1. The upper Genesee is my home river, and it had not been fishing well through a period of heavy rains. This morning, however, it was flowing normally for July, and the trout were rising for a while before the sun shone down.
I caught several trout, a brook and browns, on a Blue-winged Olive dry fly, and it seemed my luck was improving when I wasn’t fussing so much over my new fly rod. I was just casting the thing and having fun.
2. The first good photographs of the dwarf-planet Pluto were arriving on Earth and even my chair-ridden mother saw that something new and positive, for a change, was being plastered onto CNN’s steady stream of overkill. An alien world was entering consciousness with something like a Welcome sign.
The spaceship New Horizons passed the little planet like a pair of good binoculars in the hands of an earthbound explorer looking into the trees. It seemed that what is out there in the farthest region of our solar system has a heart and sense of mystery, a certain warmth that our self-centered civilization finds so puzzling.
3. It’s fascinating to receive high-resolution images from the realms beyond. As an earthbound spaceman, myself, I enjoy stepping out with my modest collection of data-gathering instruments– a fly rod, memo pad, canteen, binoculars, and walking stick.
I recently launched myself into a series of neighborhood hikes, long hill climbs into the forest at my door, looking for reclusive birds and mammals while the summer still afforded the opportunity.
The unbroken South Ridge forest is approximately four miles long and has an average width of more than half a mile. Each summer I like to ramble on an old lumber track through its “Hemlock Woods” and listen for the evening (and early morning) songs of hermit thrush and other avian notables.
I stood in the solitude of evening woods, with “singing hermits” on each side of me, along with robin, wood thrush, and hooded warbler. The wet, matted leaves on the forest floor had sprung to life with various mushrooms and polypores, but as the light grew dim, the songs of the hermit thrush filled me head to foot.
The hermit has a velvety, flute-like song that’s damned near impossible to describe, although many have tried. The notes, ascending and descending the musical scale like the European nightingale and beyond, can take an attentive listener to unusual heights. In his book Wake Robin, the naturalist John Burroughs wrote about a hermit’s song: “… Listening to this strain on the lone mountain, with the full moon just rounded from the horizon, the pomp of your cities and the pride of your civilization seemed trivial and cheap.”
4. On one of the most perfect of summer days, I ventured into the clear and cloudless heights over a local trout stream. Casting my new rod with a feeling of confidence and ease, I surprised myself for fishing the first half mile in two hours without seeing a single trout. I forged on, however, sort of like the New Horizons spacecraft (?), trying various wet and dry fly patterns till I found productive water way upstream.
I caught a mix of nine trout, wild and hatchery specimens, ranging from a seven-inch brookie to a brown of more than 15 inches, all of them on a singular Prince nymph in an afternoon that had looked to be headed for a skunk.
And yeah, the new rod was a pleasure.
5. One evening I descended from the Hemlock Woods in the dim light of 9 p.m. Peering into the forest I saw a black bear that hadn’t seen or scented me as yet. I stood still on the edge of a ravine, watching the dark shape amble closer, figuring that the bear would descend the gully then climb away, but it turned to me and closed the distance.
I wanted a camera but didn’t have one with me. Would a flash terrify the bear? A moot point. I had a walking stick and could use it to bop a nose, if need be– if this odd encounter with a bear turned suddenly weird. It’s not unusual for me to find a bear near home, but inevitably it’s hightailing in the opposite direction.
I don’t know who was more surprised, but we were like two aliens in a new world, ready for other places. The big bear bolted uphill, passing the point where I first saw it, and there he paused to turn and check me out. I looked back also. If it’s possible to feel the “Plutoid Effect” (coined by Bill Nye the Science Guy?)– the energy of exploration when beyond our customary orbits– we were feeling it then.