1. I checked the old TU project site on upper Spring Mills Creek. I was pleased to see that although the beaver dam was still in place where we had planted trees, the reservoir was down; there was less water flooding the site; perhaps the beavers had moved away.
Work site #1 was looking good, funneling water and scouring a refuge as we had hoped it would. I didn’t catch a brookie there, but upstream, in a channel only two feet wide, I caught one measuring five inches long. At work site #2 I pulled out a 6.5-inch brookie, and at tricky work site #3, I caught a seven-incher. Small trout, yes, but signs of good health for the Genesee.
2. Driving to the headwaters, I rocked to some Richard Thompson caught on tape. From the “History of Richard Thompson, Vol. 2,” three consecutive songs still ring the changes for me. If there are any three consecutive songs in the archives of recorded modern music more powerful emotionally than Borrowed Time (1979), From Galway to Graceland (1990), and Tear-Stained Letter (1991), I don’t know of them.
The first song is simply insightful rock-and-roll. The second is a spot-on ballad and a portrait of total schizophrenia. The third song highlights the folk themes that Thompson has mastered over the years, plus his soaring instrumental prowess. As one of rock’s finest songwriters and guitarists, Thompson reminds me why music is so important to my love for writing and fly-fishing. It brings the continuity of years and the beauty of nature amplified. It brings me freedom.
3. Rock Creek is a small trout stream several miles from my house. I see it as a sister stream to the creek that flows by the place where I live. Rock Creek is still the home of native brook trout; the creek in front of my door hasn’t seen a trout in probably 40 years. The two streams are similar in size, have waterfalls, and drain wooded hillsides. Both of them flow to the same creek in the Susquehanna watershed. In my mind, one stream is alive and well (I caught several small brookies there this week), the other stream is virtually dead (thanks to bad agriculture and road maintenance). A ridge, several miles wide, divides life and death.
4. Every year I try to make a swing through the several branches, the headwaters, of the Genesee River in a single day. This year I hit the East, Middle, and West branches rather late, but the early season streams were interesting.
I turned up nothing on the East Branch. I didn’t do much on the Middle Branch either, but the old meadows studded with white pines had scenic value. Returning to the car I stepped across a tiny brook as I’ve done in years past, but this time I also paused. The rivulet feeding the Middle Branch, like numerous others, was green with cress and flowing over sand and gravel. It looked like a home for native trout… What if….
I started following this “step-across stream” toward the highway. With an underhand swing, I dropped a weighted fly into the narrow channel. The brook was too small for casting on. I didn’t recall a thin blue line on the topographic map suggesting that a feeder stream was found at this location.
The channel averaged only two feet wide, its depth about a foot. A fish bumped the fly but didn’t hold. A bit farther on, a second fish struck from the cress but disappeared. I was getting close to the highway culvert and a probable source from a spring beyond. Passing cars probably thought me absolutely daft to be casting in a field “without any water nearby.”
This fool for trout finally captured and released a pair of pretty brooks from the wet grass near the culvert. Ah, who would have known (or sadly, even cared)? From there I passed on over to the West Branch Genesee and quickly landed a 17-inch brown trout on a Woolly Bugger. Olive, size 10.
5. It is spring and there was water music in the air. I listened to parts of Handel’s jolly “Water Music Suite” on NPR while driving home. England’s King George had heard an early version of this music while floating the Thames on an orchestral barge. I was hearing something different. Evening frogs were chorusing from a marsh. Birds were singing, and through it all came the memory of trout.