The Wind, the Brook, and the Browns

The weather had been warm and rainy, most of the streams and rivers in the area were high and muddy, but I knew the spring brook would be running clear. I drove to it in advance of a rapidly approaching cold front. (Yeah, we knew the Big Freeze was coming sooner or later). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I stepped into the brook the wind began to hoist its shoulders. Soon the four anglers who’d been fishing there at my arrival started grasping for their tossed-about lines and clambered out toward the parking lot.

In more than two hours of midday casting to the colorful stream, I saw several noisy rises to the surface, but the wild trout refused my dry Griffith’s Gnat. It wasn’t the only refusal. In my first hour or so, the trout also refused an array of offerings that included an Egg pattern, Scud patterns, and several midge-pupa imitations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wind kicked up ferociously. Gusting to 40 mph (as predicted by weather forecasts), it sounded like the trains that passed occasionally over the stream and by the state fish hatchery. It made me nervous for a while. I kept an eye on the tossing branches of nearby trees, and even on the powerlines above. Every once in a while a gust would come along and threaten to topple me ass-over-teacups.

The long Orvis 3-weight was still a favorite rod for drifting small flies where they’d OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeventually be taken– near the water cress, and in deep water with great submerged logs.

I practiced my standing meditation, as I used to do it in my distant longhaired youth. I’d make a cast, inhale the winter air on the count of one, hold it for a count of two and three and maybe four, then exhale on a count of five. Over and over. Thinking spring brook, thinking wind storm and approaching cold front. Thinking brown trout, wild and pretty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWho knows if this meditation had any real effect on my composure or casting ability. It wasn’t something unfamiliar or weird (well, not really weird), and maybe it helped me stay out longer than the other anglers had stayed.

Coincidently, about the time I started focusing more strongly on my breath and what was happening in front of me, I started catching and releasing fish.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nice fish– wild browns, first ones of the year, several in the 14 to 16-inch range, colorful and broad-tailed, feisty with the energy gained from a rich creek diet.

Speaking of wind and water, you might want to check out a relaxing but vibrantly alive and spring-like instrumental by Fripp and Eno (Paris, 1975). It’s music and video that allows nature to have its say. Give a listen, and evoke a gentle wind on the waters of your life….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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22 Responses to The Wind, the Brook, and the Browns

  1. Leigh says:

    What a great first trip. I hope this is the start of a prosperous and tight lined New Year.

  2. I’m hoping the same, Leigh, it was good, but of short duration. Glad to get it in just before the cold weather arrived, which might sock us away from the streams for a while. Anyway, here’s hoping you have an excellent new year on the water.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    That is a beautiful adipose fin on the brown. This is the Spring Creek you’d written of in “River’s Edge”, correct? If so, it’s bigger water than I’d pictured it.

    • It is the same Spring Creek, Bob. I’m not surprised that you pictured it as being smaller than these photos suggest because I spoke of the “900s,” the 900-plus feet of public water here. But actually there’s other water on this stream that’s open to the public, within season, and other water that is private but possibly accessible– so that overall, you find a sizeable stream, not long but with volume. The state hatchery, a first for the country, has always found it perfect for the job.

  4. Brent says:

    Where’s that barn in the bottom picture? Also, your top selection reminds me of our local beaver condominium–hope it’s doing well after recent rains and the cold snap.

    • The barn is the main building on the grounds of the Caledonia State Fish Hatchery, the first in the nation, built by Seth Green in the 1860s (I think it was). It’s a nice place to visit. As for the local beaver condo, it’s withstood the recent rains and freeze. The big rodents are probably snoozing in the comfort of their easy chairs by now.

  5. Mike says:

    Oh, man, that’s a good day! Is it spring yet??


  6. Mark W says:

    Love the spots on the adipose fin on the nice brown, those markings just sing “Wild”! Glad you made in home with no close encounters from falling tree limbs

  7. loydtruss says:

    The Gnat is one of my favorite dries; the color markings on those browns are outstanding. Glad you had success even in windy conditions. Thanks for sharing

  8. Welcome back to the blogging scene, Bill. Good to see you in action. Yes, the G. Gnat is indispensable, in my opinion, and it usually works well as the midges hatch. The color on these spring creekers is appreciated, that’s for sure. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

  9. Les Kish says:

    It’s a pretty piece of water Walt. The musical piece invokes a trancelike state. And, given the wind you could just have well been in Livingston, MT.

  10. Yes, thanks for checking it out, Les. The wind, and now the cold temps, are probably the great levellers of difference between the spring creeks now. This kind of water, though, is precious, no matter the location.

  11. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how you cast in 40-mph gusts. As always, wonderful descriptions and pictures. You make my vicarious fly-fishing trips very enjoyable.

    • Sure glad that you could come along, Jim. As for casting in those powerful gusts, I sometimes have to time the cast–between gusts, maybe– and it always helps to have the wind at your back, otherwise you’re risking the welfare of an ear or eye, or worse. A cast low to the water works a little better, as well. Thanks!

  12. Wow. Those Browns are fantastic!

  13. Hi Ryan,
    Yeah those browns are really wild, aren’t they. So how are things going your way? Here’s hoping you have a great new year!

  14. The other Brent says:

    I must confess that there just might be something to that nymph business if you can turn up fish like the ones pictured here. Fishing the same water with dries generally yields much smaller fish, but they still are great fun. This winter yielded several browns (including one of 14 inches!) but absolutely no brook trout. I used to catch them on the 900 section, but this year they seem to have disappeared.
    Winter fishing is a challenge, but one that appeals to me. Two weeks ago at Spring Creek winds were at 30 mph and the high a miserly 10 degrees. Still, Spring Creek was benevolent and provided several nice browns. Think #26 and #28 flies on 9x in those conditions.
    Thanks for sharing your exploits.

    • Hey “Other Brent,”
      Thanks for visiting! Like you, I’m not seeing any brook trout on Spring Creek, although there my be populations farther upstream.
      My winter fish experiences tell me to leave the tiny fly/ultra-fine tippet business to you, although I don’t doubt the finer stuff works wonders (on occasion). My semi-frozen digits have enough trouble making changes when I’m retying a #22 or refastening a 6X tippet.
      Yes, nymphing works, Brent, drifted deeply at the undercuts and main channels where (admit it) the larger browns are focusing their attention. That said, there’s always exceptions, like the giant brown that recently gave a fellow angler a classic case of the shakes when (again) he saw the fish rise and feed on the surface.
      I guess if anyone’s gonna hook a behemoth spring creek brown trout on a miniscule dry fly, you’ll be the guy to do it. Landing it will be another story.

  15. You want to make it creditable, don’tcha? Like, look here fellas, I ain’t makin’ this up!

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