hardware, even, made by one man in a southern shop.

There’ll be no more of them. Not for me. Really! And I may need to sell off other rods to now afford my angling habit, but this one is a joy to cast. It’s my statement of support for the tradition of fly-fishing, for the beauty of craftsmanship (you might not believe how many hours of skilled workmanship go into the construction of a custom rod),  and for my faith in the ways of art and nature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a rod to be fished through the balance of my days, and then, with luck, to be passed along with even greater value to the next recipient.

The weaver of life weaves his tapestry across the hill. I try to follow, and catch mere glimpses of his work. I take a pen to paper, or I run my fingertips across the waiting keyboard. If my meanings come up short, oh well, at least I’ve tried, and maybe I should just go fishing. Maybe then I’ll do better, and I can thank that newly varnished instrument of mine.

One night I just go fishing on the wide Conhocton. Tim D. leads the way across the

Indian pipe

Indian pipe

restless river as the fireflies appear and a startled heron squawks repeatedly and raises several hairs along my neck. The last glow of sunset fades from the north. An hour later all I see is a dim reflection from my friend’s headlamp as he works to free a tangle from his line.

The river tumbles at my feet and I imagine its dirge for a brown trout’s unexplained burial in the shallows, for a dead deer in the bushes and the possibility of zombie shufflings in the dark.

from Dryden Hill

from Dryden Hill

I catch a good brown on a drifted fly and free the hook by feel alone. I can barely see the fish in my hands.

Another story comes to life about the hills and valleys and the streams and rivers of our time. The tales we bring are spirited and, if we’re lucky, we’ll cut through the barriers between us, like an old knife newly honed!

I think of the prairie warbler and the fisher and the bear and the trout and all the rest. And then, with Emily, I say …In the name of the bee/ And of the butterfly/ And of the breeze, amen!

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Two of America’s Finest

En route to Warrenton, Virginia for several days, I stopped to fly-fish a couple of America’s finest trout streams. We were heading south to help celebrate Independence Day and the recent engagement of son and future daughter-in-law. With an extra OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAafternoon and evening on hand, I became more acquainted with two of our finest spring creeks.

The Letort, in Carlisle, PA was made world famous by the likes of writers Charlie Fox and Vince Marinaro who perfected the development and use of fly patterns suited for diet-rich limestone creeks. Ed Shenck developed the Letort Cricket and Letort Hopper around 1960, and I remember ordering my first artificial trout flies by mail just a few years later. It may have been Ed Shenck, himself, who tried to decipher a schoolboy’s handwriting that asked him to please send two Letort Crickets to the following address… And while you’re at it, please find the dollar bill enclosed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Letort and its neighboring Big Spring Creek are commonly considered to be among the most difficult trout streams in America to fly-fish with success. These classic limestone creeks are packed with wild trout that are well-fed and selective in their feeding habits. Thick water grasses interweave conflicting currents of these streams; and yes, the currents are capable of maddening a fly line operator if he or she is not equipped with counter-acting strategies.

The Letort is a sacred bastion of the wild that is now mostly enclosed by the city of Carlisle. Big Spring is found near the village of Newville and offers an idyllic rural atmosphere that I want to keep exploring in future seasons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Letort, with its dense environment ripe with streamside brush and vegetation, suggested that I fish with a short rod– in this case, a 7-foot Phillipson with a 3-weight line. The Big Spring headwaters, with its open-ended casting lanes, suggested that my F.E. Thomas– a longer, vintage 1930s stick– would be useful here.

Wading is highly discouraged in these streams where deep layers of sediment coat the bottom. Typically, an angler walks the banks and sight-fishes. I was no different, although I sometimes entered the edges of the run, enjoying the feel of cold spring water on my bare legs and wading shoes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI collected and released a nice Letort brown along “Vince’s Meadow.” It came from the far bank, a deep channel with overreaching logs. The brown trout nailed a tiny mayfly pattern (a Pheasant-tail nymph) that I’d swung on a long, fine leader, in tandem with a Midge Pupa. I had to work the fish quickly to prevent its escape in the grassbeds at the center of the stream.

We drove to Newville for my Big Spring debut, following the stream to its headwaters below the infamous state hatchery. This stream, also beloved by the angling fraternity throughout the years, is known for the largest wild brook trout in the country, outside of watery Maine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese natives can occasionally grow to five pounds and attain a length of 18 inches, but the stream’s recent history has been marred. The fishery was decimated by hatchery effluent and agricultural run-off during the last few decades of the 20th century. When the hatchery was decommissioned about 15 years ago (thanks to protest by environmental groups), the trout fishing returned full-force, albeit with some new ecological issues.

The first mile of Big Spring Creek below the hatchery site is designated as fly-fishing-only water, with the use of barbless hooks. Below that, the regulations change, and the stream is infused with a mix of wild and stocked fish.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since the closure of the state hatchery, the rainbow trout population has exploded and presented a problem for the brown trout and native brooks with which it competes. Big Spring is one the few trout streams in the state that’s capable of producing wild rainbow trout.

The short stretch of water just below the hatchery is known as “The Ditch.” Large trout– rainbows, brooks and browns– can be viewed easily in this quiet stretch of grassy water but they’re anything but pushovers. After catching a small wild rainbow in the faster waters below the Ditch, I concentrated my efforts here, but not successfully.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeighanne sat on ramparts of an old dam and directed my long casts from a crouched position upstream. I got some follows of the Midge and Pheasant-tail patterns but, alas, these hefty cruisers weren’t completely buying.

It was a pleasant introduction to a long holiday weekend celebrating both independence and marraige, two concepts that are not mutually exclusive, or so I am told.

The wild trout of Pennsylvania’s limestone creeks were probably selective in their feeding habits when I visited. They were more selective, surely, than our human OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAactivities indicated as we celebrated on a backyard deck. For company, we had a pair of Carolina wrens that fed their young ones in a nest jammed between some leaning chairs and a back wall of the house.

The young wrens consumed every buggy morsel brought to them throughout the day. We humans, young and old, consumed our own versions of tasty food and drink. Not least of all, we listened to each other’s tales originating from the great outdoors beyond.DSCN6761DSCN6776DSCN6778

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By This River(top)

In a period of time with more than the usual rainfall, when the streams and rivers have been running high and off-color, the fishing is limited and I look more to the unsung lives and places of the rivertops.

There's a bass pond near this rivertop site, but its photo didn't show.

There’s a bass pond near this rivertop site, but its photo didn’t show.

 

Their allure is temporary, perhaps, but no less joyful in being common. If you doubt me, take some minutes and look at nature’s small surprises found along the yard’s edge or the roadside. Step aside from the usual track and cast a line to a summit pond or ramble freely through the forest.

So I pause for the uncommon and allow myself some interaction there. Why not? It’s quiet there and sane. The ground is drier but infused with mystery and beauty. Facebook is a world away. The dust has settled from Supreme Court rulings on ObamaCare and same sex marriage. Nature is evolving as it should be (problems due to climate change not included).

Even black bass get the blues sometimes.

Even black bass get the blues sometimes.

I might focus on the natural sphere more readily while I’m standing in a stream or river, but these drier places are no less worthy of my efforts, or as likely to be appreciated by others–

As a poem by Emily Dickenson might suggest:

The Hills erect their purple heads,/ The rivers lean to see–/ Yet Man has not, of all the throng,/ A curiosity.

The rivers lean to see, always going somewhere even when they’re stationary, and I like to think that my own rambling efforts echo that condition whether I’m walking or resting on a bench. Like a songbird, mushroom, beaver, pine tree, or a frog, each of us has a

from poppers like this, but of course I let them go

from poppers like this, but of course I let them go

special link to water. Each of us is penetrated by a river’s influence.

There’s a humbling aspect to these wayside investigations, even when my head is in the way of clear perception, ringing with the nonsense of an ignorant society. Again, from Emily–

I’m nobody! Who are you?/ Are you nobody, too?/ Then there’s a pair of us– don’t tell!/ They’d banish us, you know.// How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog/ To tell your name the livelong day/ To an admiring bog!

i'm nobody, and you?

i’m nobody, and you?

a small "flock" of ragged robins

a small “flock” of ragged robins

who's been nibbling on amanita?

who’s been nibbling on amanita?

shelf space for some fly-fishing memories

shelf space for some fly-fishing memories

go on, walt, get outta here

go on, walt, get outta here

go fishin' or something, will ya?

go fishin’ or something, will ya?

i'm serious!

i’m serious!

the falls at Wiscoy Creek because i couldn't resist

the falls at Wiscoy Creek because i couldn’t resist

 

 

 

 

 

 

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With Roots in the Sky (Finale)

1. Just over two years ago I began a series of blog posts that I’ve called “The Cedar Run Experience.” The series has reflected my intent to fly-fish and explore the whole length of a beautiful trout stream, Cedar Run, in north-central Pennsylvania. With

near mid-section Cedar

near mid-section Cedar

this post, The Cedar Run Experience, Part 20, my explorations of the run are finished (though, of course, the fishing never ends as long as I’m able).

I began the fishing walk at the mouth of Cedar Run, at Pine Creek, on Memorial Day 2013 and then, as time allowed, worked my way upstream by casting over the pools and riffles as I found them. On each occasion throughout the walk, I tried to start the day’s fishing at a point where I had left off previously. (“The Cedar Run Experience,” posts #1 through #19, can be located on RR via Search.)

Although the project was completed at a leisurely pace and, overall, was easier than “The Slate Run Odyssey” (also available), there were challenges throughout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACedar Run flows through a vast state forest and, as long as it is, has more accessibility than Slate. That said, you don’t want to travel its ribbon-like roadway in a season of inclement weather. It’s a snowmobile trail throughout the winter months.

The run is nestled in a winding gorge without cell phone coverage or civilized conveniences. This is some of the wildest country in the Keystone State, a wonderful place to hike or hunt or fish with restrictive tackle (see state regs for Cedar Run). It’s a place where you can better understand your own mortality and, as such, you tread with care.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd so I’ve finished my 11-mile immersion in the wild. I’ve walked into the heights of Cedar Mountain with a six-foot fly rod and fished the little stream as far as I cared to go in leafy June.

2. The headwaters have “roots,” or freshets of water nourished by a mostly healthy forest. On the day before the Solstice, I entered such a place, my anger at the world dissipating slowly with each step.

There’s no room here for the tragic outbursts of American racism. There’s no room here for the anti-intellectualism in the world, for the lack of critical thinking or the fear of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlife’s diversity.

I entered a quiet realm where I could try to think rationally and be taken aside by what is beautiful. Yes, it’s possible! And happening in some place near and dear to where each of us is living.

It was time for the Solstice and the wonders of a white pine-hemlock forest on upper Cedar Run. There was room for casting underneath the spacious boughs, room enough for me and my memories of the fishing hike that’s taken two years to complete. There was room enough for me and the numerous small trout living in these nooks and crannies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was good to come here while the rains still provided a decent flow. It was good to find clear water while the streams downvalley flowed high and muddy. It was good to see that freedom can be born in a simple place like this, that the hyper-patriotism of the world (where people are blind to the quality of life beyond their own political boundaries), is viewed for what it is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmall brookies slammed the Stimulator dry fly and returned, a little dazed, to the riffles and log homes of their stream. The biggest fish, a nine-inch, darkly-colored native, spun out from a tiny plunge-pool– the highest point on 11-mile Cedar that would offer me a temporary gift.

Black-and-white warblers sang their shrill and modulated notes, and hunted for bugs in a head-long manner down the trunks of larger trees. When the faint tracks of a forest road disappeared in a jumbled glade, I knew I had arrived.

Turning to face the downstream brook, I heard the soft red veer notes of the thrush known as the veery. From the other side of me came the teach Teach TEACH cry of the ovenbird, the notes everywhere harmonizing with a song of falling water.

near the top

near the top

In a place like this, I’m reminded that the violence of nature has nothing to do with the violence promoted by stupidity and the lack of critical thinking. Corporate institutions may condition people into a robotic and consumeristic lifestyle, but a place like this can give a person wings.

Last autumn, following a blog post where I speculated on where my walk of Cedar Run might lead to, I received a comment from Brent Franklin (of Bridging the Gap renown) who said, in part: “…The roots of a river are as high as one can climb.”

at mid-section Cedar

at mid-section Cedar

And that’s the gist of what I’m saying. A headwater region has roots. Like the crown of a tree, or an unearthed flower turned upside down, the uppermost “twigs and branches” take nourishment from the atmosphere and sky.

I could fish into that crown, perhaps. I could hold out for as long as I could climb.

And now the climb had reached its end.

It was like walking on air.

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