Above Slate Run

The high country feeder enters a tributary of Slate Run before dropping into OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPennsylvania’s Pine Creek Valley. For years I’d been only half aware of this little stream on state forest land. I’d seen it on the topographic map but had never thought to fish it. For years I had driven by its mouth en route to more well-known sites and never known what I was passing by.

A friend had told me he fished the brookie water in the autumn and enjoyed its colorful native trout and the solitude that only a wild mountain stream can give. On a cool May morning with an overcast sky, I finally had a chance to get acquainted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the little run, I figured I’d spend several hours hiking and fishing into the headwaters. If I had time in the afternoon, I’d go downstream and cast a Little Yellow Stonefly on the clear waters of Slate, then finish up with a bit of fishing on big Pine. For Pine Creek I would need the long rod with a March Brown dry fly on the tippet, with emerger pattern dropped a foot below the dry.

Stepping into the feeder stream, I let all other plans evaporate. The run averaged only OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeight to 10 feet in width, but its flow was full, and 48 degrees F. Small logs and boulders helped create numerous pockets, pools, and undercuts.  Penetrating this green country with its babbling voice, I found the welcome privacy of public land and water.

For being so well-shaded, the stream was friendly for a short upstream cast. Until the end of my climb, the only sign of human life was the drone from an airplane over the mountains somewhere. When I quit for lunch near a small waterfall, I noticed the remnants of a railway bed once used for logging.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhereas most watershed anglers today were fishing down on Pine Creek’s Delayed Harvest section near Slate Run village, I was miles away. Big browns up to 28 inches long had recently been stocked in Pine, but I was happy catching and releasing small native fish along with an occasional brown.

These wild fish were delightful. I picked them up on a barbless dry fly and a short tapered leader. A limber seven-foot rod made casting easy.

The humdrum social world was quieted for now. I find that small fish meeting you face to face in a beautiful locale provide as much enjoyment as big fish taken in a crowd.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe small native trout could care less who was bombing whom in the world, or who was beating whom at the races, or who would rake in the fruit of the latest Power Ball Lottery.

I wasn’t in Pennsylvania’s most remote locale, but I was close to it. Other than a charge for gasoline and a few items for lunch, it didn’t cost me much to get in here. The physical demands were minimal.

I stopped at the plunge pool of a small waterfall. If I could stop all time and still survive with all that was important to me in this moment, here would be a decent place to halt. With wild trout in the month of May.

There had to be a fish in that pool. I was down to a single thought. Do I stay with the dry fly, or go to the wet?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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15 Responses to Above Slate Run

  1. stevegalea6953 says:

    Fantastic, and was there a fish and what did you go with?

    • It was fun, Steve. There were lots of little brookies, a couple browns, all wild and taken, for the most part, on a dry Stimulator or Yellow Stonefly. No luck downstream on the bigger water. Not this time.


  2. lesterkish says:

    Hi Walt:
    I too spent yesterday fishing a small stream, for small trout with a short little old fly rod. But for the fact that your brookies were replaced by rainbows, the day and experience could have passed as a carbon copy. Excepting one thing…..I hooked more bushes.


  3. Lester,
    You mean I was supposed to mention the bushes I snagged? Jeez. I too had my share of them. I’m glad you shared a similar day in wild troutland, and thank you for the reading and comment!

  4. Walt, is that a mature brook trout in the picture?

    • That’s probably a mature brookie, Jim. In small mountain streams in this region brook trout can mature at only 6-8 inches long and live up to about 3 or 4 years. In streams with more food base for the trout, wild brooks can reach 10-12 inches. I’ve caught wild ones up to 13, but that’s extremely rare. In the old days they grew considerably larger because of less compromising environmental conditions. Hatchery trout can grow quite large before release, but they don’t live long, nor have the color.


  5. argosgirl says:

    There’s nothing like hooking into wild trout – they exemplify why I love to fish. Especially those little brook trout. Like you, I prefer the small, wild trout in a remote setting, to the larger, stocked fish in a busy location. Thanks for another wonderful post!

  6. Kenov says:

    Nice. I wish I had spent a bit more time fishing there, when I was in the area. And I agree: there are no trout like wild trout.

    • Thanks, I’m lucky to have nice wild trout streams near my home. Meanwhile, looking forward to hearing more about your fishing excursions into Transylvania and beyond!


  7. Antonio Gallegos says:

    Mr. Franklin this is a very thought provoking and poetic post. I would choose to chase tiny wild fish over the shoulder to shoulder experience of put and take water any day. I will send you send Nm trout pics soon from a recent trip. tight lines!

    • Antonio, Chasing wild fish in a wild place is how you and I crossed tracks in the first place, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! There’s magic in those places unavailable on the crowded waters. Thanks as always, and I’ll look forward to seeing some more of your NM photo reflections.


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