For a guy who likes his rural traditions, I also get a buzz from breaking them every now and then. One of my traditions is to fly-fish the Allegheny River on New Year’s Eve, assuming the water is free of ice. This year on the Eve I wanted to walk an “interstate brookie stream” instead.
T-2 is a headwater feeder stream originating in Pennsylvania and flowing north across the state line into the Genesee River drainage in New York. In 2010-2011 I organized a stream remediation project on T-2 (its state moniker) involving landowners, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the Army Corps of Engineeers, and friends and members of my local chapter of Trout Unlimited. A lot of planning went into this project that was finally completed in June 2011. With exception of a farm tractor used for hauling in measured logs of locust trees, all the work we did was accomplished by hand and simple tools. Our goal was not to enhance the fishing here on T-2, but to assist Mother Nature in providing native brook trout with deeper pools, cooler water and protective cover. Within a few days of the job’s completion, brookies were observed at home in all four of the work sites on T-2. With Scott Cornett, biologist at NYSDEC, creating site designs, and with the able volunteer workmanship of Trout Unlimited and friends, T-2 was a great success, a job I’m proud of six months later.
Instead of making a New Year’s list of favorite whatevers from the previous year or trying to conjure feeble resolutions for the next, I thought I’d simply share a few reflections from our T-2 summer and pair them with photos from a warm winter shuffle on the last day of the year. In retrospect, I saw our goal of habitat improvement linked to the “ideal brook trout water” as described by the naturalist John Burroughs in his 1911 book entitled In the Catskills: “… one that lies in deep, well-defined banks, yet makes many a shift from right to left, meets with many rebuffs and adventures, hurled back upon itself by rocks, waylaid by snags and trees, tripped up by precipices, but sooner or later reposing under meadow banks… or prosperous and strong in some level of cultivated land with great elms shading it here and there.”
T-2 isn’t quite up to Burrough’s ideal, but I had to admit that the four work sites were looking good. The elevated cross-channel log at site #1 was effectively directing the flow to scour-out a hole and new shelter underneath a bank’s revetment logs. The deepened pool at site #2 no longer threatened to collapse a shaded bank. Fifty feet of rebarred logs at site #3, working in conjunction with several single-log “bendway weirs,” enhanced a long riffle and pool. Site #4, in the hemlocks, had a Zen-like simplicity that I found attractive. I was close to the state line, and when I got there I gave pause.
T-2 crosses from Pennsylvania to New York inside the hemlock woods. No artificial fanfare here, no billboard or Welcome sign. No yellow rubber line or barbwire fence, no sign of mankind’s hubris whatsoever. Just a fallen tree, a spill of water from a ledge, and free-flowing water where the speckled fontinalis dwells. Political and economic lines mean little here, albeit for the naturalist who cares about the health of our land and water, challenges are only steps away.
I walked a short distance into Pennsylvania before turning back toward my vehicle. This two-state shuffle cranked up a modest celebration in advance of the coming year. I could see dark clouds on the horizon of the tributary woods, but for now I had reason to raise the glass.