Slabo Day (The Sky and Mountain)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Serbian term slabo translates into “weak,” or “poor.” The great blues guitarist, Peter Green, recorded “Slabo Day” on his album In the Skies in 1979. The instrumental is a classic tune, serene, contemplative, beautiful. Slabo also suggests a feeling that there’s often more to say about a subject or experience than words can express. In that case, it’s better to keep quiet, to keep listening to the music, casting to the fish.

I packed a melody in my head for a day of fishing at the springs. The end result was slabo — something weak or insufficient, maybe, but also something more. I experienced no panoramic views on Headwaters Mountain, but I did receive an in-depth view of forestland and streams. Three river systems have their sources on this Pennsylvania summit. They have streams that step down for their journey to distant gulfs. Selecting several of these waters in one river system, I began a day trip skyward, and this is what I found.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stream #1: This was on my bucket-list for several years but I’d never been able to find it till today. The thin blue line on my topo map had never actualized when I searched for the stream, but today I made a solid effort and discovered it at last.

I figured that the stream, rolling off the Triple Divide of watersheds, was probably the home of native trout, but there was only one way to be sure. I took a Sunday hike along an ancient rail bed. The sky was cloudless and the air was clear. I paused so many times to watch and listen to arriving warblers in the treetops that it wasn’t long before I felt that I was in the sky myself.

After walking a mile and a half, I slowed down even more to study the wooded hill OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAformations. I was looking for an indication of a hollow perpendicular to the valley. I found a slight cut in the forest canopy and took it for a sign. Perhaps a stream was hidden underneath those trees.

Descending from the trail to the main stream and beyond, I crossed a marshy area formed by beaver dams. There it was– a feeder stream in the forest punctuated by massive trees. Those great white pines could bring a searcher to his or her knees.

A  brook trout darted from beneath a log to take the floating artificial. I removed the barbless hook and returned the native’s freedom. I felt welcome in these woods.

Stream #2: This stream’s formation near the summit is actually the start of a well-known river.  It kicks out in a westerly and then a southerly direction to become one of the longest river systems on the continent. Stream #1, mentioned earlier, is a feeder to it, the first of many tributaries to come.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The stream was inexplicably turbid today. Other streams in the vicinity seemed clear. I saw no sign of logging or disturbance in the headwaters; no rainfall had occurred in the previous day or two. I hoped it had nothing to do with the fracking wells just north of here.

The air was clear and ringing with the voice of migratory birds and the occasional amphibian. The woods and water were enchanting, but I should’ve found more than two small brookies in the stream. It felt like a slabo day, and words were not enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStream #3: This second feeder to the river is becoming one of my favorites. It’s a brushy one but there’s volume here and its holes and undercuts provide good structure for wild browns and native trout. This “Class A Wild Trout Stream” is a challenge and I like it best before and after all the foliage is on. Remote and lovely. And the trout are relatively large.

I raised a splendid 8-inch brookie, then missed another one of similar size. Occasional insects took the air. I recognized a spiral-shaped pool I fished two years ago. I heard a splashy rise. I had caught a heavy brown here on that first visit and I wondered if the trout survived. A fish rose and missed, but on the second take I had it on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It fought like the brown I’d caught before. It didn’t want its photo taken, breaking free before I found the camera setting.

It was slabo day for a  trout with its soft bronze sheen.

Slabo day for me, as well, when words do not suffice.OLYMPUS 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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6 Responses to Slabo Day (The Sky and Mountain)

  1. Ken G says:

    “Slabo also suggests a feeling that there’s often more to say about a subject or experience than words can express. In that case, it’s better to keep quiet, to keep listening to the music, casting to the fish.”

    My blog entries show I’ve been having a lot of days like that lately. Lots of pictures taken, lots of fishing done. Not much interest in doing anything with words or the pictures.

    Gotta love the search for those thin blue lines. I’m off in a bit to do the same. I’ll settle for an Illinois trout, otherwise known as the lowly creek chub.

  2. Good luck out there blue lining, Ken. Have a slabo day with whatever fish you find or don’t find. This is the time to do it, before those stream banks are impassable with jungle-like growth.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    Slabo days indeed, my friend. With the high water event only grudgingly retreating, I’ve been bewitched by warblers and wildflowers this past week. Toting field guides instead of a fly rod…just as much fun, and a challenge in its own right, but it doesn’t pack the same adrenaline “wallop” as a fish on the line. This upcoming week will be fishing nirvana, I just know it!

    • Bob, Sounds great! Anything in particular that was exciting? I’ve been doing the same. Photographed lots of birds today, including yellow warbler, bald eagle, great egrets, and catbird. Yesterday I found yellow lady-slippers along Slate Run Road while we did a trash collection. Couldn’t believe I’ve never seen them before. Meanwhile the stream levels are tough to deal with, though I’ve had decent luck on headwaters.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    I found a bunch of Jack-in-the-Pulpit, which I’d not seen in years. I think I spotted an Acadian Flycatcher too, though I’m not 100%. Warblers are confusing enough, let alone the epidonax family of flycatchers.

  5. Yeah that family of flycatchers is a real nut to crack. Checking my field guide I see that I haven’t consciously identified Acadian in a long while. We have plenty of least, willow and alders around here, and I identify them by calls alone. The family is even more difficult to differentiate out West, esp. in the Rockies and surrounding lands, where there’s half a dozen or so flycatchers in similar habitats. Warblers ain’t easy, but a lot more fun.

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