A Trout Lily Was There

I spent a day in the hospital. For two days prior and two days following, I drank from the clear streams and rivers of my life, and they made me well. A trout lily was there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trout Unlimited and representatives from the Youth of America gathered on the banks of a tributary to the upper Genesee. We planted more than a thousand trees, small willows, pine, sycamore, and oak. A trout lily was there.

I fly-fished on the upper Allegheny, catching and releasing wild brooks and browns and stocked rainbow trout. The water temperature climbed to 52 degrees; the Quill Gordons and the first Hendrickson mayflies appeared. A trout lily was there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI swung on over to the Pine Creek watershed, the third river system in my Three River Rise… I walked the old railroad grade. A camper told me of the great black bear that had ambled along the creek the previous night, passing by their campfire in the moonlight. And this morning, of course, a trout lily was there.

On a feeder stream I caught brookie after brookie on a Hare’s Ear nymph, getting my fix of the wild at Splash Dam Hollow. Ah, the blossoms with their leaves like the back of a fish! A trout lily was there.

DSCN6371I drove down to the canyon, rigging up three wet flies like the oldtimers did. I’m the oldtimer now, and it works, sort of– Muddler for the point fly, a Hare’s Ear and a Green-Ass McGee (an obscure local pattern once popular on Pine) for droppers.

With a long rod, it seemed more like casting for steelhead than for brooks– across and down through the deep wide riffle…

And you bet, somewhere near the bank, a trout lily was there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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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30 Responses to A Trout Lily Was There

  1. Bob Stanton says:

    A trout lily was there. And here. And everywhere. Beautiful harbingers of spring, they are. Oh, this time of year makes me giddy. Hit a decent Hendrickson hatch Saturday, the remnants of Sunday’s grannom emergence today. A nice hike on the NCT with some pals yesterday, and the stuff I’ve been eatin’: leeks galore, dandelions, dock, various mustards…give me a year’s worth of Mays and I’ll call it Heaven.

    • I’m with you there, Bob, the merry month of May is my absolute favorite. My viewing of the Hendrickson and Grannom this past weekend was spotty, not much surface action yet, but that could’ve changed with today’s warmth. Those greens you’re eating are dynamite, but go easy on them at first. Healthy stuff, though. And here come the warblers and the thrushes and everything else that’s callin’….

  2. leigh says:

    Great post Walt. I also had an encounter with some Hendricksons this weekend. Going back on Wednesday.

    • What an outdoor weekend it was, Leigh. Glad you met up with some mayflies. Everything seems to be heating up in a positive way right now. Enjoy it while we can. With thanks!

  3. Brent says:

    In a few weeks, when we visit, I imagine that spring will have sprung and the promise of the trout lilies will have come to pass. For now, it looks like you’re quite a bit further behind us–our trees have, on average, a 70-80 leaf development.

    • No question about that. Just a day or so back, I was thinking that our plant development was just then what Charlottesville, VA was looking like back in the first few days of April. What’s nice for me is that I’ve developed an “extended spring” as a result, and it’s really nice here at this point.

  4. Brent says:

    Make that 70-80 percent…

  5. Well done Walt, I sure enjoyed the post…and of course the water looks great and a trout lily was there.

  6. Mark W says:

    Each year when the trout lily start to appear the fish become more active, something about soil and water temperatures I guess.

  7. bbillings30 says:

    Great posts of late! I loved looking at the pictures from the Shenandoah National Park, my old stomping grounds. We had talked previously about streams in the northern PA/southern NY area and I was wondering if you’ve ever fished Lyman Run. My wife and I are considered camping there this weekend. Any help or info you have on streams (or good places to eat in Galeton) would be very much appreciated!

    • Good to hear from you again! I’ve been fishing Lyman Run sporadically for many years. It’s a fine place to visit now and to camp nearby. I was just there over the past weekend. The lake is full of stocked trout and the wild trout are hitting pretty well upstream on the run itself. Other streams worth checking out in the neighborhood are West Branch Pine Creek (upstream of the junction with Lyman Run), upper Pine Creek, Kettle Creek, and any number of smaller feeder streams. For Galeton area food you might want to try the West Pike Inn, a few miles west on Rt. 6, or the restaurant on the west side of the village (I can’t recall the name just now). Also, the PermaStone Inn, just east of Galeton, might be worth a visit for a brew and a quick bite to eat. Good luck on your visit and let us know how it went….P.S.
      For camping sites, see note below….

      • Anonymous says:

        Great info! Thanks so much! Do you know of anywhere to camp nearby besides the state park? I’d prefer some campsite in the woods for free as opposed to $25/night to pitch a tent. Back in Virginia it was common to see small campsites along trout streams, but I haven’t been fishing enough around here to stumbled across any yet.

  8. Doug Paugh says:

    Beautiful my friend. I miss all this sweetness. I miss fishing period. My body can’t handle the dips and holes anymore. Just getting to a stream, or water hole to swing my casts to is what used to be fun and one of my natural loves into a living hell. Until I am a permanent part of the earth and my spirit goes to where it is meant to go, I will continue to write poems and photograph what I can for my pleasures. I love your Blogs and journals. They comfort me, so keep them rockin’ and rollin’ brother. By the way, my last fishing trip was the best of my life. In a boat on the Potomac River. A 42″ Striper. Not a trout, but when you have one of these babies on and land it? Now that is a pleasure almost unmatched. In a stream with a scrapping Steelhead would be nice, but unlikely for me now, but I guess I have to take what the River Gods give me.

    • Doug, Sorry to hear that the best part of your fishing days are pretty much done for but, you’re right, it’s the spirit of the chase that matters, being able to get into it via writing and with a camera. I’ll do my best to hold up my end of things by sharing what I’ve got here and elsewhere… That striper you caught must have been a blast to bring up to the boat. I’ve caught a few chinook that large with a fly rod but I’ve not yet done a thing with the saltwater babies, though I’d like to change that sometime in the future.
      Thanks much for reading, commenting and for keeping on with your art!

  9. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    Really inspiring post and one that makes all us wish we could encounter the trout lily. thanks for sharing

  10. Ross says:

    Wonderful post Walt. It is a great time of year, with plant and animal coming alive again. Have never fished Splash Dam Hollow, but I’ve backpacked thru there & surrounding area- beautiful. Thanks.

  11. Anonymous,
    You can camp in any of the backcountry/state forest areas (i.e., Susquehannock Trail) but you might want to try nearby Cherry Springs State Park (undeveloped) on Rt. 44, about 10 miles south of Lyman Run.

  12. Les Kish says:

    Hope the hospital stay wasn’t recent Walt. We have “trout lilies too. Here we call ’em glacier lilies or dogtooth lilies. They’ll be blooming soon. Best regards.

    • It was recent, Les, but no big deal, and could’ve been worse. I should be good for the next 40k. I wonder if your western lilies look similar– will check out the field guide. Thanks for all!

  13. Mary Frederick Ahearn says:

    What a wonderful post – thanks for the trout lilies and your beautiful photos. Very uplifting and a true sense of the season. We were taught to call them dog-toothed violets, but I’ve come to like trout lily much more.
    Have you checked out David Carrol’s “Trout Reflections” yet? I think that you would so enjoy it – his writing and his art are lovely.
    Best wishes,
    Mary

    • Mary,
      Thanks much for the kind words and for the reminder to locate Carroll’s book. I checked for it once and then it slipped my mind. I should make a library run to Corning where the shelves have hundreds of fly-fishing titles. I also want to find the Charles Cotton book, the first of its kind in the English language.
      It’s interesting how we come upon certain common names for plants and animals. Another popular name for the trout lily is adder’s tongue but, for me, trout lily fits to a T.

  14. Gramps says:

    Walt, not a lot more that I can add here that hasn’t already been said in one form or another. Beautiful post and thanks much for sharing it with us all. Great time to be outdoors!

  15. koioutfitters says:

    Love the post. Paints a picture that I need to see here in Miami. Makes me feel the itch to sneak away and find a stream. Thanks for sharing!

    • Koioutfitters,
      Thanks for the kind words! You make an important point. My aim here is to inspire an interest in the world outdoors, to get someone jazzed about the possibilities of the place in which he or she lives, to “sneak away and find a stream” of one’s own. I appreciate hearing from you.

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