Ephemera: the Eco-Myths

1/   From mayfly egg to molting nymph, from deep channel into warming shallows, from the underwater shuck into floating dun’s regalia– the two-tailed fly… A few escape the charge of hungry trout, ascend into willows for the garb of ghostly spinners built to breed… The sexes wheel and clasp; some females seek their stream of birth, mistake wet macadam roads for water, strew their eggs on surfaces, their mouths sewn shut by metamorphosis… Unpolluted glides exhale a first big hatch. The anglers bait their visions, swarm and cast.

Kettle Creek headwater…

2/  The call comes in– the urban anglers drop their ordinary lives, drive all night with dreams of trout, unhinged by flies.

3/  Not long ago, I was driving south for trout. I noticed loons on open water, ospreys flying overhead. I stopped to say Hello… The springtime migrants paused and listened. I restarted on my journey, windows down. I heard the green froggy tongue, the spirit of the marsh, resound.

It’s no secret; the forest is mother to the trout…

4/  In the forest, two days out of town, we’re heated underneath our packs, listening to a bear cub bawling for its mother on the top of Greenlick Ridge. The cry– solemn and sublime through solitude: “Find it, find the lost, the grail of leaf and flower, wood and stream; find the Nemeton, the sacred place of flesh and soil.”

5/  Shoulder-wide, the stump holds him just above a clearing in the lumbered woods. He would rise beyond gravity and earth-rape, burrow into the health of old-growth trees… He grips a poplar walking-stick, a crafted gift from beavers in the marsh below. Paradise is gained from a singular hint– a cool wind roughing his skin into bark.

downstream Kettle ‘bow…

6/  The Green Drake mayfly flutters from the stream, becomes a cloud of ghostly evening dancers, somber black-and-white breeders called the Coffin Fly… The large vibrant insects tempt the leap and flash of hungry trout. They lay their eggs on the surface film and die… I peer into gauzy wings of a captured dun, see a woman anorexic walking in loose dark clothes, the face shorn of hope and dream and aspiration. She has fed her soul to the young, to the savagery and richness of the river dance. The mayfly and the deep green valley are as one.

a Bob Stanton dry fly partners with Chester2…

7/  The Indian Pipe has deep roots and translucent leaves, waxy fingers feasting on death– the Corpse Plant– epiparasitic— smoky spirit of the shade, nodding its head to offerings from the stream, to bark-boats sailing on the riffle. Indian Pipe ingests the nutrients released by a fungus, symbiotic moments, thoughts remembering a time of dried tobacco shared.

no Indian Pipe in side-yard of Owl Farm, but memories like “tobacco shared.”

8/  I look at the body of a dry fly, the Green-Ass McGee, and see a skunk in its guinea feather-wing, an arrow in its hook… A tale emerges, one of Bobcat, when the feline was a timorous beast, when he took a squirt from prankster Skunk hiding in the streamside bushes… Skunk regretted what he did, moaning, “Now old Bob will kick my striped ass good!” He ran clumsily from the seething cat (no longer shy, no longer fearful), avenging eyes like a bow cut from a willow wand, an arrow shot from claw and sinew into the bucket of a sorry Skunk… The prankster’s juice spilled on the ground, stinking the trail for days.

Bobcat sez, “Only Old-Man Fisher dares to screw around with Porcupine….”

9/  I fished high and low on Kettle Creek, in present time and old, with June mountains greening over Black Kettle’s fishery, over “strange romantic land” of pioneers who feared the wild… The slack line drifted, tightened repeatedly at the doors of trout, swirling past logs and boulders, gliding through the healthy pools… I heard a sound; I knew the word… Sononjoh… a sunlit riffle sang the ancient name.

Tiger Swallowtails bring the news to late-spring watersheds….

G.-A. McGee, a killer pattern during Kettle Creek & Genesee River caddis hatches…

Kettle Creek, Oleona…

 

 

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Angling With Angels

The inclement weather of late (an overdose of rains) has kept me from the lawnmower and the fly rod more than I prefer, so I’ve had some time to figure things out. I’ve decided (after a little research) that fishing is okay (defined as the quest for fish, an act of hunting for food) but angling is a more artful pursuit (defined as fishing for enjoyment and immersion in Nature).

Day after writing this article, I found the Genesee River in good form…

Just before the storms hit on Saturday I made an angling run to the Oswayo. I wasn’t out to catch a meal, so technically I was out to catch a bit of fun before the rains returned and pushed the high, muddy water over the banks. The midday air was hot and humid; high water had drowned my usual access points. I could have used a little help from above– from something stronger than a human but less omnipotent than a god. Angels came to mind while angling.

Trout fed on nymphs until a strong hatch of Stenonema (Cahills) brought them to the surface…

“Angel” and “angle”– two spelling words mangled by schoolkids and adults alike. Originally, angle (from the Middle English “angel,” rhyming with “dangle”) meant… to fish. At the publication of Dame Juliana Berners’ A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496), “angle” referred to a fish hook as well as to the angle formed by line and pole. As for angels, we now understand that these beings have greater knowledge than we primates have. They are not omniscient but are smart enough to act as messengers from beyond.

the “beyond” of yellow flags as seen from my backyard…

I switched my Green Drake dry fly (no fish rising in the clouded water) to a weighted Woolly Bugger. Like ’em or not, Buggers are a super-pattern, great for winter stream conditions and in warmer weather when the creeks are high and roily. Pulling a Woolly Bugger slowly from the depths, I watched (again) the graceful motions of the marabou tail, reminded of the snowy egrets I observed a week ago while fishing on the coast. The white wings in flight had seemed angelic, not unlike the motion of a big fly squirming on the line.

columbine, angelic moments of the wild…

A religious person (as opposed to a pagan angler) might delve more deeply into the nature of angels, but I’m happy with a few basic tenets. I understand that angels can be good or bad. They’re usually male, and not to be viewed as cute cherubic infants! They are spirits not unlike the souls of man and woman. They can be demonic or heavenly; they can bear messages from God or Satan; they can act as guides, instructors, protectors, and executioners.

view of home from Dryden Hill, before windmills come & scar the scene…

A “Talking Pine” can be angelic when its boughs sigh in the wind:

I am Pinus strobus,/ one who tells the stories/ in these wooded hills of home.// My arms circle on the sky./Rotations guide your eyes/ to constellations/ high above the fire.// My whispers are directions,/ ancient words. This night// accept the healing herbs,/ the compass of my heart./ Reflect on your place,/ your life. See it// merging spark-like/ in my branches.// I am Pinus strobus,/ one who tells the stories/ unto those who wait for the sun.

brown trout from the high waters of Oswayo…

Angels can even take the form of a Woolly Bugger that helps me land a good trout from the river currents– but only when called upon, as if with a prayer, and with a fishing rod named Lady Luck.

Blue flag (iris), Oswayo Creek….

A dry Red-tailed McGee, a Pine Creek caddis favorite (Big Meadows Fly Shop)…

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Salty Undercurrents

With a couple more fly rod outings at Narragansett Bay, I continue my perfect .ooo percentage while casting in the salt. I’m doing worse than the Baltimore Orioles at their game, currently batting .302 in the American League. Although it’s not my favorite type of fishing, casting for stripers is a fun way to explore the bay and marsh environments of Rhode Island. It’s becoming a sort of minor-league obsession for Salty Walt.

Daydreams on a small craft in the bay…

In a classic case of Right-Place-at-the-Wrong-Time, I released an assortment of flies for striped bass in an evening too cool for an anticipated “hatch” of cinder worms. Two days later it was too warm at mid-morning to see much other than a swarm of kayaks and a jet-boat interruption. I reasoned that if I’d been standing at home plate staring at a baseball mound, anticipating the delivery, the count would have been 0-2, with the sun sinking quickly out beyond the wall.

There’s a certain symmetry to the sight & smell…

I haven’t given up entirely. If I was serious about casting flies into the salt, I would hire a guide and camp-out at the hot spots but, as usual, I stubbornly proceed on my own course. I’ve learned that when I come back in the fall, I’ll be ready for the ocean wind at places I discovered a year ago (see “Quonnie Pond”), places that I should have rediscovered on this occasion. The 8-weight rod will be equipped with a new sink-tip line, and the same flies used on this particular outing will be freshened up and ready for some teeth.

Daughter leads us to the old farmhouse (ca. 1750)…

My coastal fishing has become an undercurrent of more important matters. I ply it while visiting my daughter in Providence, enjoying the company and a grand tour of the Narragansett region. I do it while hiking, birding, visiting historic sites, and consuming more than my share of local food and beverages.

dies untied, blue sky abides…

A visit to organic Casey Farm (ca. 1750, now belonging to Historic New England), where my daughter works, was full of late-spring color as the grounds hosted an area Farmers’ Market. The sun-filled hours were filled with conversation, bluegrass tunes and purchases from quiet vendors. We enjoyed a long walk through the farm’s vast acreage to the bay. I especially keyed in to the sights and sounds of various warblers and other songbirds such as orchard orioles (no doubt batting away at insects with more luck than their Baltimore brethren).

can’t say what I wanna say, see?

Next morning, while fishing, I was thankful for the sight and sound of marsh birds like the willet and the small but graceful snowy egret. A pair of the yellow-footed, black-legged egrets circled overhead when I approached too closely to their nesting territory. The birds seemed like feathery angels from a far place here on Earth, a pleasant contrast to my lack of angling hook-ups and the holiday hijinx of the boating crowd.

There’s a certain sentiment in a painted seashell near Pt. Judith…

Although I ate and drank too much and rolled beneath the city wheels while visiting RI, the trip was good. I know that the fishes of the salt still lurk beneath my rivertop dreams. They’ll swim in the brackish depths and wait for my next approach. My casting average  (batting record with an ocean rod) sits firmly at rock bottom and has nowhere to go but up.

Point Judith Lighthouse…

The cinder worm “hatch” is actually a spawning ritual. Imitations are usually drabber, but this bright one has a hint of sunset symbolism for my saltwater attempts….

 

 

 

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No Run-of-the-Mill Run

I’d passed the Pine Creek tributary a thousand times, hardly ever noticing its alder-bank flow beneath Route 6. I seldom considered its steep descent along the edge of state forest land until I learned it was a PA Class A wild trout stream and, if the stories were correct, it was one tough hombre to negotiate with either hunting boots or wading shoes.

upper Kettle had a great caddis hatch at 50-degree water temp, but no fish moving…

Mill Run would be difficult but I had to check it out. The brush would choke me at the lower end. The fallen trees, rocks and boulders, rattlesnakes and Sidehill Gougers would be there to greet me, said a Pine Creek angler who just shook his head and searched his bait-box near the Log Cabin Inn.

“Yeah, last fall a guy was draggin’ out a deer he shot way up. He come down that run– no picnic even if you’re young and healthy– but he never made it to his truck. A heart attack. If you’re crazy enough to fish it, you should start on top where Shin Road ends and maybe you can find a trail. Just my opinion. Hey, you don’t happen to have a few nightcrawlers, do ya?”

Mill Run undercut… growing tentacles for to….

I climbed carefully, but nearly lost my balance with a head-long charge toward the streambed when a ledge rock that I stepped on broke away from its support, collapsing into white-water. I caught my breath and fished with even greater care. When a first brook trout rose and hit the #14 Stimulator, I reasoned that another instance of “lost terrain” was temporarily found, but this was no time to be resting on my laurels.

It was good to feel the mountain wildness here, but there was something less than a welcome air about it. Wilderness is indifferent toward humanity but this place had an edge that almost seemed malevolent.  It was good to fish beyond the roar of fracking trucks that rocketed along Route 6;  and despite the warm notes issued by a scarlet tanager and black-throated blue warblers, I began to think about the storms, the bad news, forecast for the afternoon. Then, to balance everything, I wondered what would be more interesting: finding the aftermath of a Sidehill Gouger or enjoying a cold beer downstream at the Inn?

Mill Run’s tamer side…

The mind can play odd tricks at times like this. I thought about the local hunter who collapsed while dragging out his deer. How much did Mill Run influence his death? I recalled a tiny stonecat that I found lying in the creek near my home. The two-inch minnow had died while forcing down a one-inch meal. The legs and tails of a stonefly nymph protruded from the poor thing’s mouth.

If I had fallen head-long from that broken rock today, I might have ended up like the stonecat. But I saw an image of a fallen hunter and his deer, and it didn’t look much different than a two-inch minnow with a one-inch stonefly hanging from its mouth… victims of circumstance all.

Would a pine tree toss a rock…

So I came to a place where Mill Run separated from all the other Mill Runs I have fished. There were no water-wheel abutments here. No cool abandoned structures set among the trees. No human history other than what I gathered from locals fishing down at Pine. I came to a place where the high banks, fallen trees and boulders pretty much spelled S-T-O-P and looked like a battleground where Gougers fought.

a peaceful image… upper Pine….

It was time to rejoin the world downstream: where beer was cold and hatches rose above the Pine, where barbecues were prepped and music played from camping sites. I could deal with that and most anything to come my way, for fishing this tough creek– for knocking at squelchy doorways where the native dwells.

Foamflower– what appears when I make a “friend request”…

inside the squelchy doorway…

Jim & I fished a long run tributary & did well with dries….

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Panther Run

I’ll call the small stream “Panther Run.” This Pine Creek tributary, once renowned for mountain lion sightings, is now a freestone tumbler that’s unwilling to reveal its actual moniker. I fished the run initially on a sparkling day in May, after being told by another angler that it probably was devoid of trout, that its former life and status as brook trout habitat had likely been erased by excessive climate change and resource extraction. I thanked the angler whom I met near the junction of Panther Run and Pine. I switched my small stream wand for a river stick and began my outing with a walk down to the larger water.

Mouth of Panther Run & Pine

Something gnawed at me as I fished the high-flowing Pine. Caddis were hatching sporadically but no fish rose to a dry fly or a wet. Several other anglers were reporting “skunk” conditions, and even the osprey circling just above the sycamores seemed to wonder why the prey was so reclusive. I decided to walk down to the mouth of Panther Run, if I could find it, then proceed to fish back toward the car. Unfortunately, discovery of the tributary’s mouth was tougher than imagined, so I headed back the way I came.

the osprey., too, circled high above this spot in search of finny prey…

The trout lily blooms (see photo on previous Rivertop post) were already dying but I thought of them as I drank some water at the car and got prepared to fish the small stream flowing through the woods nearby. Trout lily: also known as fawn lily, adder’s tongue and dogtooth violet. Trout lily, with its edible leaves like fawn’s ears perked to the sky, with its markings that resemble the design found on a brook trout’s olive back. Perhaps Panther Run, like a trout lily, had more to it than a common name or legend could suggest.

I left this behind to search the feeder stream…

With a short rod, 3-weight line and 6-foot leader, I presented a floater to a smattering of pools and riffles, hoping for the sight of hungry natives. I thought about the Pine Creek angler who was doubtful that brookies had survived in Panther Run. Here the Pennsylvania mountains and the widespread rivertops seemed to blend as one. A giant pine, one of the largest white pines I have seen– perhaps a remnant of the great wild forest that prevailed here more than a century before– gently raised its massive arms as I walked beneath it toward the unknown mouth at the creek.

dweller of the small cool feeder stream…

A brook trout rose to meet the hook, first one and then another. They were here– from the pine tree to the mouth of the run, surviving against all odds– the trout lily’s brother, a sister to the pine. A big picture of the wild. And why should it matter? Well, I’d say it helps to know whether or not native trout still flourish in any given locale. If a stream with wild or native trout is threatened by destruction or effacement by our kind, then a small voice in defense of threatened species can be better than an unsung passage into death.

take care…

So, hey there, adder’s tongue lily! Stamen serpent-tongued. Your seed pods loved by deer; your dogtooth bulb enjoyed by bear. Ah, sacred flower of the goddesses. Erythronium of the eastern woods. Companion to the trout.

the larger watershed….

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Fishing the Lost Terrain

I’ve got this notion of a “lost terrain” and think I might discover it through my wanderings. Hiking with a walking stick or fishing with an artificial fly, I imagine there’s a special place that’s close at hand, mysterious but attainable with a mix of luck and effort. It could be a sanctuary with a natural contour that’s beyond all human constructs.

Trillium’s natural contours– 3 petals, 3 sepals, 3 leaves…

I might hike to see it from a ridge top; I might catch it with another long cast of the line or stumble on it while inspecting riffles up around the bend. I’ll listen to an unfamiliar bird song or inspect the colors of a brook trout in my hand. It’s there– something that beckons the inquisitive spirit from the heart of wildness or the realms of backyard nature.

from the heart of wildness & back…

Voices seem to call us from the landscape. They might speak to us of freedom and of wildness, matters that are only words to most of us. If we heed the voices and proceed in their direction, we’ll be stopped– unless we’re careful and acknowledge our humility. Almost by definition, the lost terrain cannot be found, and yet it’s there. My effort to unveil it might be just an after-thought that follows outdoor recreation. It might feel imminent but unavailable through conscious effort. I think of the terrain as uncivil ground, an entity unto itself, indifferent to our cares and wishes.

uncivil & indifferent, tumbling into Slate Run from… beyond…

In the quiet woods, beside an ocean dune or windswept lake, in the recess of a mountain slope or upon a river valley, there are places that were home to us before the rise of civilization. They call to our modern lives through dreams or kindred spirits of the wild. Our hunting, fishing, hiking, and exploring are activities that strive to keep us on the path to our original home.

such were the places… a gray day on the Middle Branch Genesee…

Occasionally the lost terrain seems underneath our noses. It’s paradise regained, or as close to paradise as we will ever get. The gritty, chartered streets of William Blake’s “London” (1794) seem in synch with an ethereal “Waterloo Sunset” of the Kinks (1967). We’ve absorbed a wider view of home by catching fish or by feeding dried wood to a campfire at the dark end of a trail.

underneath our noses… nymph emerges from the lost terrain…

Our “home” might be found by rambling on Thoreau’s  “Old Marlborough Road”:

“When spring stirs my blood/ With the instinct to travel,/ I can get enough gravel/ On the old Marlborough Road… If with fancy unfurled/ You leave your abode/ You may go round the world/ By the old Marlborough Road.”

hatching mayflies (E. subvaria) covered the Conhocton River one afternoon…

We’ve hit the river or the trail, thinking to find a place of interest. We’ve discovered that  enjoyment of a lost terrain is proportional to the effort made in getting there. We’ve found it, surely, but there’s more. There is always more.

clouds were spitting snow, but fishing was good on the East Branch Genesee…

leaves of Trout Lily echo the brookie’s back…

friends from the lost terrain…

friend Jim K. approaches a mountain pool….

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Set ‘Em Up, (Brookie) Joe

It was a busy but relaxing 10-day visit. From the fishing dead-start in Virginia (reported in previous post), the action heated up. Brookie Joe managed to fish and push beyond his usual boundaries, casting over Shenandoah Park’s Staunton, Conway, Rose, and Rapidan rivers, in addition to Hogcamp Branch and Pocosin Hollow. Hiking with his wife and brother-in-law, Joe F. enjoyed the mountain waterfalls, the wildflower carpets and the haunting songbird phrasings.

The stream levels moderated comfortably and allowed some crossings, though another shot of rain by week’s end kept the hiking trails in a swampy state. Joe traveled back to metropolitan D.C. and set up for a first-time wade in rural Maryland. Big Hunting Creek is located in Catoctin National Park near Thurmont village and the Camp David presidential retreat. Big Hunting was Maryland’s first catch-and-release fly-water. Acknowledging that executive shenanigans have occurred on the stream throughout the decades, and that a deep angling history could be invoked beneath its hemlock-shaded pools, Joe found a pleasant afternoon of casting there with Chester2.

A few stoneflies and caddis hatched from the creek that afternoon, but the catches came from hook-ups on Quill Gordon and Hendrickson dries. While family members hiked on for a visit to Cunningham Falls, Joe’s first brown in Maryland rose to a fly beyond two fallen trees. The trees (substantial logs) divided the creek almost down the middle.

Brookie Joe risked the straightness of his legs by dancing through a white-water hole, then clambering over logs to free a wild trout tangled in the underwater branches. The event became a fun tale to embellish later by the streamside or in the craft-beer haunts of Arlington, VA.

Brookie Joe kept his threads and tippets tied throughout the week by doing odd jobs such as contemplating the inferno at Notre Dame Cathedral, shuddering at news of killings in Sri Lanka, reading Ceremony, a fine Native American novel by Leslie Marmon Silko, and laughing at the latest bit of wisdom tweeted from the White House. With another Earth Day just around the corner, he was treated to a tour of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay.

Staunton River

An eco-friendly museum, adjacent to the refuge– the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors Center– provided a fascinating history, a sobering reintroduction to the trials of one for whom the notion of freedom was truly a matter of life and death. Beyond the Tubman site, the Blackwater’s acreage beckoned with its wonderful birding opportunities across the blend of salt and freshwater marshes.

Depending on the season, some 100-300 bald eagles might be found hunting over the 28,000-acre ground. Joe and family observed a couple of eagles, a lot of osprey, flocks of gulls and terns, the thrashing of carp mating in the cordgrass, muskrats, turtles, egrets, and herons. The walkers listened to the clacking of king rails in the April greenery and to the calling of brown-headed nuthatches in the towering loblolly pines. The blossom of a lady’s-slipper almost lulled them to the presence of over-reaching poison ivy. To top it off, they stopped at the rara brewery in Cambridge for an awesome beer and soft pretzel treat.

Hogcamp Branch

To Joe’s way of thinking, Earth Day, the day he started setting up his southern recollections, isn’t just a one-day celebration. It should signify an everyday appreciation of Earth’s diversity, accented by an effort to recognize and preserve a share of our planet’s natural bounties. To catch and release a wild trout on a fly rod is a gateway action (one of many) toward appreciating earthly beauty. Joe’s vacation was winding down, but his Earth Day fling wasn’t finished yet.

Conway River

His son and daughter-in-law, who helped make the whole trip possible, had arranged for Joe to catch a special concert in D.C. on his last night out. Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason (along with Saucerful of Secrets, his band of P.F. alumni) would present a final U.S. performance of early Pink Floyd music at Constitution Hall. The show, absolutely stunning, “set the controls for the heart of the sun” and helped an old fisher get a dazzling view through music of that aqueous planet sailing through the dark.

Dark Hollow Falls

Pocosin Hollow

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Brookie Joe’s Quick Pics

Brookie Joe Fontinalis fished the headwaters of Marsh Creek/Cryder Creek near home and caught a few small friends with a nymph.

Rock Creek (NY)

The Mays were hatching down on Slate Run (PA).

Slate Run Dale makes a nice cast with a feathered hook.

Brookie Joe’s SR brownie.

The run was looking fine a week ago…

Brookie Joe met the family gang down at Catoctin Nat’l Park in MD where, alas, he plans to fish Big Hunting Creek before the week is out…

The bloodroot flower (short-lived but beautiful) starred the park grounds.

The black rat snake posed amicably for a few photos…

Arrived in central VA to find the trout streams blown-out by heavy rain… Beautiful weather looms, and hopefully Brookie Joe will re-connect….

The blue hepatica (Catoctin Mtns.) is a favorite spring wildflower…

Brookie Joe’s Slate Run brownie took a nymph then said farewell…

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Allegheny Spring

I was situated comfortably on the stream again. I was casting streamers with the new split-cane rod until the stonefly hatch informed me that a nymph or dry fly might be interesting. To be out in the warm spring air was joyful, following a long and arduous winter. Nature seemed more accommodating now, its name allied closely with the Latin word natura, meaning “to be born.”

winter’s final grip, Zoar Valley

Casting an artificial fly while trying to acknowledge the emergent life around me was a fascinating experiment, stimulating but only a partial success. The sun was brighter but the passing clouds reminded me of the wind plus an urgency expressed by the season’s first frogs, the first insects and the first songs of arriving birds. I tried to absorb them through my meditation with design– reflections that I might attempt to share through writing.

old South Bend steelhead rod w/ Cattaraugus shell…

Standing in the stream at wood’s edge, I was interrupted by a quiet “Hello” from someone approaching through the alders. A uniformed official, a game warden, apologized for the breach of silence, saying, “I didn’t want to scare you and make you fall in the river. How’s it going?” I looked up at the warden and explained that it was good to be fishing once again despite the rising wind that made the effort challenging. I told him that I hooked and lost a nice trout on a streamer, and now, with stoneflies hatching and a couple of rise forms at the surface, I was ready to begin my dry fly season.

Catt watershed, saw no fish, third week of March…

Oh, and by the way, would you care to inspect my fishing license? “Sure, just turn a bit so I can see your tag. Thanks.” The big license on my back, with 2019 printed boldly on yellow plastic, did the trick.  I thanked the man for doing his job out here in Penn’s Woods and, before long, the honey-colored bamboo was bending admirably, pulsing with a heavy rainbow that had taken a drifting Black Stonefly on the surface.

I guess I’ve never been a warden’s worry. In fact, I’ve always been thankful that, in these days of environmental deregulation and diminishing custodial manpower, folks are out occasionally observing our behavior with the wildlife. Speaking with the warden, I was pulled in from my springtime reveries to an edge-land as firm as the riverbed. There was a balance there, of sorts, a fortification between our own kind and the natural environment.

willow buds galore…

Standing in the river at the forest’s edge, I was glad to be removed from modern life, if only for several hours. The Machine World was another Moloch, devouring individuality and personal freedom, sacrifice in the name of pure efficiency. But to fish alone, or with a kindred spirit, in the warm winds of the Allegheny foothills was to sense a true resistance to society’s dominion. A simple act, this fishing, and yet…

first fish of the season on a dry fly…

The strength and marrow that is Nature can be found in any earthen framework for the viewing and expenditure of time. Here, the hills and river valley, the cold flowing water in natura, bring the joy and comfort of renewal.

Chester2’s first ‘bow…

Allegheny, 3/30/19…

 

 

 

 

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A Small Stream Fantasy

At last the upstate temperature had risen into the 50s, and snow-melt rushed down from the hills. In this topsy-turvy world of climate change, the New York weather might now be warmer (again) than the winds of Barrow, Alaska. Oh, cold weather would return in a night or two, but I couldn’t complain (too much). 23 Canada geese battled northward underneath the rushing clouds; a few robins and sparrows flitted from grove to grove; the signs of spring were slow to arrive.

Winter still ice-bound in our little waterfall…

My impatience for the change of season was an indication of my own advancing years, no doubt, and its vehicle seemed to come here in the form of small stream fantasies, that itch to be near the water once again, with fly rod in hand, and with new dreams as a highway to spring.

Spring fantasy in an old discarded bottle…

Recently I’d been thwarted from a mountain stream in Pennsylvania because of deep snow on the long walk to the water; I was turned down from an outing up at Spring Creek in New York by sudden winds and an apparent lack of trout; my sense of freedom felt the pang of discontent and the presence of a barrier that would not dissolve or break away. Sure, I could fight the “shack nasties” by staying home and reading books, tying flies and taking weekend hikes, as I had done since early January, but man, I had to stop complaining and get a grip on seasonal progress.

Thwarted from a PA mountain stream…

I knew the Green was out there, just beyond my grasp. The fantasy might corral it– the belief that the season will arrive as it always has, in due time, without the cold and snow, the grayness and the bodily afflictions. The beauty of the dream is this: when it’s actualized it won’t look the way that I imagined it. The range between reality and dream exceeds our expectations. That’s not a bad thing, when you think about it– without the range there’d be little to define our individuality. Patience and humility are difficult subjects to grasp and assimilate.

Caledonia (Seth Green) fish hatchery, oldest in the land…

The fantasy is generic and doesn’t name the streams and rivers to be fished, or the trails to be walked in getting there. The land and waters might belong to non-human realms, to the birds and fishes and forests of our dreams, but they’re extremely vital and are linked directly to the Quest. We’re rooted in a larger sphere of beings, and to acknowledge that world and appreciate its beauty, all we need to do is get immersed, to seek the slightly different angle in the track of the familiar. As Thoreau said, move yourself a hair’s breath from the path of usual routine and you’ll find yourself with a fresh enchanted view, the small stream fantasy actualized.

Looking down on Spring Creek where I saw two large brown trout, very mobile & uninterested in a fisherman’s pursuit…

“Beauty and music are not mere traits and exceptions,” he said. “They are the rule and character…” We get a sense of our place in the universe, the larger community of life. The voices from the land and water merge with human voices when their speakers capture our imaginations. We listen as if from a timeless space because the sounds are ancient and mysterious, present and alive.

Pinus strobus, favorite evergreen leaf & cone…

A recent comment at this blog expressed a reader’s wish that the phoebe would soon return to his haunts on Fall Creek in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. I responded by saying that it won’t be long; the flycatcher would soon arrive. The reader’s comment reminded me of a poem included in my chapbook called Rootwork & Other Poems. Here’s the first of four sections in the poem called “From the High Hills to the Bay”:

“We’re awakened in a late March dawn/ By the phoebe flown in from the South,/ Rasping from walnut boughs above the shed./ Phoebes, feathered spirits of the place,/ Have nested here even in the empty/ Interim years between former inhabitants/ And our own arrival years ago./ Already they’ve begun to reconstruct the/ Fraying nest still glued beneath the eaves./ They teach us how to live here, how to know/ A place as they might know it homing in blood/ Through a northward passage in cold night./ Although each autumn’s silence wings them south,/ Phoebes hold to knowledge of return….”

Franklynisa fungi, growing on a fallen birch limb in the backyard…

A small stream fantasy helps to reinforce my sense of place, of where I live, and what I hope to achieve. The lands and waters will be opened once again, despite my current qualms and pessimism. I will feel like I belong there once again. I’ll add my voice to the province of the wild, to its plants and animals and their foothill homes. A new season can’t be far away.

Genesee River, waiting for the ice to move…

Flowers in the cavity shout to my skunk cabbage fixation– Happy Spring!

Waterfall break-up, east-bound & down, heading for the Equinox, at last!

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