Brightness

1.   Small black stoneflies skittered across the pool. Trout began to rise and gulp theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA stoneflies that attempted to finish their journey from the water to the land. Standing under a bright midday sun, I began to curse myself for being unprepared. For all my anticipation of this early stonefly hatch, I’d forgotten to carry the container that included patterns for adult black stones. Naturally, my nymph pattern was ignored. My dry fly substitutes were also ignored. Only the skittering stoneflies would do. The sun was in our eyes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI walked upstream into a riffle flowing under alder shrubs. A rainbow darted out and grabbed the drifting Woolly Bugger. Seconds later it was gone. It looked to be in the 16 to 18-inch range. The spring fly fishing season had begun.

Up in the woods along this headwater stream, I stopped to cast in the whirling currents of a small, deep hole. A fish darted from beneath a log and took the fly. I saw the striped fins of a good native trout. I held, thinking to myself, if this one escapes, it’ll be three strikes, fisherman, you’re out!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trout came to the net. I took a quick photo– a wild fish, most likely. If so, it would register as one of the largest wild brookies I have fooled. That’s not to say that a wild brook trout is a foolish creature. There’s probably more brightness on the side of a dull spring female than a human brain can know.

The first few notes of a newly arrived song sparrow drifted weakly from the distance. This had been a colorful afternoon along the Pennsylvania woods.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2.   The next  day, a fishing partner and I decided to check for steelhead in a major drainage system of western New York. Once again, the weather seemed perfect– mild but cloudy. A first flock of migrating robins was spotted roadside on our drive to a headwater stream.

Our upstream hike began around mid-morning, a late start when you’re scouting for migratory fish. A half dozen other anglers were returning luckless from the hunt, although one fellow claimed to have released a good ten-pounder. A cover of lake-effect snow softened in the warming breezes. So far, the stream was low for March, its color a typical deep-clay.

About a mile up the stream, at a place where chandeliers of ice hung wickedly from theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA sides of a gorge, I kicked out the first steelhead, an average two-footer lying close to the water’s edge. It shot into dark currents of a large pool, which I gave to Tim since he was new to this creek.

The steelhead remained few and far between. In a couple of weeks the spring spawning run would be charging full bore to the gravel beds. The steelhead would be moving through the gorge till stopped by a substantial waterfall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASheets of blue ice hung from the rock walls. Winter ran its life-blood down the cliffs. Two anglers in the mood for springtime entered the quiet dimensions of rock and ice. At the falls that ended our ascent along the stream, Tim kicked out a resting steelhead. As we cast into frigid waters of the glen, it was hard to escape the conclusion that the big fish were beyond us for a while. A friendly sun was in our eyes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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 Brightness

  1. Puget Keith says:

    Do your creeks ever freeze up? There’s some impressive icy formations but does that creek ever freeze solid? A side note is that one of the tags above seem to indicate that this is the Cattaraugus Creek. My great-great grandfather fought in the NYSV 64th Regiment, which I believe was also called the “Cattaraugus Regiment.” It’s good to see where that name might have come from.

    • Keith, In an average winter like the present one, most of the small streams have at least a partial covering of ice. This one is a tributary of the (yes) Cattaraugus which it enters a very short distance away. By the time I visit it in March or early spring, most of the shelf ice has retreated. The Catt itself, which I haven’t yet fished this season, is a river in comparison. Interesting to learn that your great-great came from the area for participation with the Union Army. He could’ve been from the Gowanda or Springville or Westfield sectors of the Cattaraugus drainage. The Zoar Valley that connects these towns is an impressive canyon land.

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      • Puget Keith says:

        The closest thing i have to an ancestral homeland is my maternal grandmother’s family name of Renwick. The Renwicks come from the unknown to make their homes in Angelica between 1805 and 1810. By the 1870 census they have all moved out. This July is my great great great grandfather’s 200th birthday. I was hoping to make the trek to Angelica to celebrate – probably the only one that is remembering his birthday – but unfortunately can’t make it. As an extension of this expedition I was planning on driving thru Slate Run to see some of the places you have written about. Maybe 2014.

      • Keith, By Angelica I presume you mean that your homeland has connection in nearby Angelica, New York, an interesting village some 30 miles from here. I know it pretty well. Sorry to hear that you can’t swing in for the 200th birthday, but let’s keep this in mind, and maybe next year we can do a little regional touring! P.S., from the sound of it, the Renwicks may have been among the settlement’s pioneers.

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