After checking in at the Slate Run Tackle Shop I headed for the next piece of water to be covered on my journey up the run. I’d go as far as possible today beginning with a point above the Manor Falls. A wood thrush, scarlet tanager and several unidentifed warblers sang their territorial phrases as I made my solitary approach on a fine morning in early May. Cars filled the small pull-off near the Manor Lodge so I expected anglers galore on the run, but I found that the vehicles belonged to a group of tenters camping near the falls. No one was fishing the run as far as I could tell.
The flow was a bit high and powerful from the recent rains and my progress was slow. The crossings from side to side were difficult, no thanks to my wading shoes which had gradually lost eighty percent of their cleats, and no thanks to my aging legs that were like the rocks in the stream, unsteady and worn by the constant powers of erosion. Each time that a cliff or unexpected tangle forced a thirty-foot crossing, I was thankful I’d brought along the walking staff.
I had heard that the hatches were good on Pine and I was hoping to see Little Yellow Stoneflies and March Browns (particularly the lighter Grey Fox variation) on this tributary. Before long, the bugs became evident but, alas, the trout seemed absent. By the time I reached Red Run I was getting disillusioned. The climb that I began last fall was really starting to look and feel like an odyssey– beautiful water today and not a trout in sight! Thank god for a little brookie that seized the hook in Red Run to distract me from a sense of growing unease. Fishing isn’t much fun if all you’re thinking of is the unlikely encounter with a timber rattlesnake. The occasional warm weather sighting of a rattler is part of the overall experience on Slate, and the reptiles add to the aura of wildness in the gorge.
In addition to bringing back memories of a camp-out on the edge of Slate many years ago, Red Run was a highlight for today because of the wildflowers I found growing there. Painted trilliums prefer more acidic woodland soils than the more frequently found white or red species. There’s something about that blaze of crimson in the heart of the three-part blossom that electrifies. There’s nothing tranquil about the fleeting vision offered by a painted trillium!
Despite casting at all levels of the water column today, nothing worked on Slate. Earlier, at the tackle shop, I’d spoken with fishing guide Mike O’Brien and we both agreed that a state electro-survey of the run would be an interesting event to witness this summer. As for my next approach to fishing the stream, I would have to walk down from the Morris Run bridge to pick up my terminal point at Red Run and then work my way back up. There are some nice pools on that stretch and hopefully they’ll produce.
En route home I stopped to check on Cedar Run, Slate’s beautiful sister stream. I’d heard mixed reports of the fishing there, but I knew it couldn’t be worse than on Slate Run itself. Before I entered Cedar, I walked up a small tributary that I’d fished before. A trout rose and missed the drifting stonefly pattern. On the next cast the trout bit the hook and disappeared. Waiting a few minutes, I switched the dry to a beadhead nymph and then the brookie struck once more. What the hell, a trout at last, after casting to illusions all day long!
Cedar was a joy to cast on after my several years of absence there. It’s easier to access and to wade through than Slate is, but the relative ease can be deceptive. Waders should always take special care on Cedar. A book could be written on the wicked curves that the run has thrown to solitary anglers. But the trout were there. I spooked a large one and even saw a rise to a Grey Fox mayfly. I didn’t have much time to fish and couldn’t really draw conclusive comparisons to what was going on at Slate, but I made a mental note to come back to Cedar as soon as I could.