Until recently the cold nights kept the mountain streams chilly even at midday. On Sunday, a Pennsylvania brook that I finally got to fish was registering 47 degrees at noon. The sky was bright; the wind was kicking up– not the best conditions for fly fishing. White Pine Hollow (not its real name) was new to me, a stream I’d been aware of from the topographic maps but one that I’d assumed was off limits. I recently discovered that it flows through state land and thus is very much available to the wild trout angler who doesn’t mind bushwhacking several miles into solitude.
White Pine Run is an attractive headwater for a well-known trout stream in my region. Averaging eight to 12 feet in width, it’s fed by numerous springs and has an excellent gravel bed, with undercut banks and a consistent series of riffles and pools. Its south side is a steep forested slope and its north side is flanked by mile on mile of field and pasture before the woods close in. Throughout my exploration of the run, the only humans I encountered were two young ladies riding horseback to the green beyond.
White Pine is a trout stream I’ve been searching for. It took me about 25 years to find it. I had sensed its presence in the area but had never known its whereabouts for sure. After all these years in the woods I’m still making small discoveries of the sort, and I’m sure there are other streams like it waiting to be found. At my age, however, I may never find another trout stream like it in my region, and that’s okay too.
Although the weather was beautiful, the fishing conditions were less than ideal. I was way back in the hollow before the first strike came. It was a slow take on the Hare’s Ear nymph, but a brief, all-out tussle that strained the leader to the breaking point. The fish was a hefty brown or an exceptional brook trout. In the flurry of excitement I didn’t see enough of the fish to judge. I marked the pool with a small cairn of stones built on the field’s edge, like a promise to return.
I stopped for wildflowers along the way. Trout lily was still in bloom. Bloodroot was in blossom also, which surprised me at this late date. Moccasin flowers were in bud, another call for return. It’s not every year that I see the moccasin in flower.
Returning to my point of origin, I landed the first fish of the day, a small wild brown. The run through White Pine Hollow proved again that you needn’t travel to the back of beyond to find the catch of the day. I think that anyone who lives in a rural environment can locate a personal “hollow,” a place in the “way back” where the touch of wildness can refresh the human spirit. The place may take a little effort to discover, but the time and energy involved will be rewarded. It’s a matter of getting on one’s feet (physically or imaginatively or both) and sauntering past the end of the human trail.