I left word with Jed at the Slate Run Tackle Shop. Today I’d be fishing Slate Run from the Mowry Pool up to the Two-Mile access. We agreed that six hours should give me plenty of time to fish the stretch. If I didn’t report back to Jed or Tom by 3 P.M., well, maybe I’d broken a leg somewhere in the gorge, or maybe I’d decided to abandon civilization forever.
The area had received heavy rainfall the week before, and Slate Run was flowing clear and high. I was glad to have a wading staff for support. In the morning fog, the water temperature was 52 degrees. Later in the day, under a sunny sky, the temperature would rise only a degree or two. I decided to cast dry and wet flies alternately, a decision I would later regret. In recent weeks I’d been tying soft-hackle flies in earnest, and I was eager to try some of these old, classic patterns. They would not produce well today. I began to wish I’d brought along my fly box that contained Slate Run favorites like the beadhead Hare’s Ear and that elemental curiosity, the Green Wienie.
As I stumbled through the turbulent waters and watched the sun burn slowly through the fog, I encountered the first of many blow-downs from the June tornado. Great white pines and sycamores had fallen in a swath from north to south across the run . A flock of turkeys flushed from the welter as if the run had suddenly sprouted wings.
Away from the blow-downs I enjoyed seductive pocket water, pools, ledge undercuts, and glides. I made studious approaches to these homes of trout but, alas, the fish were being tight-lipped. Other than the lack of trout cooperation, all seemed right with the world. The air was warming up; the steep southern mountainside often kept me in the shadows.
At the Crooked Tree Hole, where the old bent hemlock tree remains much like I remembered it from years ago, I knew I was roughly half way to my goal for the day. The pool seemed less distinctive than before, but then, if a pool could think like a human, it would no doubt say the same for me. At a fire-ring beside the pool, I found unwanted remains of a camporee: a big blue bucket, a plastic chair, a tarp, an empty can of cheap commercial beer. As the designated “Stream Warden” for the Slate Run Sportsmen group, I felt obligated to arrange a clean-up of the Crooked Tree site for next spring.
I cursed at my watch when it told me the time was already 1 P.M. I’d been fishing for four hours and had climbed only one mile of the run! I was only half way to my exit at the Two-Mile Hole. I had to pick up the pace dramatically. Had to charge through the heavy water and abandon relaxation. I was hammered with a recurring thought: This stretch was a lot longer than it looked on the map! The thought seemed to be related to the one that tells the forest wanderer to “get back home before dark.” I had to be extra careful with my footing on the slippery rocks. I had to stay calm when the stream bends and the mountain flanks appeared like gateways to eternity.
[to be continued]