Mapping It

Oh, the fishing has been slow to non-existent due to the continued drought conditions here, but I’ve been busy writing, working and otherwise driving down the roadwaysOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA mapped inside my muddled brain.

I was pleasantly surprised by a blogging pal at OldPlaidCamper, who included something like a book review of Earthstars, Chanterelles, Destroying Angels inside a wonderful post called “Another Glance Back at Summer,” (9/16/16). I’ve been following OldPlaidCamper for at least a year now, and highly recommend the blog for its excellent writing, photography, and nature reflections based in western Canada. Check out those good words written about my poetry collection and, while you’re at it, enjoy a multitude of other posts written by one of our finest outdoor bloggers!

book w/ alternate covers

book w/ alternate covers

If that ego boost wasn’t enough, I was also pleased to find one of my recent photos included in a fascinating musical and photographic tour of the blogosphere by Rommel in his 400th post at The Sophomore Slump. Click it and enjoy the ride!

Leighanne and I recently spent a day at Slate Run, attending a meeting of the Slate Run Sportsmen, a group that’s long worked to preserve the pristine environment of the Pine Creek Valley and especially the trout habitat of Slate Run, itself. I attend the meetings regularly, not only because I function as a trustee, but also because the gatherings are enjoyable, informative and, yes, because the lunches are pretty doggone tasty! Also, it’s often a place from which I can launch out for another fly-fishing jaunt on either Slate or Cedar Run.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At this particular meeting, we found the long-awaited map of Slate Run (Slate is one of national Trout Unlimited’s “Top 100 Trout Streams”) ready for sale to one and all. Ted Piotrowski and I received a complimentary copy of the $20 map (a large version exists for $55) for our role in the production (Ted worked GPS from the road while I lined up natural features of the run, i.e., its major pools, ledges and access points). My contribution was based primarily on “A Slate Run Odyssey,” my fishing tour, as well as from info gathered by old-time regulars on the stream. It was good to see our work come to fruition. The process had been difficult at times– getting the survey done, gathering and selecting information, sorting it, then sending the map, with photos and all, to press. The teamwork by everyone involved was super.dscn9389

As one of the initial designers, I had an issue to be settled. Slate Run, beautiful and wild, is not an easy stream to access over its 8-mile length. It flows through a rugged gorge on state forest land, and the gravelly Slate Run Road rarely makes a close approach. There are, however, pull-offs at various locations that have unmarked pathways to the run. These minor pathways are precipitous and known to very few people. Would mapping Slate Run on a major scale make the fly-fishing-only destination too damned easy for the masses, thereby ruining the sense of wildness and solitude for those who learned about the stream the hard way, through sweat and personal exploration?dscn9394

It’s a question I grappled with before finally deciding to get involved and doing the map. We decided that producing a detailed map for fly-fishers and other nature lovers would benefit the stream and its environs in the long run. There are many threats to Class A trout streams in the region, even to those like Slate Run that have state forest and other environmental regulations applied to them. I think of the hydro-fracking boom, for example, taking place in the surrounding areas, and of pressures from other fishing groups trying to open up the stream for stocking and the use of all tackle. Special habitats like Slate Run are saved by public support. In this case, it’s public support for a pristine environment with hiking, hunting, and fly-fishing-only. For larger streams with plenty of wild fish, support isn’t going to come by trying to keep them a secret.

ok, i'll take credit for naming it-- the dripping ledge!

ok, i’ll take credit for naming it– the dripping ledge!

After the old fishermen die and enter the Elysian Fields for their eternal casting at the streams of paradise, there needs to be a set of ways for keeping the Slate Run places close to the heart. Hopefully they’ll be saved by others willing to stand up and giving them a voice, people who have learned about them and appreciate their special qualities, thanks to personal experience. Hence, the reason for producing the Slate Run map.dscn9391

So, the ego got a boost from the kindness of people like my blogging friends and the Slate Run Sportsmen. It was time, then, to go humble, if you will. I started thinking about my own demise.

3 apples wanted their picture taken...

3 apples wanted their picture taken…

Say what? No, I’m not ready to abandon the rivertops yet, but hey– everyone dies, even those who think they’re too precious for elimination, so it’s probably a good thing to reflect about The End occasionally, especially when the autumn harvest starts to fill your bins.

life, not death, above the hollow...

life, not death, above the hollow…

Since I disdain the notion of standard funeral practices, and find that even crematory practices aren’t much better than the burial of a toxin-drunk corpse, it was interesting to learn of the Mushroom Death Suit.

It’s a body suit completely safe, organic, and made from natural cotton. Laced with “infinity mushroom spores,” a corpse in the mushroom suit decomposes quickly without leaving toxins in the ground or the air.

low water, Cedar Run

low water, Cedar Run

Sure, it sounds a little uncomfortable at first. You like to eat and don’t exactly relish the idea of being eaten by mushrooms, but it’s something that I, for one, would like to consider for that time when the mortal coil is sprung. Many of us need to come to terms with our own death, and here’s a possible alternative… At long last, your life, shrouded in mushrooms, can leave a clean, pollutant-free compost.

Long researched and finally on the market, the “Infinity Burial Suit” isn’t only cool looking and sensible, it’s also economical, retailing at about $1,500– or about one-sixth the cost of an average cremation, and one-eighth the average of traditional burials.

a pool on Cedar Run

a pool on Cedar Run

I hate to leave on a morbid note, so I’m glad this talk about mushrooms makes me think again about the title of my latest book. As the OldPlaidCamper says, the final poem there is “a wonderful tale” about an old guy, his septic-cleaning truck, and the memory of an outhouse that should put a smile on your face. Now, I wonder if planting mushroom spores might have eased my septic problems back in the day….

asters of the sea...

asters of the sea…

the trickle-down effect, or, what flows around comes around...

the trickle-down effect, or, what flows around comes around…

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September Quickenings

The road dead-ended at the state forest lands in Potter County. I knew that the trout streams would be low but, given the sudden coolness in air temperature, I figured that the water temps would be cooler also, and safe for casting with a barbless dry fly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gone were the dog days and some of the hottest, most stifling weather in… well, at least a year. Gone was that sense of late-summer lethargy that could really sap the energy of a student or a teacher or a highway construction worker or a factory clerk. Gone was that sense of entrapment or frustration or imminent doom– at least for now. It was time to wet wade in a mountain stream near home, no matter how challenging because of dry summer conditions, and to play with the wild trout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASure, it would be important to step along as carefully and quietly as possible, to measure each side cast or bow-and-arrow cast before it was delivered (I’m like every other small stream fanatic– perfectly capable of making death threats unto goldenrod or alder branches intercepting a wayward fly or tippet). And it’s important to make a quick release of every captured trout. The weather may be cooling and the spawning colors brightening, but these low water conditions of late summer remain stressful to these otherwise tenacious and beautiful fish. Hold the fish gently; release the hook quickly and place that creature back where it belongs.

mushroom head

mushroom head

Fishing for Potter County natives on a crystalline September day was thoroughly relaxing. The trout rose readily for one of my favorite autumn dry flies, the Rio Grande King, a dark floater with white wings that can imitate any number of insects including mayflies, caddis, and black ants. I lost count of how many small brookies came to hand, and when I hooked a 10-inch male trout in a long placid pool, it fought like Moby Dick, if only through a wild pastoral dream.

colors brighten

colors brighten

The quickenings brought on a flood of colorful images and memories from recent days: from a crazy ramble through the gorge at Watkins Glen with friends and family and a million tourists from across the sea, from a subsequent tour of wineries above Keuka Lake, from a poetry reading on the summit of Wheeler Hill, from a holiday bonfire blazing with the call of owls, the clinking of bottles, and the bursts of laughter, and from a dozen other small events where the table of imminent autumn was being set, and where, hopefully, we would all take our seats with anticipation and joy.

wild brown

wild brown

puffball on a deerplate

puffball on a deerplate

above Keuka Lake

above Keuka Lake

winery glass

winery glass

poet George Wallace

poet George Wallace

in the glen

in the glen

evening beerhead #1

evening beerhead #1

in the land of pink and gray

in the land of pink and gray

evening beerhead #2

evening beerhead #2

Wheeler Hill thunderhead

Wheeler Hill thunderhead

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Northeast River Haunts

The Clyde River in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is listed as one of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrout Unlimited’s “Top 100 Trout Streams in America” but it wasn’t shining on my recent visit to the area of Spectacle Pond. The river’s headwater region looked too sluggish, boggy and warm for trout. The Clyde’s major tributary, the Pherrins River, reputed to be excellent for brook trout, looked tired in this hot, dry weather, and difficult to access. The North Branch of the Nulhegan, however, was a different story.

I found access at the mile-long Nulhegan River Trail off Route 105 near the Visitors Center of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge. Here was that trout stream I’d been dreaming of, one of three upper branches that had excellent water quality and, in cooler months of the year, good fishing for wild brook trout. The upper Nulhegan drains about 150,000 acres of boreal forest and is also home to creatures such as moose, snowshoe hare, lynx, and spruce grouse.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On my first investigation of the North Branch, the river looked like a smaller version of the West Branch Ausable River in the Adirondacks. The guided trail along the river was informative and enjoyable, and I knew I’d be coming back later in the day equipped for fly-fishing. Eventually I would also hike a portion of the upstream, four-mile loop known as the North Branch Trail, another fine place to view the sub-boreal ecosystem.DSCN9327

Here the Nulhegan had a heavy flow of 65-degree, tannic water averaging 30 to 60 feet in width. Its bed of glacial rock and boulder was a wading nightmare, but its pocket water was a restless beauty that pushed hard for the distant Connecticut River, even in the sultry days of late August. I could’ve used a wading staff here, but being minimally equipped, I found that careful rock-hopping with studded shoes, and shorts, worked best for me.DSCN9329

The fishing wasn’t much to write home about (although I hope its report passes for acceptable blog news!). I had a good time despite some difficult conditions. I made use of nymphs and streamers but didn’t get a hook-up till I fished an Olive Caddis dry fly. The caddis pattern saved my work-out, connecting with two nice brook trout as dark as a fir and about as eager to be photographed. Each of the fish jumped freely into the drink before the camera got unzipped.DSCN9353

Early the next morning I returned and fished for two more hours with about the same amount of action. If I get another opportunity, I’d like to try the river again, perhaps in a year or two, en route from a trip to Maine in early summer or in fall.

even the trees have an opinion of Trump

even the trees have an opinion of Trump

Homeward bound, I stopped in that trendy and historic tourist town, Manchester, on the Battenkill. After visiting the Orvis headquarters and the lovely American Fly-Fishing Museum, I settled into another night of camping, this time near Arlington, Vermont, on the banks of the river once described as the location of “America’s fly-fishing soul.”DSCN9349

The Battenkill had just received an overnight flushing of rain that raised it to twice its usual summer volume. I was ready for yet another skunking on what the writer John Atherton called (in The Fly and the Fish, 1951) “the most difficult of rivers and yet the most rewarding in the things which count the most.” A lot of skilled fly anglers have lived on or near this Green Mountains river because of the Orvis Company and the stream’s long-standing reputation, and these catch-and-release anglers have shown the wild trout nearly every artificial in the book.

Pres. John Q. Adams' fly box

Pres. John Q. Adams’ fly box

The Battenkill is also a challenge by virtue of its physical character. The stream has a low gradient with long, slow pools interspersed with shallow riffles. The trout tend to hang along the banks where their food and shelter are secured. They can hold there with ease and carefully inspect each offering that the smooth conflicting currents bring their way.

Aldo Leopold's E.C. Powell bamboo

Aldo Leopold’s E.C. Powell bamboo

As the angling writer, John Merwin, has said, “The Battenkill is among the most– if not the most– technically difficult fly-fishing streams in America.” He rates it tougher to fish successfully than the Henry’s Fork, the Firehole, the Letort (yes!), and Silver Creek, and he speaks from many years of wide fly-fishing experience. Yup, I was humbled before I even stepped into these rain-swollen waters.

the Babe's mighty E.F. Payne bamboo

the Babe’s mighty E.F. Payne bamboo

I had once fished the New York side of the Battenkill, but this was my first entry into the higher Vermont stretches. The only other angler I met there was a Catskill rivers fishing guide of 30-years’ experience who offered free advice on where and what to fish with. He told me that my nymphing rig might be okay if I knew how to work it correctly in the deep waters near the bank but, as for him, a devoted dry fly veteran, he was sticking to the surface.

DSCN9331It felt good to out-fish him through our evening on the river, as he spoke to me about catching 25-inch brown trout in this pool during the springtime hatches. I wasn’t about to photograph my little 10-inch browns while in his sphere of influence, but still, I could feel the tugs of satisfaction as the trout bit on my Prince nymph and ignored his Battenkill dries.

That night I slept with the sound of the river washing through my dreams, and the next morning, hell– I went out to the misty waters, tempted again.DSCN9315

 

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Spectacle Pond

[The following is the first in a two-part series on a recent ramble through the Northeast Kingdom and the Green Mountain State (aka Vermont), with stops in the wild Nulhegan River Basin and, later, at the famed Battenkill. Stay tuned!]OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spectacle Pond lies in the heart of the Green Mountain state’s Northeast Kingdom, a remote three-county area of Vermont where deep evergreen forests and glacial ponds and lakes cover the hills and valleys. Located near the modest and unassuming village of Island Pond (a former logging and railroading center now quietly accepting the tourist dollar), Spectacle Pond seems well-suited to representing the wildest and most remote section of this beautiful state.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found it interesting to read that in 2006 the National Geographic Society ranked the Northeast Kingdom “the most desirable place to visit in the U.S.” I’m not sure what criteria the venerable institution used to determine “most desirable places,” but I’m not prepared to argue the designation, only to explore the place according to my own interests.

The pond is actually a small kettle lake (where ice entrapped in glacial debris melted to form the present-day body) that remains largely undeveloped despite the presence of a state campground and a small campers’ beach with boat rentals. A boreal forest with balsam firs, red pine, and white birch trees surrounds the pond which is also noted for occasional moose visitations and for its loons that pierce the summer nights with avian equivalents of cries and laughter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I camped out on the pond for several days and used it for my base to explore a little of the wild country to the northeast and southeast of Island Pond village. I would head out on the Nulhegan River Trail to fly-fish on a river I’ve been fascinated by ever since reading of it in my trusty Complete Book of Freshwater Fishing (Parsons) when I was just a teen, a life-long guide describing the Nulhegan as a river that “… Drain’s Vermont’s largest unpopulated area. Wonderful water.”

I camped out on the pond after a night of tenting at Watkins Glen, New York where I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhad given a reading of poetry and prose to an appreciative audience and then listened to coyotes firing up the camp dogs with excitement. Next day, following a long drive to Spectacle Pond, it felt good to pitch a tent there and unwind.

Wild blackberries fruited only several feet away from my tent site and tempted an old naturalist at breakfast time, for adding to his caffeinated fare. The pond, itself, reminded me of what Walden Pond might have looked like to Thoreau while the writer worked and meditated on its shore. I even heard a train roll by one night, as was often the case when the author of Walden sojourned at his cabin site.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although I looked for moose and saw only signs of this iconic bog and northern forest dweller (where its numbers are deemed the highest in the state, at more than one moose per square mile), I felt the presence of other spirits here. An osprey hovered with an eye for perch and pickerel; a squadron of common loons fished near the camp site and enlivened the nights with their sonorous, reverberant and haunting calls.DSCN9339

From my campsite I could look across the water to Indian Point and be reminded of a quote about the place taken from an old railroad guide of 1853: “… Marks of Indian encampments and of their trails through the woods still remain; and a point which makes out into the pond… bears evidence of its use as the seat of council fires. The rounded point, clear of underbrush and smooth as a shaven lawn, is overshadowed by a growth of ancient pines, forming a complete shelter from the sun, while on either side and in front, the sheltered waters of this miniature lake are the picture of calmness and repose.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After taking several walks along the beautiful Nulhegan River (more on that in a future post) and especially before my departure to the tamer realms of Manchester and the Battenkill River, I thought about the residents of sleepy Island Pond. The people I met there were extremely amiable and helpful toward this first-time visitor from western New York. They seemed as modest and civil as the loons were wild and free.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All in all, the village of Island Pond and the wavelets of Spectacle Pond refreshed a summer-weary soul.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Have Trico, Will Travel

[I’ll be going off the grid for a week or so beginning in the afternoon on 8/22, so if you leave a comment here after that time, it may be a few days before I can respond to it. In any case, thank you, and I’m planning to return!]

Trico Town, the Bridge of Sighs (or Small Size)

Trico Town, the Bridge of Sighs (or Small Size)

I was in the creek at 7 a.m., a bit early for the trout to be rising seriously, but I noticed several fish sipping in the low calm waters under the willow trees. The stream temp was a safe 60 degrees F., as it has registered through the summer, thanks to a multitude of springs throughout this section of the creek.

The long rod was necessary to keep my casts above the streamside vegetation; and a nine-foot leader tapered to a 7X point seemed the best way to present the tiny Trico spinner imitation so not to frighten the breakfast scene.

Hook keeper keeps the faith...

Hook keeper keeps the faith…

Tricorythodes is the smallest mayfly I keep track of and attempt to imitate with an artificial fly. The adult insect is tiny, about a quarter of an inch (3 to 5 mm, with tail) in length, just a pinch or two larger than the midges that I’ll drop on a spring creek in the winter season. When the egg-laying females, or spinners, are hovering above the early morning stream, they can resemble (as someone once noted), “a slow-moving white cloud of dust.”

I greatly enjoy casting over the Trico spinner fall and find it simultaneously relaxing and challenging. The white wings, tied with Poly Yarn, reflect just enough light to allow me to track its drift on quiet water. If I see even the slightest drag on the line and fly, it’s time to retract the line slowly and make another cast. It was tough work today, but an hour after I began, the long deep pool by the parking lot was dimpled with rise formations.

Placid pool, before the rise...

Placid pool, before the rise…

I inched my way into the water as slowly as a heron falling asleep. When I was nearly waist deep, I began the back cast, making sure the line was well above the grasses and away from willow branches. Timing seemed especially critical. It would all be over once the sun shone directly on the water, unless I wanted to continue by switching to an Ant or Beetle.

loosestrife, an invasive on the loose...

loosestrife, an invasive on the loose…

It had been a long time since the pool had favored me this well. Small wild browns and native brook trout rose to the Trico pattern as the naturals hovered in formation over the creek. As each of the brooks and browns regained its balance in the pool and scurried off, something in the spirit of an angler said a word of thanks.

the natives were restless at Trico time...

the natives were restless at Trico time…

there were lots of young representatives from BrownsVille...

there were lots of young representatives from BrownsVille…

sunrise on highway 61 (no not That One!)

sunrise on highway 61 (no not That One!)

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Brook Trout, Moose, and Loons

No, I’m sorry– no images of these iconic northern creatures in this short post. Not yet. But I’ll be looking for them soon as I break out for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont next week and hope to find a cooler and rejuvenating atmosphere.

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It’s been 80s hot here on the rivertops this past week, a humid period that, thankfully, also brought much needed rainfall via several pop-up thunderstorms. The accompanying winds were a little disconcerting for this skittish survivor of a wicked wind that toppled trees in his front yard a few weeks ago, but now a bigger concern is the drought and the heat of other regions. It’s not so bad locally, but for the planet as a whole– wow. The records just keep getting reestablished every month.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere hasn’t been much fishing here of late, but to celebrate the onset of some wetter conditions, and for the recent completion of my new fly-fishing book (first draft only), I hit the upper Dyke Creek this morning and felt encouraged. I love to fish the Trico spinner fall early in the day, and I quickly noticed the feed activity at the surface of the long quiet pools. It was difficult to get a decent cast beneath the overhanging branches, and all I managed were a few small wild ones, but I saw a beauty of a brown trout, maybe 18 inches, in the tail of one pool, as it slowly finned upstream.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was encouraged because it looked as though the cold-water fishes had weathered a drought-stricken summer pretty well. At least in this location. It was like viewing an attractive sunset from my backyard, watching the tops of conifer trees pointing toward a pleasant morning to come, and never threatening to blow off into chaos or destruction.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, anticipation for the week ahead… On Monday I’ll be giving a reading in Montour Falls, New York, and from there it’s off to the land of brook trout, moose, and laughing loons. I’ll be in the wilds near Island Pond and, later, on the upper Battenkill en route back south. I hope to have some nice trout and nature photos to share with you, and to avoid collision with the antlered giants. Lastly, if I can laugh with the loons instead of being laughed at, that will be a bonus.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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From Wiscoy to West Branch

The driving distance from Wiscoy Creek, in western New York, to the West Branch Delaware River, east of Binghamton, is about three hours. I didn’t drive the route in a single shot, but connected the streams on two occasions, six days apart.

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My reason for establishing a connection between the stream and river has to do with fly-fishing, naturally, but aside from the enjoyment that I hoped to gain by fishing through these hot and dry conditions, it was paramount to consider the health of wild trout.

Although it looks as though a long stretch of wet and stormy weather is finally about to settle on my region now, a drought was here, for sure, and it took its toll on the region’s waterways, overheating the diminished flows and imperiling the lives of trout, a fish that struggles to survive when water temperatures climb into the 70s and deplete the oxygen levels of the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Wiscoy and the West Branch Delaware are possible exceptions to the water problem in my fly-fishing realm, at least for now. Both streams have sufficient water flow and temperatures cool enough to allow some fishing with a clear conscience. Despite some similarities, there’s a world of difference between the small stream and the mighty river.

The Wiscoy, flowing through a fairly level agricultural district in New York, is sustained by numerous springs and tributaries. It’s a small creek feeding into the Genesee River near Letchworth State Park, and it’s arguably the finest trout stream in the western sector of the state. The West Branch Delaware, on the other hand, is a Catskill Mountain tail-water flowing southward from the Cannonsville Reservoir (a water source for New York City) to its junction with the East Fork at Hancock, New York. There the branches join together and form the main stem of the Delaware that rolls on southward into Delaware Bay and the Atlantic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s hard to imagine a more disparate brace of waterways, but both the Wiscoy and the West Branch are important streams in this rivertop realm. The Wiscoy is an unassuming little trout stream and the Delaware’s West Branch is a world-class fishery that is sometimes described as the “eastern-most western river in the U.S.”

The big river has it all, from brook trout to giant browns that dwell with a smorgasbord of dining possibilities, from heavy insect hatches to the alewives that flush out from the Cannonsville Reservoir. Here the fish can be highly selective at times, and the angler has to cast precisely, or be skunked. This is big water, and it’s cold, even in the heat of summer. When I fish the West Branch, I tend to enjoy the experience and do pretty well, or have a frustrating time and catch nothing at all.

DSCN9245On this occasion, I did nothing. I fished for two hours in the wind and the high afternoon sun. Sulphurs and occasional Cahills were hatching but I saw no obvious sign of a rising trout. There was algae in the 55 degree water, and it snagged every cast of a wet fly. There were drift boats passing by but, oddly enough, I didn’t hear a single hoot or holler, the typical expression of success.

To fish a small stream like the Wiscoy, on the other hand, was to fish with greater confidence at home. The water was 63 Fahrenheit degrees and alive with surface-feeding brown and brook trout, at least for a little while. I could cast a dry Black Ant and watch the rise; I felt the intimacy of a stream that helps produce what the writer Ted Leeson called the “archetype of fly-fishing.” Here was a link to the earliest days of fly-fishing, to the possibility that fishing on the Wiscoy, and small streams like it, was related to casting on the Greek river Astraeus, known to the Roman writer, Aelian, who wrote of fly-fishing as early as 200 A.D.DSCN9251

Sure, the fish in the smaller stream are going to be sized more modestly when compared to the big ones in the river. Modest, but delightful nonetheless. And undervalued, too, in today’s big push to fish “the best water available” and to get its trophies for display. I don’t care if the small fish of the archetypal Wiscoy streams are sniffed at by the hook-and-bullet press. I’m proud, as always, to picture them here, where readers understand that we take even the small ones seriously.

But fishing is fishing, and the West Branch Delaware is a hoot of a river. It’s not always easy to work, to say the least, but you can do real well there. Just recently, the night before my latest river stop, my friend Tim D. caught a couple of massive trout nearby while fishing in the middle of the night with ungainly streamers.DSCN9253

Then, of course, there’s the cultural aspect to consider when fishing the West Branch. It’s not far from “Trout Town, U.S.A” (Roscoe) and Livingston Manor’s great Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum where L. and I had just made another visit to the annual Anglers’ Summerfest. The history and magical presence of that Catskill location is still more than I am capable of absorbing, though I keep on trying. And when its famed Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek have warmed too much to fish safely, as they’ve done again this summer, there’s always the neighboring Delaware to beckon the compulsive flinger of the fly.DSCN9254

The West Branch will absorb the fishing pressure and do so easily. Even the distant Wiscoy can be thankful for that.DSCN9256DSCN9257DSCN9258OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Aftermath (There’s Something Funny Going On)

(1) There’s something funny going on around here, something that will probably have a happy ending once the dust has settled. For example, the guys who have gutted our old kitchen and completely renovated the beast are likely to receive a company award for the best “Before and After Kitchen” of the year, if not the decade.DSCN9151

(2) There’s something funny going on around here, something that, unfortunately, doesn’t have a lot to do with trout fishing. It has more to do with heat and extreme weather conditions, like having a twister blow through my valley where there hasn’t been a twister in, how long, a thousand years, if ever?

(3) There’s something funny going on around here, something like giving a public reading from my books in Wellsville, N.Y., then going out and having a few beers with my brother. These events may have led to my waking up at 3 a.m. because the cat was barfing someplace in the hallway, which led to a broken toe because I jumped out of bed and crashed into some unforgiving piece-of-crap furniture.

DSCN9159(4) There’s something funny going on around here, something like the big 60th birthday party for my wife when we had wonderful people visiting from far and wide, a few of whom performed a “rain dance” around our bonfire one night, a dance that, in retrospect, was probably over the top. We got our needed rain eventually, but we also got a breeze that changed our lives a bit too suddenly.

(5) There’s something funny going on around here, something like touring Buffalo and Niagara Falls with my son and future in-laws, eating the best Buffalo-style chicken wings and drinking craft beers, then standing near the brink of Niagara waterfalls listening to some guy chirping about all that water and how mankind, with its brain and technological prowess, can control that immense energy. Yeah, I thought, to a point.DSCN9169

(6) There’s something funny going on around here, something like walking down to the beaver pond early in the morning of the day the storm came around, and meeting Andy there with his binoculars and a pitchfork. He was looking like the Mad Farmer of Nutville, so I asked him what the fork was for.DSCN9179

“Well, I was sitting here last night on my 4-wheeler, wondering what’s been happening to the young beavers, when one of the adults came up from the dam and charged me!”

I reflected, then, a little more about rain dancing and the power of Niagara Falls, not to mention the emotive state of pissed-off beaverhood. I remembered my brother’s comment that he’d begun rereading Bellows’ “Henderson the Rain King.” Stuff like that.DSCN9197

(7) There’s something funny going on around here, something like seeing a tornado, or panoramic wind sheer, come blowing through this place where there had never been one to my knowledge, where there had been little more than a forecast of a possible heavy storm. I hadn’t seen a wind like this in 35 years of living in Bootleg Hollow; I’d never felt an impact like this twister even though I once survived two years of living in Tornado Alley, South Dakota.DSCN9198

(8) There’s something funny going on around here, something that will have a happy ending once the sawdust settles and the final house repairs are done. Fortunately the last of our guests from the birthday celebration had departed from their lawn chairs two hours earlier and gone home; the final cups of coffee had been drunk in peaceful sun and shadow, and the stage had been reset.DSCN9214

I was sitting here at the computer, thinking there was something funny going on in Greenwood Vale, when the woods out front began to roar– not like the proverbial lion but more like a giant waterfall. The trees put on their coats of darkness and began to bow… I’ve never really doubted the scientific claims that now (with climate change occurring globally) our weather events could be more and more extreme, and I wasn’t about to change my mind at this point.

Branches and lawn chairs blew across my window view.DSCN9217

I had two Norway spruce trees in the front yard, both of them very healthy looking, each of them 100 feet tall. The top half of one spruce snapped free and crashed into one of my 70-foot sugar maple trees and, together, they slammed into my two-story roof just above my head where I had jumped up thinking, there’s something not quite right about all this.DSCN9208

I was home alone with two frightened cats. The power had gone out, and I called for help. I got my help in spades– when the road from town was finally cleared of fallen trees and roof parts from a damaged barn. Later, I understood that there was something funny going on when, after paying for insurance years on end and not seeing any benefits, I suddenly had a reason to enjoy it.DSCN9222

An amazing surgical operation involving heavy machinery and human expertise finally lifted the trees from the house. No one was hurt in any of this craziness. The holes in the roof had let in some rain that was needed more on the lawn than in the house, but our new kitchen (almost completed when the storm arrived) was spared, barely.DSCN9220

(9) There’s something funny going on, something like having to take a chainsaw to clear a pathway to the front door of your house, then spending the next seven days getting the home back into shape and clearing off the lumber. Thankfully, we had lots of help in all of this and, yeah, the twister could have been a real disaster.DSCN9199

Our kitchen guy is up for an award, and I think he’ll get it. As for me, I’m up for a change of pace, as well… I wonder what it’s like to drift a dry fly on a sparkling mountain current with nothing too funny going on.

[P.S., I had good dry fly Anting on the Wiscoy… Stay tuned for more on this!]

there's no room for prejudice at this tourist attraction...

there’s no room for prejudice at this tourist attraction…

lily of the falls...

lily of the falls…

glad it didn't get MY tree...

glad it didn’t get MY tree…

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Trout Lives Matter

So the carp, posed briefly by the riverside before its release, said to me, and I quote:

“So trout lives matter to you, as lives of all scales and colors matter to you, and that’s why you chose to fish for me with that fiberglass 7-weight and a Hare’s-Ear Nymph.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Trout lives matter to you in this hot dry summer with streams down to a trickle and with water temps hitting the lethal 70s for your favorite fish. You understand the trends and patterns of climate change, or think you do, so it’s time to leave the trout alone until the rains return and the temperatures cool off.

“Trout lives matter, so you turn to other prospects for your stream and river fishing. You come to me and to smallies for your fly rod action. Well, thanks a lot. You wet-wade the Allegheny down below Coudy looking for underwater springs and deeper holes. Good luck. They’re here, but you don’t find them like I find them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Yeah we carpies are a smart bunch. Not smart enough, perhaps, because you fooled me with that little Hare’s Ear, but don’t forget. That was after three long hours of casting to us in the bridge pool, with me and my buddies watching what you threw while sucking at the mud, nice looping lines across the river, all those flies sinking deep then lifting slowly like some caddis pupa on the rise. Well, you finally did it, got me on the hook, and I gave you quite a tussle, didn’t I.

“We deserve our reputation as an ugly boy, but we’re strong, really strong, with big scales and oh, what a lip that nature gave us!

“Trout lives matter, so I guess you’re dismayed at the news about your favorite OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMontana rivers getting too warm too early every summer for the last 15 years or so. Yeah things are rough out there, but we carpies should survive. We get the news straight from the river bottom that gets it from the water cycle of this old planet. Yeah we know about those early snowmelts, waters too low and warming too fast.

“Montana’s gonna be closing down the river fishing each day at noon . That’s right. On places like Gallatin, Beaverhead, Jefferson. ‘Cause trout lives matter. If you don’t believe me, if you’re like those Republican big wigs in power with their heads up their collective asses while denying man-made climate change, look it up. Check out The Economist, for one [16 July 2016].

DSCN9139“Hey, but you’re different; I can tell. Maybe you had to get a picture of me to prove to your buds that you could take a fat fish with a fly, but then you struggled to revive me, a low-down carp, to put me back in the river alive, despite the mud bath that I threw ya.

“Thanks for that. I agree. Trout lives matter, too.”DSCN9126DSCN9133OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

July sunrise

July sunrise

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Tilting at Turbines

I was sick of all the news saturated with senseless violence and political mayhem; I was feeling burned by the reality of drought and floods and frequently occurring “thousand year weather events” across the globe. I could not get used to the fact that the water levels of our regional trout streams had dropped precipitously while their temperatures rose to dangerous levels; I knew I had to get over it all, if only for a little while.

Our old kitchen was getting torn down and totally updated and renewed. Maybe I could take a hint and have my “soul kitchen” reinvented, so to speak, renewed with a visit to elsewhere. And where was that– Montana, Maine, or northern Michigan? Not yet. I headed for the evening woods in my front yard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The forest climb and the meadow vistas were relaxing and serene. I could look into the forest gloom and see the brightness of a soul at peace with itself, at peace with the ringing carols of the hermit thrush; I could gaze across the hilltops and perceive the place where I languished when the blues afflicted the mind and heart. I could see that solitude can be a time when we are in the company of nature. I could put my place of life in perspective by absorbing the sunset and the quiet onset of the stars above; I could do these things but there was no escape.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What I had in mind for a series of evening walks was to do a natural inventory and to do it because the physical landscapes that surrounded me would soon be changing thanks to mankind and the need for increased  energy consumption… The turbines were coming and would likely be installed within two years.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve got nothing against wind power. We need to shift our use of dirty fossil fuels to cleaner, more sustainable energy alternatives. I’ve seen the giant turbines in numerous locations near and far and, frankly, prefer their use over coal extraction, hydro-electric and nuclear energy (25 years ago I fought tooth-and-nail against a federal and state proposal to dump nuclear waste here at the rivertops, but that’s another story). I like wind power and, for better or worse, I’ve been recognized as a wind generator myself, but that’s another story, as well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like it, but wind power has to be installed correctly and with all the best environmental studies incorporated. We need to use it in conjunction with an increased sense of social and global responsibility. I don’t want to see turbines set up on the bat fields or on the major migratory routes of songbirds and golden eagles; and I don’t want to see them from my back yard.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay, I’m a NIMBY. When it comes to the installment of 500-foot turbines, I say not-in-my-back-yard. And why not, you ask. A lot of people like them in the neighborhood. They look metallic, brilliant, futuristic. They make us look richer, more middle class, aspiring toward the upper crust of society. And they’re helping us save the Earth. Oh, really?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unless we lessen our consumptive habits, our increasing use of… dare I say it… computers and electrical gadgetry and such, we’re only increasing our ability to consume more and more of what’s left to be consumed. So, the turbines are here. I won’t wax Quixotic and go tilting at those giant blades; there are easier ways to get scalped these days.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m a NIMBY on this issue because I moved here 35 years ago to get away from such industrial reminders. I moved here to find some rural peace, to be near trout streams and hermit thrushes, as far from the madding crowd and the “ignoble strife” as I could afford to be. And it’s been good so far. We dodged the spectacle of a nuclear waste dump in Allegany County; we dodged the bullet from hydro-fracking of Marcellus shale in New York State (though not, unfortunately, in Pennsylvania).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The turbines aren’t so bad, comparatively speaking. But they’ll change the land and skyscape that I’ve loved; they’ll always bring to mind the world of mass murder and political mayhem that’s around the bend. They’ll have yet another major impact on the hills and valleys (and no, this out-of-state industry won’t be putting many of our local guys to work).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m doing some inventory for the head and heart. My camera is ready, too. I’m enjoying the summer woods and meadows, seeing them in ways that give me peace. To paraphrase a biblical sentiment, I could say that here the grey coyote dwells with the spotted fawn; here the black bear of the body lies down with the singing thrush of the soul; the kitchen of the spirit is renewed, for now.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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