A Small Stream Summer

With the rains and relatively cool temperatures this summer throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, small stream fly-fishing has held up better than it usually does at this time of year. Many small streams have enough cool water that the trout feel comfortable moving about in search of food.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been able to venture out to brooks and creeks typically off-limits during the summer months. In looking for trout, I visit only those streams where I know the water temperature remains 65 degrees F., or less. A stream thermometer is an important tool to carry at one’s side. We don’t want to stress the coldwater fish at a time when the going can be rough for both the angler and the trout.

There’s plenty of chest-high vegetation and riparian growth to make access to these little waters difficult at times, but once you’re on the stream itself, the casting is enjoyable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne evening I discovered excellent fishing on the West Branch Genesee, wading upstream through the knee-deep pocket water. I was hemmed-in tightly by the rapidly growing willow trees and alders, but when I reached an open pool I caught and released five or six wild browns averaging nine or 10-inches long. A dry Ausable Wulff was the ticket, though a Rusty Spinner might have worked as well.

The next morning in the rain, above the pool where I’d quit the night before, I lost a heavy rainbow that took a stonefly nymph into fast water underneath a log.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At a favorite stream for native trout in NYS (a trib of Wileyville Creek), I enjoyed the peace and perfect solitude of a brook occasionally reminiscent of a small Slate Run. On other private property (angling permission granted) at Spring Mills Creek, I quickly landed and returned four nice brook trout, one of which was a hefty 10-incher, and another of which measured eight inches plus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fish weren’t huge, but an angler’s expectations are adjusted to a small realm of beauty, greatly appreciated in a season when typically the angling is off-limits or just about impossible. The trout don’t have to be large to make an outing pleasurable.

In fact, if we allow our senses of who we are to be adjusted by the world of nature at large, we might see ourselves as also small– no less important in the scheme of things, perhaps, but diminished in stature, like a wild trout in a mountain stream.

When we momentarily abandon our hifalutin’ ways and all the junk of self-importance (see the social media if you’re wondering what I mean), we appreciate the small world of our real concerns, where trout and lilies and human smiles suffice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sorry for the philosophical tangent, but now that I’m on one, here’s a final note– a few words from my favorite living poet, Gary Snyder: …One granite ridge/ A tree, would be enough/ Or even a rock, a small creek,/ A bark shred in a pool…

This morning I went down to Dyke Creek for the Trico (tiny mayfly) hatch. I tied on a 7x tippet with a #22 imitation. Micro-flyfishing is a blast, especially when the wild fish feed selectively and don’t refuse your efforts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wish that every region of the world with flowing water was at least as lucky as this one in the current season. Many are suffering from drought or flood or habitat destruction. I would pray or work some mojo for them if I thought it would do any good.

Meanwhile, enjoy the summer’s beauty wherever you find it…

Maybe with a granite ridge. A tree. A small creek, or a rising trout….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS 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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18 Responses to A Small Stream Summer

  1. Brent says:

    Those last two photos are incredible: the glittering fish scales and the picture perfect little brook tumbling over a shale ledge. You won’t find THOSE on certain persons’ Facebook accounts!

  2. Ha! Not on certain FB accounts, for sure. Glad you like ’em, Brent. I need a beer and then I’ll be ready to read your new blog posting.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    Beautiful, beautiful trouts, Walt. I’m giddy over the fact that the practical season has been extended by the bounty of H2O. In fact, I’d be happy if the rest of the summer continued in the same vein.

    • I’m with ya, Bob, I’d be happy with that, as well. I’m surprised I haven’t yet heard anyone complaining about the season, although that may change. I’m reminded of other cool, wet summers– ’92, when folks were bitching left and right about the cold (and with so many summers of downright heat and dry conditions) and ’04, which was my best fishing season by far. Here’s hoping your season stays happy and productive, too.

  4. Alan says:

    Walt well done.
    It’s so delightful fishing a small stream, and doing so at the end of July makes it all the nicer.

  5. Your photos of the brook trout are just amazing. What fun it must be to fish those small, chilly streams with crystal clear water.

  6. Mark W says:

    Nice to hear of thriving wild trout across the Northeast

  7. As far as I can tell, Mark. Hope that you’re discovering it, too.

  8. The Ausable dry is one of my favorite dries to fish early and late in the day. Congrats on some nice trout landed, and yes it’s not always about the numbers; just being close to nature is enough for me some days. Thanks for sharing

    • Your welcome, Bill, and thanks for reading. Yes, the Ausable dry is getting to be one of my favorite patterns where the water is fast and a little choppy. Glad that it’s working for you, too, on your local waters. The important thing for me, as well, is being out in the elements, close to the water and the land.

  9. Les Kish says:

    You’re a gentleman for giving the fish a break when the waters warm Walt. More folks should do likewise.

  10. Mike says:

    Stunning as always.

  11. It has been a great summer for small streams. I was up to southern Potter for the last 6 days. Only fished two streams the whole time, in different sections. It was all that was needed. Should have a post up soon!

  12. Sounds great, Ryan. Looking forward to reading about your adventures.

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