The Triple Divide (3)

“The season isn’t open yet, is it?”

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.

“Oh, you didn’t know? Yeah, they’re fracking right up there,” he said, pointing to the ridge a short distance away. “One spill, and all three watersheds could get a dose, myself included.”

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.

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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8 Responses to The Triple Divide (3)

  1. Ken G says:

    Nice three part series Walt. Enjoyed reading them all. Over the winter I was exploring little creeks the feed the Fox River. One no different than the smallest you’ve shown. I expected to see no more than a variety of minnows, then the creek opened up to a big deep pool. Floating around were little smallies, largemouth and bluegills. The journey to get to this pool had to be one heck of an adventure for them.

  2. roy says:

    Around the bend a lurker ruffles, then flies off.
    Time for cards.

  3. Roy,
    Perhaps you mean”…a lunker sniffles, it’s all in the cards” ?

  4. What’s the issue with that brookie in the second photo? Looks like something tried to take a bite of him. Good posts — have enjoyed the series.

    • Russ, Thank you, and a good question concerning brookie in second photo. It’s funny, but I never noticed it at the moment of the catch (probably too concerned with a quick release and photo), but now that you mention it and I enlarge the photo with a click– there seems to be something there, bite or claw marks as if something other than me got a hold of him. Life as an old brookie isn’t easy. You’ve helped me realize I had a veteran there, a survivor!


  5. Nice brookies, Walt. Looks like it was a great day!

    • Mark, It was an interesting challenge to look for natives in February at the headwaters. Not every winter will afford such an opportunity. That Genesee brookie had the teeth marks of a predator near the tail.


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