A Tough Day on the River

Anything worth doing in life has its challenges if undertaken correctly. Sunday morning dawned bright and cold. The calendar declared that winter was over, so an outing with the fly rod seemed a worthy task, indeed.

trout lay in shadows of the bush

trout lay in shadows of the bush

Stepping into the river at midday brought challenge number one. After every several casts, ice began to clump inside the small guides of the cane rod, slowing down the line speed and paring away my patience.

To ward off the chill, I began an upstream walk and soaked up a bit of red-hot chatter from a band of migratory blackbirds. At the Meadow Hole I noted that the suckers had a comatose appearance on the chilled bottom of the pool, but the trout were darting back and forth despite an apparent lack of bug activity.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the riffles upstream of the pool, I stumbled on a large pod of trout holding near a seam of water formed by drowning alder branches. One of the trout gave chase to the flies on my initial cast at the site, but then the whole bunch ignored the following deliveries, as if to say, “Yeah, we know what this routine is all about.”

It was a trick to place the fly within striking distance of those fish without getting hung up on the alders. Oh, I did leave a Bugger in those branches but retrieved it after the school of fish grew bored with my employment and shuffled off to the darkness underneath the bush.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore the fish departed, I had kept them minimally interested in the flies by offering something new after every several casts. I even got a strike at an Egg pattern, but that brings up another issue of the day. I wasn’t holding on to the trout. They were tossing the hook. Maybe I’ll blame the cold air, or maybe my numbing brain, for the weak connections.

All in all, I hooked a half dozen trout, but landed only one. The netted rainbow had takenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA a stone fly nymph drifted in tandem with a Quill Gordon wet. And that was it. Result: a slow afternoon on the river where it kicks into gear a few hundred miles east of Pittsburgh, on its route to the Gulf of Mexico. Consolation: from here on out, the action would surely quicken.

Arriving home, I found my neighbors at the house.  One of them enjoys fishing. He listened to my report then stated blandly, “A slow day on the river beats a half-fast day at work.” Those words came readily enough. Cliche, perhaps, but true.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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12 Responses to A Tough Day on the River

  1. stevegalea6953 says:

    That sounds like a fine day on the river to me…Beautiful fish Walt.

  2. Leigh says:

    Great post – I agree with your neighbor.

    • Good to hear from you, Leigh. Hopefully the river will be calling you out there soon.


      • Bob Stanton says:

        Totally unrelated to the substance of the post, but I like the color scheme of the wraps on the ‘boo. Looks very striking against the color of the cane.

      • Bob, The way I understand it, Montague productions, with the wraps and other aspects of rod production, were all too often whimsical and cheap. Most of their many models were so cheaply made that they weren’t much good for fishing. However, their best few models were George Varney influenced (who once worked with Leonard) and quite lovely. This Fishkill model ranks among the better Montagues and, yeah, the color scheme and ferrules are strong. I like this rod for early season nymphing and with streamers. Thanks for bringing this to the plate!


      • Leigh says:

        We’re seeing some significant melting, so I’m hoping this weekend. Maybe we can meet up in PA this summer.

      • The shot of warm air coming through today is the first for me in quite a while. The melt is happening. Maybe we could hit the Delaware this summer. Lookin’ forward!


  3. Ken G says:

    At least you had signs of life in the water. Hoping to see something moving around here soon with the warm spell coming in. I’d settle for a creek chub.

    Nice rod by the way.

    • Thank you Ken. Well, it seems a little odd that no fish are yet apparent, but that creek has undergone a lot of changes recently. I’d give it a few more weeks before getting real concerned about what’s happening there.


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