Rivertop Mayfly Song

The brook is only eight to 10-feet wide at most points along the headwaters. A warm spring day has finally arrived in the high country of the Appalachian foothills, and it feels good to be catching and releasing trout. Hepatica, trillium, spring beauty, and trout lily paint the ground beneath the greening forest and along the banks of waterways. A OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAredstart warbler sings sweet-sweet from a branch above the stream, and yellow-rumps flit among the myriad willow trees and hemlocks, feeding ravenously as they migrate slowly northward.

This is micro-flyfishing in every sense of the word. From the use of tiny fly rods on tiny streams to the sense that the world has shrunken to a realm of what the senses can encompass as you walk along. The shrubbery and foliage have only now begun to develop a green mantle, still allowing free movement of arms and legs in the act of fishing. Eyes still penetrate the branchy corridors and treetops; ears detect the nuance in the stream’s flow, the shrill melodies of brown creeper and winter wren.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s my favorite time of year. Although the season has been cold till now and fishing has been slow because of chilled water and a dearth of insect hatches, the new year’s pace is quickening. Whereas the fishing in the river valleys has been minimal and frustrating to this point, the Hendrickson mayflies have been hatching on the headwaters, and the native trout are rising to the duns.

With my six-foot fiberglass wand, a short leader on a five-weight line, and with reddish Stimulator or a Hendrickson dry fly with the barb pinched down, I can roll-cast along the sparkling riffles or bow-cast to a point beneath hanging branches (ideally speaking, if I’m not hung-up on some damned twig). I like the heavier fly line since it loads faster and there’s seldom a need to have the line hitting these miniature pools.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The world is pint-sized, fresh, and oxygenated. If I’m lucky to have reached such transcendental moments with a brook trout on the line, I’m one-on-one with nature at its best, and I couldn’t ask for more.

A dozen natives come to hand before I turn around and head back to the land of human commerce down below. What has seemed to be a micro-cosmic experience has been more than that. I’ve gone beyond myself, beyond my self-concerns, beyond the petty world of human whining, greed, and lust. I know this because the land and waters are within me again. I know this even as the roads and buildings and abstractions reappear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe belong to a realm of people, family, and human love, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It is good to know, however, that a small green world of rivertops exists, and to hear the infinite waters calling.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS 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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16 Responses to Rivertop Mayfly Song

  1. Mike says:

    Beautifully stated. It is always a comfort to know these places, whether our boots are actually in them or just our minds. Thanks for taking us there.

  2. Leigh says:

    Sounds like a wonderful day. Glad to see good fishing has arrived in your area.

  3. It was, and yes it has, Leigh. Thanks, and I hope you’re enjoying the same.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    My favorite time of the year too, Walt. Things are finally starting to pick up. The grannoms are out and about, at long last.

  5. That type of fishing must require incredible levels of finesse. Also, we’ve had several days in the 80s down here, so I think we might be able to officially call it spring now.

    • It’s finesse without much fussiness, Jim. Once you’re in the small stream groove, it’s pretty basic, and did I mention fun? Only several days in the 80s so far? Nice. Enjoy it while you can!

  6. Les Kish says:

    Nice Mothers Day post Walt. I saw a glacier lily the other day too.

  7. Thanks Les! Now I’m gonna have to look up glacier lily in the field guide. Sounds rather special.

  8. Alan says:

    Real fishing.
    Is this not a wonderful time to float a fly.

  9. Alan, I’m of the opinion that there is no finer time of year to float a fly or to keep an eye peeled for migratory bird or unusual flower on the forest floor. Enjoy.

  10. Ken G says:

    Been concentrating on the creeks out my way now, everything started moving up them in the last week. Everything being smallies. A flick of the wrist and even that might be too far for these little creeks. In the land of smallies I get made fun of alot for my quest of the little guys, but then there’s always a big brother hanging around. Nice ending Walt, well put.

  11. Smallies or brookies, little guys with a big brother brooding in the background– either way, they give us the substance of those wonderful streams, and keep us coming back. Thanks Ken!

  12. Mark W says:

    Lovely post. It does the soul good to hear, see, and smell the activity in the woodlands after the winter when silence reigns

  13. Thanks for the comment, Mark. It’s important to allow ourselves to get swept up in the green changes, to be awestruck once again and to feel alive.

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