The mid-November sun was golden, low, and mellow with the news that winter hastened its approach. If I was to walk the upper canyon comfortably this fall, if I wanted to extend the distance that I’ve fished the stream this year, I had to do it then.
It was Veterans Day, a time in which we duly recognize our veterans of foreign wars. It was time to cherish our freedoms– if we understood what freedom is, or what it means.
It was a day in which I saw a lot of trucks on the road to my destination in the big state forests of northern PA. The trucks hauled water or fracking fluids and supported the gas boom. They supported the use of fossil fuels and the consequent break-down of the natural world and its climate and inhabitants.
I depended on that energy still, and saw how freedom, in the larger sense, is a joke.
It was a 40-minute walk down to the gray birch on the east bank where I left off on a visit earlier this season. Finally I was ready to fish. I tied on an artificial nymph and began to work the foot of the Canyon Pool. The water temperature was a chilly 41 degrees. The wild trout lying off the current showed no interest in the offering.
In the shadows of the run below Dam Hollow I began to think that no one ever fishes here but then… What was this? A piece of leader looped around a high branch. A Woolly Bugger stranded over a deep hole, the barb pinched down respectably, the hook gone to rust from the passage of time.
I reached a second big pool en route to my starting point early in the day. There was a cliff with dripping water and drooping hemlocks shading the long rocky pool… I called it the Upper Canyon Pool, and layed out the tandem flies, a dry caddis and a Pheasant-Tail.
It was too cold to expect good dry-fly action, but the caddis served to guide the fisherman’s eye. Already several native trout had seized the nymph and come to hand. A minute passed, and a brown trout darted from its shelter and struck.
A pileated woodpecker chortled from the forest just beyond. The blue sky shone in patches. Time was fleeting; time was nowhere but in mind. The great ridges here would shield the pools and riffles from the winter, for a while.
When the last fly is removed from a lip, when the last fish swims away from an angler’s hand, and when the hunters, too, depart, the stream will be winter quiet. Although predators and heavy ice may loom above the scene once more, our awkward presence will be gone for months.
A balance might be seen between the mountains and the valleys. Concepts such as freedom and energy use will be seen as if from millennia to come. We may never be forgiven for our errors. All of our good deeds may be little more than soft reflections of the autumn sun, and that’s okay.
Nature is complicated and beautiful and wonderfully indifferent. It will always have its own way.