Amazing Rainbow Grace

With an air temperature of 23 degrees F., and with gusts of wind and cloud-cover, fishing wasn’t bound to be particularly comfortable today. I was willing, however, to give the fly rod an hour or so of exercise. I could always chalk up the experience to a scouting OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAventure. Bundled up inside my waders, I was ready to muddle along, to deal with gloved hands, iced-up guides, tangled leader, clumsy casting, and diminished hope.

Hell, there wouldn’t even be stone flies hatching on the river today. If I could catch one trout, however, that would be a bonus for enduring some challenging weather. With just a single fish, it was possible that my frozen fingers and runny nose would forgive me for abusing my own body.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, the Egg fly stopped at mid-drift through the deep Meadow Pool, and I was on to something. Ah, my bonus for the day! And the fish seemed better than average for a headwaters stream.

I let the fish run past the far side of an underwater tree. I mended the fly line up and over the submerged branches, and soon the fish was in the net. Seeing how the trout filled up the mesh, I thought for a moment I had taken my first 20-inch rainbow of the season.

I could have let it go at that, but who was gonna believe that my only trout of the day wasOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 20 inches in length? I pulled out my rusty old Zebco Fisherman’s De-Liar, the measuring tool I’ve owned since age 13, and I proved myself… wrong. I heard a voice say, “Walt, you idiot, that’s a nice fish, but you’ve got to tell the folks it’s only 18 inches long.”

Okay, I thought, a good trout. Thank you Allegheny River. I’ll be back for more, but it’s cold out here, and my hour’s almost up.

Had it not been for this single trout, I probably would have questioned myself for coming here at a time like this. Although I often say that fishing is a whole lot more than OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcatching fish (which I’ll stand by), I’m glad I didn’t have to prove it this afternoon. Even the Canada geese seemed to huddle around the open water, complaining in the way of anxious fowl.

Driving home, I was feeling pretty good as I began replaying parts of my Daniel Lanois CD, “Acadie,” a gift from my friend in music, Dr. G. This album, a true North Country classic with an undercurrent of New Orleans supernaturalism, is considered to be among the best Canadian albums of all time [youtube/daniellanois/acadie]. What I find especially striking is the final cut, the old traditional “Amazing Grace,” with Aaron Neville at the vocals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn all my years I’d never thought much of the tune until hearing it sung by Neville on this album, accompanied by Brian Eno’s expertise and by Lanois’ unparalleled production skills. The famous song, played loudly on this occasion, was enough to bring an old angler wretch to his pagan knees, to plead mercy for his sins to a Maker on High…


What really saved me was a vision of a rainbow trout coming to the net once more. I mean, it had a glint of sunshine on its median line!

Who said fly-fishing couldn’t be a spiritual experience?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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18 Responses to Amazing Rainbow Grace

  1. The grace with which you describe these experiences is truly amazing, Walt.

  2. Rather than graceful, I am grateful for your readership and words, Jim.

  3. LQN says:

    that’s a healthy looking ‘bow. Sure it made the cold weather worth it!

  4. That it did, Long, but I’m still awaiting that amazing touch of spring. Thanks!

  5. Ken G says:

    Now I have to go look up that music. Haven’t heard that name in many years.

    Nice fish too.

  6. Album is from ’89, Ken, I’ve been familiar with it for far less, but it’s something. Hope you’re faring well and can see springtime from here.

  7. Bob Stanton says:

    The Allegheny is magic water, isn’t it? It’s an exercise in spirituality every time I step into its hallowed waters. Makes me think of the quote by (I think) Heraclitus, “No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” I remember that Lanois album, too. I believe it was the first album he released after becoming a semi-household name after he and Eno’s production of a couple U2’s monster albums.

  8. Oh man, that river quote is one that I fastened to way back when I was a psych student at Alfred, and I still hold to it today because it kicks me into the world every time I think of it. That river, this river, is NEVER the same, and yet it seems to be. Thanks Bob, the Allegheny is a magical stream, indeed, and oddly, all I really know of it is the headwaters. There’s so much more downriver where you fish and have a handle on it. As for Lanois, you’re right. I came to him as an Eno student long ago. As far as I can tell, this album shows his work at its best, although there may still be a Lanois album I’m unaware of that has a similar magic.

  9. Dale houseknecht says:

    Ice fishing a

  10. Les Kish says:

    I can’t believe that you’ve still got that rusty old Zebco De-Liar. Oh wait, I still got mine too!

    • Les, I’m telling’ the Truth, my De-Liar is about…half a century old! I hardly ever use it, but every year I’ve got to clean the rust off. Glad I’m not the only one with the old Zebco contraption. Is Zebco still in business?

  11. Mark W says:

    It appears I wasn’t the only nut case out there in the howling winds and cold air! Nice job getting out there and fishing in challenging conditions. There’s always a odd pleasure in fishing when most normal folks are inside, all the more fun when you catch a few in the process

    • Hi Mark,
      There really seems to be an “odd pleasure” fishing in tough conditions when most folks are busy with television, or what not. When you catch a few, you can slap yourself on the back and say, “I might be crazy, but I’m still on my feet.” The odd ducks are having fun. Thanks!

  12. Mary says:

    Some new, to me, music to check out – thanks! I like the idea of North Country music. I wonder if you’ve ever listened to Gordon Bok, a Maine native, of Timberhead Music? Good music.

  13. Hi Mary,
    Sure, check it out. There’s a universe of little known, but high quality music out there. I’ve been looking for and discovering it for ages, and there are always new connections to make. Sort of like hiking through the mountains in beautiful weather when you’re feeling good. Speaking of North Country music, there’s a piece on this album entitled “Ice” that is chilling, gorgeous and mysterious all at once. As for Gordon Bok, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard his music, so I’m not familiar, but I’ll try to get an aural update today.

  14. Brine Young says:

    Great post, Doc. I’m impressed with your words as usual and with the pics of those fish – both are beautiful. I believe that Acadie is Lanois’ best work, too although the albums For the beauty of Winona and Belladonna are also examples of subdued genius. Now I have to search out some Gordon Bok.

    Dr. G

  15. Hey Dr. G. Man! My thanks. The album has been around so long and still sounds fresh, doesn’t it? I checked out Belladonna and (unfairly) bailed on it; Beauty of Winona is next. I listened to a sampling of G. Bok (J.S. Bach may be my all-genre favorite–bad pun) which is good northern folk, in my opinion, making me think of one of my all-time favorite folk musicians, Bert Jansch (R.I.P.).
    P.S. I love those Friday music reviews of the week that you send. Your command of the overall music scene is astounding.

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