The Stolen Hours

It was another warm Saturday in December, and I felt like getting out to fish, for whoscud knows, another casting opportunity might not come this month. Given the weather in upstate New York, one can never tell. Problem was, I had a list of things to do, some of it important to my wife, some of it important to both of us, together if not as onerous as a trip to the mall during holiday rush, it came pretty close. I needed something of a miracle to change the probable outcome of the day.

Suddenly I  got a phone call from my friend, Tim, who was on his way to Naples Creek. Did I want to meet him there for some afternoon fishing? Well, I’m a lucky guy in some respects. I have an understanding wife who thinks that Tim is more than just a darn good fisherman. He’s a nice guy in a line of work that she relates to, so, of course, I was off the hook of obligations. For today. I was free to drift some feathered hooks through the creeks and rivers. I was free to drive into the hills where the rainclouds knelt to earth like sheep to a pond.

naples creekAs far as I know, there is no record of large spawning brown trout entering Naples Creek this fall. Typically the big ones come uphill as they have for many years. This year there hasn’t been much water to entice them. We had rain this week so I waded upstream for an hour feeling hopeful, but again saw nothing worth blogging about. Deer hunters prowled the woods along the east bank, and startled deer crossed the stream in front of me a couple of times, but that was it. No sign, even, of the small wild rainbows that I used to catch on every autumn visit.

When Tim caught up to me and spoke about two fair-sized trout he’d landed downstream by the lake, I took heart. The stream wasn’t dead, but nonetheless, we decided to inspect the cloudier Conhocton River and spend the last hour or two of daylight near Avoca.

As we hauled upriver through the brush and trees near Goff Creek, we talked of an assortment of things… This was pleasant weather for December, but we’d probably have to pay for it somewhere down the line. The last time I had seen our friend, the local angling legend Don Graham, it was back there by the parking lot. Don was unable to walk, but still able to cast a fly line into the river as his life began to shut down quickly. Yesterday I’d been tying scud flies for yet another look at Spring Creek. Tim would fish upstream then down; I would fish the far bank on my way back to the bridge… Tim handed me one of his hot flies for Conhocton River fishing in winter, a big yellow Deceiver that I was more than willing to let swim.

We didn’t find much more, but it was fun to fish the river in mist and darkness. Tim wouldconhocton river catch a fine wild brown trout of about 16 inches. His photo showed the unclipped fins and a streamer’s yellow maribou and pheasant shoulder bursting from the jaws. As for me, I’d felt a couple of jarring strikes but had no takes.

The stolen hours spent on the water didn’t feel like hours that required later payment. In a sense those hours weren’t really stolen at all. They were more like a gift from the gods of opportunity and chance. Attitude plays a part, as well. If you value direct experience in the realm of outdoor nature, you’ll find it one way or another. It doesn’t matter if you’re heading out to flyfish in winter, or if you’re going hiking or skiing or just to feed the birds outside your window. Everyone needs to strike a balance in this world. Domestic life, our social web, as large and complicated as it seems, is just an outer skin, the surface of a wild vast river.tim's deceiver

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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4 Responses to The Stolen Hours

  1. Ken G says:

    You do realize it’s payback time now and those things put off must get done. I think this is a first, no fish pictures for Walt. Was thinking of doing the same today, only not bothering with the fishing gear. No real point around here, I don’t feel like hooking creek chubs and that would be the only game in town. I can use the hike and the mental exercise.

    • Ken, Yup it’s payback time, and I can feel the holiday squeeze. You’re right, no fish pics ’cause I like to keep things mixed, but more importantly, honest. In other words I got skunked!

  2. Mel says:

    Hi, Walt, happy to hear that your still getting your line wet. By the way, that is a good looking streamer pattern. I could see a fish or three giving that one a chase. Happy Holidays!

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