Cedar Run (The Jazzway)

As promised, I returned to Cedar Run to cover that half mile of unfished water between the two pools known as “Blue” and “Little Blue.” Visiting the stream was my next step OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtoward completion of an eleven-mile walk along the run’s entirety. My report would also be known as The Cedar Run Experience #9.

I intended to enter the gorge and carry an old Reuben Barkley fly rod.

Driving down from NYS I listened to a Miles Davis CD, that cornerstone of jazz called “Kind of Blue.” A voice from the subconscious mind suggested I play it once again. A jazz favorite, for sure, but maybe there was something more. That half mile stretch on Cedar was a place between “Blues,” so maybe it was… kind of blue? The voice said, go with it, the flow, a feeling from the gut.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe morning sun was just beginning its stretch into the glen. The sky would be cloudless; the air temperature would climb into the 80s. The water temperature would hit the 60 mark, but Cedar Run was low and clear. It had thinned down considerably from its form two weeks ago.

The fishing would be difficult. I would see no creature larger than a trout or a bird. From Little Blue down to big Blue I would find enchanting water, pools and riffles alternating in subtly shifting rhythms, and I made a mental note to fish this place next spring when the major hatches reoccurred.

“So What,” I hummed. And “Freddie Freeloader,” too, which I improvised in OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsnippets. It was music from the stream of life, although my sludgy notes were a lowly counterpart to the songs of thrushes and warblers hidden among the leaves. This section of the stream was like a Jazzway.

Trout were rising at the upper end of Blue. But what were they taking?

Not a Blue-winged Olive, not a Pheasant-tail nymph.

The water was remarkably still. I inched my way forward and made a long cast of a small dry Stimulator. I saw the trout rise but struck too quickly. Its weight was noticed all too briefly, three or four seconds at best.DSCN4597

What was Miles Davis doing in this wild, remote area? Wasn’t it a strange place for a private concert? Ah, the music.  The gentle flow of water in July. The sliding down, the gathering force. The song. The song with its deep pools, undercuts, and riffles. The framework of a Pennsylvania gorge and vast green forest.

And Reuben Barkley. I had mentioned the maker of this old cane rod I was casting. Why did I mention him?  Why not. I know so little about the guy. I think he lived in Oregon and built bamboo fly rods while tending to his funeral home.RSCN4550

Fishing in the Jazzway, I felt free to wonder. I’ve read that Barkley’s fly rods were, for the most part, only mediocre instruments, but a few of them were very good to fish with and to look at. My 7.5-ft. five-weight is a pleasure to cast. Maybe it’s one of Barkley’s better efforts, one created in a stretch of time when the funeral business hadn’t hung around him like an albatross.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fishing was summer slow. A few brooks and a wild brown came to hand but that was it. The fly rod was an instrument with human history behind it, with a shade or two of mystery, as well. To cast it was to hear a seasoned trumpeter, a jazz musician, improvising on a theme and recognizing an ocean in the flow.RSCN4557OLYMPUS 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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8 Responses to Cedar Run (The Jazzway)

  1. Bob Stanton says:

    Glad to hear that you had a jazzy outing, despite the slow summer fishing. An appropriate theme for my last few trips might be Bobby Zimmerman’s “Tangled Up In Blue”.

  2. Oh I’ve been there, too, Bob, tangled up in blue. In fact, had to toss out the entire leader on completion of this latest walk. Don’t know what triggered it. Probably fatigue. Anyway, I hope your next few trips are straightaway and rockin’.

  3. Mike says:

    Dear God, Walt, you are an amazing writer.

  4. Dear God, Mike, I sure appreciate having you in the audience. May your leader tighten, soon, with a splendid trout that puts you in a pleasant groove.

  5. Joseph Hord says:

    I’ve really enjoyed all the posts about the Cedar Run experience. It makes me feel like I was there! I’ve never had the chance to fish a bamboo rod, but it sure would be interesting to get to fish a rod that had some history like yours. Thanks for taking us along!

    • You’re welcome, Joseph, and thanks for coming along. A quality bamboo is special to fish with, especially when you think of all the skill and man-hours that go into the making of one rod. It’s like fishing with the soul of some one who took the time to care about his work, above and beyond the little money that he’s making on it.

  6. Nice post, Walt. Happy to say I’m going to be up there in two weeks. How are the stream levels?

    • Thanks Ryan. Glad to hear that you’ll be up here soon. As of today, the stream levels are good for this time of year. The intermittent rains have been beneficial. With luck, the pattern will continue and the fishing will be decent for the rest of the month.

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