from The Wild Trout

In anticipation of the coming fly fishing season I looked back to a 24-page chapbook I wrote on the subject back in 1987. I was finally settling down to a serious interest in fishing for wild trout with a fly, and I wanted to explore the hills and streams of north-central Pennsylvania which, although out of state for me, seemed endlessly fascinating for the possibilities of setting out on foot and with a fly rod in my clutches. The Wild Trout was published in two editions (1989 and 1991) by Nightshade Press in Troy, Maine.

The book’s short preface sets up my intent: “The fish, in various cultures of the world, has been viewed as sacred life-sustainer and instructor of a region’s hidden life. In The Wild Trout, I was happy to explore a backyard region unfamiliar to me, the forested north-central hills of Pennsylvania. Exploration was conducted both in writing and on foot, in poetic sketches and fly-casting (a renewed interest). “Salvelinus fontinalis,” the native brook trout, was a major resource/inspiration for this work. I considered an excursion successful if somehow my connections with the fish and with the land were reinforced.”

So I set out fishing stream after stream and writing a poem for each one based on my experiences and associations there. Here’s the opening poem, to give you the flavor.



On the Middle Branch, Genesee River

A first day with the fly rod,/ northern Pennsylvania. The brook flows

north from Gold, passes through/ abandoned pasture, woods that cradle

nooks of blossom: trillium,/ bellwort, marigold…/ A massive white pine

and its skeletal twin/ guard the west bank where I fish./ The living tree

is spring’s/ illumination, and the dead/ is winter’s shadow sensed in April.//

Unprepared for success,/ I catch no trout but stand in solitude,

feel flesh and bone wash/ outward on the winds,/ assimilated briefly

by things that banish loneliness./ No ideas cloud the air./ No trout

awake to my offerings.//

Beavers change the landscape here./ Their ponds invite insects

that invite the birds that lure/ fishermen who test the pools.

Casting alternately/ with a Blue Dun wet fly and a Woolly Bugger,

I catch sweet glimpses/ of a barn swallow’s first/ appearance,

tired traveler/ skimming hungrily/ through an insect hatch.

                                           *  *  *

This is not the way the poem appears in the book. For the sake of saving space here I’ve used slash marks to indicate line breaks in the poem and to keep a semblance of the rhythm set up by the original piece. Signed copies of the chapbook are available from me, if interested. $5, postpaid. Inquire.

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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