I didn’t heed the weather forecast; there’d been blue skies for days; the new morning sky was blue when I departed for one of my favorite trout streams, Kettle Creek, in northern Pennsylvania, and everything would be fine. When I reached the upper Kettle, rain began to moisten my vest and T-shirt (hadn’t thought to bring protective gear) then intensified and fell sporadically throughout the day. The rain was a good deal for a very wet angler, for the insect hatches rising all day long, and for the trout responding like a pleasant dream in the sleep of ancient mountains.
Peter and Tim had told me of hiking a remote feeder stream called Sawmill Run and I was interested in reaching this tributary of the Kettle to check for brookies. There were so many pleasant brook trout waters in the upper Kettle region, most with no-kill regulations, that it was nearly impossible to fish them all in a lifetime. But I’d been working on the impossible for years, and the mention of a new stream wasn’t easy to resist. I almost got to Sawmill (near the settlement of Oleona), but the rain was heavy; I got hemmed in by extremely tight conditions formed by fallen trees and vegetation, and by my own reluctance to forge on underneath the dripping canopy, so I abandoned that attempt, for now. It didn’t matter much because the fishing on Kettle was beginning to steam.
Oleona is the uppermost area of Kettle Creek to receive stocked fish. Above it there are miles of wild fish only, and below it are many miles of beautiful water that receive stocked rainbows, browns, and brookies, with wild fish entering the mix from tributaries. I hadn’t seen wild brooks in Oleona for several years, but today they were leaping for mayflies in the rain along with all the hatchery-born swimmers. The fish were taking Little Yellow Stoneflies, the magnificent Green Drake, Coffin Flies, Rusty Spinners, and even (yeah) “a hatch of Royal Coachmans.” I had luck with hefty browns and rainbows, but the wild brooks made my day, especially one that measured just shy of 11 inches, not bad for a new day in the post-industrial age.
Actually, a highlight for the day was the continual hatch of Ephemera guttulata, the Green Drake mayfly, in the misty light. It made me feel like I’d arrived at the acme of the fly-fishing season in Pennsylvania, wading for trout at the right time of year in the right place for the action. All of nature seemed dynamic and diverse, green and fruitful. Being a Monday, fishing pressure was light, the casting was fun, relaxing work. An angler could imagine being a Coffin Fly for a moment, an ethereal “spinner” of the Green Drake fly, drifting down to the water on a clear, cold riffle, with no worry of what comes after.