Out of the Blue

In working up posts for Rivertop Rambles I try not to repeat myself (much). I try to DSCN4430 cover my home ground and its streams to give you fresh perspectives on each outing, but on some occasions you may scratch your head and wonder. In the following, for example, you may note that there are no photos of fish or water.

I remember in Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America the anecdote of 6th-grade boys getting into trouble after they quietly scrawled the words “Trout Fishing in America” on the backs of shirts worn by innocent 1st-graders. The reading of such insubordination will never help you catch more trout, but it’s still rather amusing and, by a stretch, it does have something to do with fishing.

DSCN4410I was helping young students learn the ins-and-outs of fishing through a tale called “Devil’s Bridge,” about striper fishing with environmental consciousness off Martha’s Vineyard. I extended one lesson on the ethics of catch-and-release by instilling the idea that a gamefish should be killed, when legal, only for food, and never for fun. Then we took a fly rod and reel to an emptied classroom and hallway and invited nature to be our guest. An empty classroom became the coast of Massachusetts (for stripers), and an empty hallway gave itself up for a mountain stream in Pennsylvania (with native trout).

You seemed so sad/ I could see/ Through your twisted smile/ So unsure/ Always DSCN4463confused…[ah, Roxy Music, on the road].

I met up with Jim, and his sons (aged 13 and 15), to fish upper Kettle Creek on a recent outing. At one point, Jim was wading on ahead of us into the willows; I was hanging back, curious how the boys were doing at a deep pool near the forest. I guided the younger one to the far bank of the pool and told him to gaze down into the stream below a sunken log. Several large trout were hunkered in the depths, and I suggested that he switch his dry fly for a weighted nymph and, keeping a low profile on the bank, to give them a try.

DSCN4444I went upstream with the older son to give the riffles a shot. Twenty minutes later we heard a shout. The younger boy, Jared, was runnng toward us on the bank. He cradled a large trout at his chest, and yelled, “Have you got a net, or something?” I raced over and congratulated him while dropping the trout into my net. We placed it in the water for a couple of photos then a quick release. An impressive brown! Jared was excited, to say the least, and thankful for the recognition. He was even more thankful that his fish had survived, had come out of the blue, to pause, and swim away.

Pale blue eyes/ Gazing down/ From your ivory tower/ Through the haze/ All broken and bruised…

The weather had cleared wonderfully on my birthday. In the evening I decided to fish the Genesee River for a first time this season. Arriving at the river, I realized my mistake.DSCN4460 The water was high and muddy for some reason. I missed one rising trout, but was more absorbed by the problems I saw– muddy water pouring from a trib called Cryder Creek, eroded banks, and the growth of that invasive plant called Japanese knotweed.

I was getting the birthday blues, just tacking on another year of wrinkling age. I thought of Bert Jansch, my favorite English folk musician, playing his acoustic blues with grace and rawness. This was not what I expected. It was like going out to buy a pint-sized cake with a candle on top, to light the thing in solitude then blowing out the flame to let the nighttime in. I needed Dylan Thomas, with his poem of rage, to carry on and cast a line against the darkness.

DSCN4451Then: out of the blue/ Love came rushing in/ Out of the sky/ Came the sun.

My wife had thought I was glum that evening because I’d received no special gift or recognition from her. That may have factored into my plaintive behavior, but there was more to it.

I had come of age with Sergeant Pepper and the Beatles (I can still remember)…”Will you still feed me/ Will you still need me/ When I’m…” Yeah. Way back then, a premonition had entered that would resonate forever. Eventually, age would grab me by the nether parts (if I was lucky to make it that far) and cause me to reflect. Okay, but otherwise? How about some cake and ice-cream, honey, or a kiss to make me smile?

DSCN4435 Then: out of the blue (next evening) came an automobile. Holy Caddis! A brand-new Nissan in the driveway, an Altima with a birthday balloon attached! Was it my wife’s new car for work? (Traditionally, when she and I snagged a new vehicle, I was given the old one for my work and fishing jaunts, no matter how decrepit).

No, this was different. The trunk was big enough for all my rods and tackle! For a wagonload of working blues.  And even for some happiness on the stream.DSCN4418

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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 Out of the Blue

  1. You deserve a new Nissan (and more) for sharing your knowledge with the next generation. I know that takes a great deal of patience. (I used up all mine on my own kids). Congratulations and happy birthday!

  2. Thanks much, Jim! Patience is the key. I’ve found that pressing down on the patience key is stressful and can turn your hair grey prematurely, but when you see a fruit or two that ripens as a result, you feel pretty darn good.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    Happy birthday, Walt! So, are you a Gemini or a Cancer? Me, a Gemini – first day. I tell everybody that being “on the cusp” equals super powers. Congrats on the new Nissan, and on cracking the century mark…on RR subscribers, that is!

    • Bob, I used to tell folks, when asked, that I don’t have a sign, but they usually didn’t get the joke. I’m Gemini of the Schizoid Cluster. 6/19. You, too, have a great time for the b’day. End of May? My favorite time of year. My day, when young, meant goodies, end of school, and start of summer. Now, of course, it means something different. Like the century mark. I much prefer the good subscriber mark! Thanks bud!

  4. Brian Young says:

    Happy Birthday, Doc! Seems like only yesterday I was at your 40th. Regardless of your age, you are a timeless force of nature in my book. Thanks for all of the great words. I’ve greatly enjoyed your blog, and I’ve never caught a fish in my life! Hey, I recognize the handwriting on that cd. Hope you have been enjoying those pieces of plastic over the years.

    Best to you and L,

    Dr. G

    • Thank you, Dr. G., my fine-feathered physician of life and music and other great affairs. God, the years just roll on and on and off and off, something like a Beefheart quote I can’t remember now. I remember my 40th very well, despite the age. Of course we know the authorship of the Miles CD script in the photo. I couldn’t do any of this music thing, the technical aspect, without all the awesome contributions you have made. I sure have been enjoying them. And, have a safe and very welcome return to the home country… Yrs. in Transitions!

  5. Mike says:

    Happy Birthday and may you look back in forty years from now and reflect on how young and dumb you were to think you were old!

  6. Alan says:

    An enjoyable trip back. I asked the same question when I turned 64 and it was yes.

  7. Alan, At our ages it’s a great thing to have a “yes” to help us get along. Thanks for understanding.

  8. Kenov says:

    Great post. Great song. Check out Ferry’s “Jazz Age,” if you haven’t already.

  9. Puget Keith says:

    Great story. Hope you enjoy your new car.

  10. Thanks Keith! I’m not much of one for putting stock in material comforts such as vehicles (have never really liked them other than their practical aspects) but if one must be owned, this is cool.

  11. Ken G says:

    Now I have to go put Out of the Blue on Facebook to annoy everyone and get that song out of my head. Thanks…
    And congrats on the car. I did miss seeing a picture of a fish though.

    • Ken, Sorry the song got stuck between the ears. I know the feeling but it could be worse, like a James Taylor or some dance machine music. Roxy on FB could be revolutionary. Fish photos forthcoming in new post!

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