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 toward 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.
The 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 snippets. 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.
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.
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.
The 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.