1. Driving along Cedar Run Road to my parking destination, I listened to the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray,” 17 minutes of chaotic and perverse wonder, stirring up the vestiges of civilized existence. It was good to shake things up a bit before I washed away the soul debris with a mile long hike through a gorge I needed to traverse.
I once majored in psychology, and at rare moments like this, I think those studies might have had a bit of value after all. I would watch myself like a behaviorist on a laboratory rat. I would grab at the chance for wildness, drop down into the gorge as if it were the earth from which all humans came.
At the risk of taking myself too seriously, I imagined myself as a dog. The animal scrambled down through the trees, became a wolf again for an hour or a day, but actually was little more than a mutt gone sniffing through autumn leaves.
2. Inside the gorge I’m reminded that this undertaking is my “Cedar Run Experience, Part 12″ and little more. Gone fishing, listening to the music of the gentle stream, to the drumming of a grouse, the squawk of a startled kingfisher.
The mile of stream beneath the wooded cliffs, beneath the dripping ledges and brightening sky above, was low and very clear. The trout were abundant but extremely skittish. Fly-fishing was a challenge and required stealth, a slow step-by-step where the water narrows into holding structure– a deepened riffle or a mini-pool among the multitude of rocks and boulders.
The 4-weight line carried a long tapered leader, a 6X tippet with a small Black Ant and, later, a Rio Grande King, a pattern quite attractive to the wild browns and native brookies. After several hours of relaxed casting in the gorge, I came out at a point where the car was parked.
Eight trout came to hand and went back into the run. The fishing had been slow, but then, so was I.
3. I ate my lunch and drove upstream a short distance and parked near a little bridge where I had left the run a week ago. I felt like I was getting somewhere now on my long-term quest to hike and fish to the source of this Pine Creek tributary.
The bright day heated. I had long abandoned the sweatshirt worn in early morning. Clouds of gnats and occasional mosquitoes prompted my return to casting. I passed the cliff at Red Rock Run, its flow but a trickle of cool water entering the larger stream. I was in a groove of step and stumble, cast and stumble, cast again.
In my head I sang to the boogie beat of R. L. Burnside’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin” –morphing into Captain Beefheart’s “Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do” –and then becoming Burnside once again–and the trout began to rise. The stream was opening; the forest canopy had stepped away, allowing a different view. The small willow trees and alders– with the water narrower and deeper, the gradient heightened– brought the natives rising here, and the brown trout rising there.
4. As much as I value individualism, I’m like everyone else who figures that the journey of a life is, in part, the quest for beauty. I’m a die-hard Romantic but I’m not about to capitalize the word “beauty” nor am I about to quote John Keats (or the Velvet Underground, for that matter). If you’re lucky enough to have a passion in life, you’ll know what I mean. You might pursue that passion even when you know its peak is nearly unattainable.
Take wildness, for example. Beauty. It’s found inside these mountains, well inside the sense of “scenery” experienced from a passing car or truck. I find it, grab it, and know– it’s like taking part in the creation of an art form. To find it is like letting go and getting swept up in a dream. And once inside that place, you want it to last forever.
I came close to a 20-fish day on Cedar Run, and for that I can be thankful. Rollin’ and tumblin’ on a mountain stream was fun. May we all get the chance to roll with it, with wildness or with beauty, in this lifetime, and along whatever stream will carry us.