I pulled off the gravel road in the lower Rose Brook valley, one of my favorite native trout streams in New York. A raven flew across the valley and croaked its one-note greeting. A phoebe flew out from its nesting site beneath the old abandoned bridge. Mayfly spinners dropped sporadically to the tumbling brook, and I pinched down the barb of a dry fly. The fly would drift along the undulating surface of the water that deflected from the bridge abutment. A brookie rose, and I played it quickly for its smooth touch in the hand, for the satisfaction of an equally quick release.
I fished the big culvert pool upstream. As usual, I was the only fisherman around. I thought of the autumn day several years ago when the landowner stopped his tractor on the road above and watched me land a brookie measuring 13 inches long, a fish that drew the admiration of fisherman and farmer alike. Before long, a second and a third trout took a dry fly on the culvert pool.
The water seemed unusually clouded today. There had been no rain to speak of; the water remained low; I worried that something might have been meddling with the brook beyond the landowner’s home. There were no other homes beyond his place; the state line was close at hand. Upstream of the line, there was speculation in the gas fields, and I didn’t want to think of that today. I strolled down the brook toward a streamside hunting cabin.
My reverie widened to include events from a recent weekend. It was the opening of the regular trout season in northern Pennsylvania. The tradition of taking part in Opening Day social activities isn’t something I get fired-up about at my age, but I do participate. I avoid the slapping of backs and the slinging of bait-containers where the hatchery trucks unloaded their freight, and I head upstream where the boot-prints in mud are seldom encountered. My tradition is to fish the three northward flowing branches of the Genesee River on the Opening Day. It’s a quest for wild trout where I try to renew my feelings for the watershed as a new season dawns in the “Pennsylvania Wilds.”
On Day One I was able to confirm the presence of wild trout on the East Branch of the Genny, of beaver dams and an alder jungle on the upper Middle Branch, and of sizeable brown trout on my favorite of the trio, the West Branch. On Day Two I enjoyed an outing on a different system, on one of the state’s finest (and undervalued) trout streams that’s accessible with a 45 minute drive. With permission to cast on beautiful water flowing through a large estate, I went fishless for more than four hours till, at last, the Hendrickson mayfly hatch appeared and the trout went literally wild. My one leaping trout that managed to throw the hook in fast deep water ensured me that the day will be remembered.
There were no dramas on Rose Brook today. The water flowed serenely through the passing moments. Cascades of tumbling water sang an April song and assisted a human’s balancing act with the wild. The challenge here is not an easy one. Flies get hung-up in the branches overhead, get snagged at the slightest loss of focus. The brook reminded me of how important small streams figure in my life. They help me keep a steady course and avoid the numbness of insanity. Without them I’d be like a wheel that suddenly lost its hub. Next to family and important friends, small streams bind my days into pleasant passage like no other. I could do worse than spend an evening on this brook.