Kettle Creek has always been one of my favorite trout streams. On Sunday morning I resettled on upper Kettle near Germania, PA, after an absence there of several years. The scenery and the fishing were outstanding.
On a spring day many years ago, I caught and released 64 trout along a mile of stream in this location, the most I’ve ever counted in a single day. I have gone back to this stretch a number of times (a special regs area where all brook trout must be returned unharmed) and not done nearly as well. No doubt there were times when the stream even sent me home with head bowed and tail between my legs, but on this recent visit I did well. My catch and release rate was as good as on that magical day in spring, but I fished only half as long.
I’d been following the massive caddis hatches over the previous week or so, and found that a small dry Adams was all I needed on the upper Kettle. The sun shone in a flawless sky and on the brightening forest. The spawning season for native trout put color on the skin, especially on the larger males.
It was Sunday, and contentment gripped the soul. The mountain valley and its stream were like a church for me. I waded underneath a blue sky steeple, by the walls of colored foliage, while communing in my own way with the fishes. Solitude and comfort made it easy.
Someday I’ll be dead and gone, but not to a place any better or worse. My confidence is based on natural observation. The word “God” is not a factor for me, but Energy is. I think of William Blake’s declaration, “Energy is Eternal Delight.” When I’m gone, the mountain stream will flow just as purely, if not more so, and that’s good enough for me.
I believe it was Alfred W. Miller (a.k.a. Sparse Grey Hackle) who wrote, in effect, the time to fish and to love is now, because this is all we’ve got. You can’t go fishing in Greenlawn Cemetary… Smart guy… and author of Fishless Days, Angling Nights.
Upper Kettle and its feeders have about 30 miles of “Wild Brook Trout Enhancement Area.” This state designation allows for year-around fishing while protecting brook trout with a no-kill policy. Prior to forest devastation in the early 20th century, Kettle was considered one of the finest brook trout waters in the nation. Today, with special regulations and some major restoration projects along its wooded banks, the creek is improving and doing well, all things considered. The strain of native trout isn’t the same as it was, and the fish don’t get as large, but the population in the headwaters is strong.
I saw what appeared to be another typical brook trout in front of me at the tail of the pool. I made a short cast, placing the dry fly several feet upstream of the fish. The trout rose and took the presentation. A flash of color and the feel of weight told me that it wasn’t like the others.
I put the net beneath, and lifted. An exemplary male, with color and heft. A photograph and a touch of the smooth, cool life. What it gave to me was beauty. What I gave back in return was a fish of substance and energy. It swam to the bank, then painted my afternoon.