I explained to the landowner at the Genesee rivertop near Gold, PA that the extended fishing season for his stream lasted till the end of the month. It was okay to fish, but no trout could be taken or killed. In a few days the season would be over; there’d be no more fishing here until the regular season started again in April. Taking advantage of the mild February weather, I received permission to cast on a lovely stretch of trout stream near the watershed divide.
Three rivers have their sources on the nearby summit. One of them, the northward-flowing Genesee, actually has three branches that originate near each other and then converge at the village of Genesee on the PA/NY border. Near the top of one of these branches, the landowner and I conversed about a topic on the minds of almost everyone around– the drilling for natural gas by the process known as hydro-fracking.
But the sun was coming out, the winter sky was clearing; I had one more stream to fish before the season ended, one more watershed to check before investigation of the great divide was done for now. I needed an experience I could carry for a while with pleasure. There was no guarantee that tomorrow would be brighter.
This was one place where the wild trout fishing may have improved over the years that I’ve known it. The remaining farmers are more likely than before to have the stream fenced off for cattle, more likely to allow brush and trees to remain on the banks. Anglers are more likely to release their catches than they were two decades ago. This was brook trout water, cool enough in summer to discourage the spread of brown and rainbow trout that are stocked downstream.
On this last leg of my three-day swing through the triple divide, I was glad for the experience, for the challenge of the low, clear water and its modicum of shelf-ice making it difficult to stalk. Beauty was apparent in the sunlit hemlock trees, in the mystifying holes and cross-channel logs, and especially in the hefty old brook trout that I caught. It looked like a four year-old male ( a geezer by brook trout standards), as dark in its skin as my own hair was gray. It was probably a loner in that undercut pool fed by a riffle, and I handled it as gently and minimally as I dared. With luck, I might catch him again in spring.
Earlier I had seen a first northern shrike of the season flying low over the fields. As I walked back to the car I saw a red-tailed hawk soar on the breezes. A raven cawed hoarsely as it flapped above the stream. Two starlings chittered from a dead tree in an open field. I thought I heard them mimic a few notes of an Eastern bluebird, as well. Clearly the season was changing.