A Stream Report

Last week, when the hot and humid weather finally broke, I set out to do another studyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of a favorite tributary in the upper Genesee River watershed. I decided to fly-fish all of its “miracle mile,” a stretch extending upstream from a highway bridge (the uppermost stocking point along the stream) to a railroad trestle located about 10 miles from my home.

On the third, and final, morning of my “study,” I began casting while fog still lay upon the lowlands. Starting where I finished off the previous morning, I’d had a long walk before I got down to business. I concentrated on pool numbers 15-19, the upper limit of this so-called miracle mile, my favorite section of a stream that erodes and then rebuilds itself continuously. Yeah, the stream is unstable, with erosion issues, but its gravel bed and springs make the upper section good for native trout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt last, the weather was comfortable and bright, with low humidity and a breeze, a rarity for this upstate New York season. For the previous several years, the angling on this tributary was rather poor. The population of small wild browns had apparently usurped the numbers of native brook trout, and even the stocked browns had a short existence here. But the stream is bouncing back from the shadows. The usurping browns (the young-of-the-year and the one year-olds) have largely disappeared from view. The brook trout are returning, as if from those glory years that I experienced about a decade ago.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So what accounts for such a favorable change on this stream? I wish I knew. Surely the vicissitudes of long-range climate change weren’t helping out, although weather certainly is a factor. Surely mankind’s treatment of the stream wasn’t helping much, although Trout Unlimited has begun a tree-planting project on the banks nearby, a project with trees still in their infancy. The upstream village is, unfortunately, a huge contributor of trash that’s flushed out with major water events and dumped on every bend and beaver dam for miles below. No, the stream isn’t a pretty one and, historically, it’s not been treated well by valley residents.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd yet the fly-fishing can be wonderful if you hit the water at the right time and place. For me, a right time was a week ago, three mornings in July. The Blue Quill and the Trico spinners swarmed above the stream. The water temperature ranged from 57 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit (thanks to cold springs); the flow was strong (thanks to recent rains), and the structure of “the mile” seemed remarkable. Riffles and pools, some of them newly formed this year, alternated rhythmically. Four or five of the holes are deep ones forming at the roots of great black willow trees. In one of them I saw a cruising brown trout, certainly a wild fish, that would’ve taped at well beyond the 20-inch mark.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For three mornings on this water I accumulated the following count for a fly-fishing survey: total,  38 trout captured and released on barbless hooks. Of these, 31 fish were wild brookies, six were wild brown trout, and one was a stocked brown. Some of these fish were wonderfully bright in coloration; they ranged from seven to 12-inches long. Most of them rose to a Blue Quill spinner #18 or a Black Ant #16.  Some were taken on a beadhead nymph. My rods were an 8’4″ three-weight, and a 7′ four-weight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I seldom see another angler on this “miracle mile.” In my 20-plus years of fishing the tributary, I’ve seen but two or three other anglers casting over it with an artificial fly. The stream could use a shot of human love and attention. Although I’m not overly optimistic about the future of this fishery, I’m hoping that improvements will continue.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 A Stream Report

  1. Puget Keith says:

    It’s nice that you are at least keeping an eye on the stream. It always seems that most of the least popular trails, and perhaps streams, are looked after by one or a couple people. At least this stream has you.

    • Keith, I’d like to see everyone adopt a little stream or a trail, however modest, to watch over it, report on problems, take it to heart and help keep it looking good.

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      • Bob Stanton says:

        It seems that upstream development on a waterway is , if not exactly a death sentence, a serious impairment. I think it takes an enlightened community to take measures to protect its resources. Your exchange with Keith above reminded me of a collection of essays called “Upland Stream” by W.D. Wetherell. The title essay kind of addresses some of this post’s themes.

      • Thanks Bob. You’re right, and in this case the upstream community is less than… enlightened… at this point. One hopes that an improvement is forthcoming. We’ll see. As for Wetherell’s book, thanks for the reminder. I have a copy and read it long ago. I should revisit the title essay.

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