Random Acts of Small Stream Fishing

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 recordedDSCN4109 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 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsoaring 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 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAstream 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4.   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….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 grassOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS 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 Random Acts of Small Stream Fishing

  1. Junior says:

    That’s a nice little journey. I remember those three RT songs very well. And #4 is a great lesson to never overlook the small things.

    • Glad that you remember them, Junior. Yes, if listened to carefully, these songs just suck you into their essences and deem themselves quite memorable. And good point about #4: a world in a grain of sand, etc.

  2. markw says:

    A wonderfully diverse afternoon enjoyed! Love fishing those tiny little streams, you never know what you are going to find

    • Hi Mark! Discovering that feeling of diversity is one reason I’ve always liked to do an annual visit of the branches in a single day. It seems like every time out there’s some small discovery of interest to be made. And it’s especially sweet when made on those little (unnamed) waters.

  3. Les Kish says:

    Evening frogs already? I’ve just heard the sound of snoring dogs. Regardless, I’m envious that you’ve managed to cover so many waters. The fish look good too.

    • Les, Snoring dogs? Really? Well, I know you’ve got some great canine companions there, but are you sure those snores aren’t the sound of big Montana frogs emanating from the nearest swamp? I guess I was thinking your weather has been generally at least as warm as NY’s this season. Maybe not. But yeah, covering the waters now. You’ll be at it soon.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    One of the many things I love about trout fishing is finding the less than obvious places fish might be found. I’m sure I’ve got some strange looks from passers-by as I drop a line into a “drainage ditch” or other overlooked bit of water too. And man, you’ve got great taste in music!

    • Thanks Bob! Well, I’ve noticed that you, too, share a similarly deranged taste in exquisite music, as well as fishing styles. Hopefully after I get my email off Internet Explorer later tonight or tomorrow in favor of Safari or whatever, I’ll shoot you an email update.

  5. trutta99 says:

    Serendipity….reading this post the day after I posted something of an African parallel. A kindred spirit indeed. Thanks for painting such a richly coloured picture of your home waters (and home ditches!) for us.

    • You’re welcome, trutta, and yes, I noticed that parallel right away when I read your post from the S. African homewaters. Keep on posting from those beautiful backwaters and little known streams!

  6. Kevin Frank says:

    I’m getting a little ornery seeing all these fishing trip posts lately. I’ve barely wet a line in 3 weeks. Family and work are getting in the way. As my kids get older the weather good for fishing is also the best weather to get outside with the family.

  7. Sorry about that Kevin, I guess I was gung-ho to fish after an extended winter, but heh, enjoy that family while you have the chance to. My kids have pretty much grown and flown, deservedly so, and we do miss them being around.

  8. Ken G says:

    On the Fox River there are a handful of no name ditches I like to fish near their mouths every spring. A hundred or two feet inland is always a little pool with a few dinks in them. That’s what 1/32 ounce jigs and 1.5 inch twisters are for. And you just never know if a bigger one was just curious about what was up there. Most times, dinks don’t know they’re dinks.

  9. Alan says:

    I enjoyed my trip.
    Thanks Walt.

  10. Glad for that, and thanks, Alan.

  11. Puget Keith says:

    Very nice post. Look forward to more fishing stories.

  12. I still enjoy writing them, Keith, with thanks to folks like yourself.

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