Dear Everyone, Longtime Reader and Newly Arrived,
I thought I’d post this in a different manner, as a “letter.” You’ll recall, no doubt, that a letter is a form of communication used in ages past, before the Dawn of Email.
I experienced a pleasant, different kind of morning, so I thought I’d pass along a few reflections in a different, more seasoned way, and hope that you don’t mind.
Following a morning shower that was both refreshing and much needed here in western New York and Pennsylvania, I hit the West Branch near my home and did a little fishing (of all things).
The sky was clearing quickly and I raced the sun to be the first one on this pretty headwater stream to say hello to the trout. The water temperature was a fair 64 degrees, not too bad considering the recent heatwave that has clobbered much of the region.
The Blue Quill spinners had begun their up/down breeding and egg-laying dance above the water, and a #18 Blue Quill (a mayfly pattern with bluish tail-fibers, gray dubbing for a body, and a white post with light-blue hackle wound around it “parachute” style) did the trick.
It was fun catching and releasing wild trout, brooks and browns, as the sun began to heat the day. Again, the best catch of the morning was a brown trout that was absolutely camera-shy.
I watched the brown trout rise and take the fly as if in slow motion. At the instant of the take, I felt a balance of soul and body, a refinement of spirit that I don’t feel every day.
Let’s say it felt like the weight of a substantial fish. A poet might describe it as a synthesis of primeval hunter and civilized angler. Maybe like the meeting of a Wall Street banker and an “Apeman” on the stream (okay, I’d heard the Kinks song just before I left the car).
I don’t know who landed this specimen of trout, but it got away before the camera could be steadied.
Walking upstream I encountered the Alleyway, where the creek narrows to 10 or 12-feet in width and where the alder and willow growth overhangs the water more and more each year. It’s a place where you wonder if you’ll come out on the other side alive.
You walk through it because you don’t have much choice in the matter. You plow through the tumbling water because a lot of trout live in the Alleyway, and you want to speculate on catching them, even though there’s no way in hell you’d ever cast a fly in such a place.
I came out alive, obviously, and my sweet reward was a set of clearings. My final clearing was the Lily Pool, but all of them had deeper riffles and holes, nice “structure” if you’re living there as a fish. And there I went to town.
To Trout Town. Where the finned inhabitants aren’t very large but where they’re brightly colored and have nice personalities.
Where the yellow lilies overlook the pool like the Queen of Summer, someone that even a passing kingfisher has to respect.
And all through my morning on the West Branch I had the Kinks’ song “Apeman” playing through my head. That’s not a bad thing because the Kinks were a great 60s/70s band. Although the band’s popularity has waned, the music grows in stature, at least in my estimation. That said, it would’ve been easier on me if I’d listened to a mix of classic tunes including “Sunny Afternoon.”
That’s all, for now, from the West Branch. I hope you’ve had a great morning, too.
Tight lines, your way. Keep ’em tangle-free and vibrant.
Up and at ’em with fish caught and blog post written?
You are the man.
Yowsa, yowsa. Catch ’em while we can!
Thanks, and best to you, pal.
Both of us love that seventy rock music and the Kinks was one of my favorites, as was CCR, and Three Dog Night. I have very little interest in the music of today; I guess that shows I am getting old!! Those are some really colorful trout you landed; I wish our tailrace trout had a bit more color. I shouldn’t complain I at least have a place close to home to trout fish. Thanks for taking us along on the journey today.
Bill, I’m with you there on the musical score. I’m still finding more and more stuff from the 60s/70s that are vital and unfamiliar to me, though I used to be a collector of vinyl. I’m thankful for the wild fish that I’m able to observe these days, although some of the streams are closing down at this point due to high water temperatures. You have the benefit of a tailwater nearby which keeps the trout healthy through the dog days. Thank you for reading and responding here.
Yes! “Apeman” is probably my favorite Kinks song. That band is so underrated that it’s criminal, I think. “In man’s evolution he has created the city and the motor traffic rumble/ but give me half a chance and I’ll taking off my clothes and sitting in the jungle.” And Walt, I’m beginning to think that I don’t know what your left hand looks like without a trout in it! Nice post!
Ha! Bob, without a trout in it, my left hand looks like a hairless urban paw. Thank god I have a right hand to give it some balance and some purpose when I’m reeling in the line. You know, I had only a minor interest in the Kinks back in the day when they were relatively huge (maybe because I was more interested in digging out obscurer bands of the day), but now I can go back and find any number of songs that are socially relevant and meaningful right now. We shouldn’t be overlooking them, for sure. Thank you!
As a hardcore 60s guy, I thank you for Sunny Afternoon. The Kinks were one of my favorite British Invasion bands until I discovered country-rock. One of the reasons I enjoy Rivertop Rambles is your personal touch Walt. Thanks for another one!
As one hardcore 60s guy to another, I appreciate your being there, Howard, and hearing from you and your experiences, similar and otherwise. Yeah the Kinks, the Animals, the Beatles, all those in the first and second and third waves of the Brit Invasion– amazing stuff, then and now. So, you’re welcome, and thank you for keeping in touch, as well.
Some fine photography, as usual, and quite an ambitious morning of fishing and thinking. That first picture, in particular, evokes a nice and misty morning, before the heat burns off the shroud.
Yeah busy, in that I wanted to make hay while it was rainy/cloudy, so to speak, before the sky cleared and the sun bored down and closed things off. As it was, the misty morn effect lasted for a while and aided in production. Thanks for the boost!
What a wonderful post – oops, I mean letter! Students I teach think email is for the elderly, so you should see the look on the faces when I insist we write thank you letters to guest speakers or anyone who has offered us a field trip etc.
I love the combinations of thoughts, feelings, and vivid descriptions you write – and often with a soundtrack. Nothing wrong with that British Invasion…
The fish are quite beautiful there in your urban paw. Thank you for the field trip today!
Oh sure, Plaid, and thank you for weighing in on the “letter” format as seen from the teacher’s point of view, if not from the struggling student’s view trying to figure out why he/she has to write in such an antiquated way. I know the teacher’s struggle, too. I think it was Henry James who once said, “Letters mingle souls,” and that still applies today. Thanks for the kind words, man. Always good to hear from you.
Hey Walt. It a such a pleasure to see you still enjoying what we’ve both always loved to do for so many years. Although I can’t get out and do things the way I used to, but that’s ok. I’m just grateful I was fortunate enough to enjoy it for as long as I did. Almost 50 years of hiking and fishing upstate New York will always remain. The trout and the stories you so generously share are so enjoyable. And oh yeah, Apeman? One of my all time favorites. Looking back, I wondered at first if this was acceptable to share. But then, it was written for you, so I’ll take the risk and close with this gem published in my second book of poetry, “Rattling Cages.” Page 2.
for Walt Franklin
I was going to stop at Walt’s
on my way through,
but with bad breaks
one wrong swerve
into those Allegheny branches
would be the end.
He’s working on a book of
trout. Essays for lost
streams or no show buddies.
I need to feel home,
its grand environment.
.Every stray trail.
He flies land on flung
feet and wings
the eye can’t moments. Moments that
stream and mind to let a soul fly.
Thanks for being, my good friend. I will always cherish the good times. Best to you and to your readers. The physical things aren’t there much for me these days, But the memories? Ohhh
the memories. I’m just feeling the need to share.
Yes sir, I remember and I’m honored even more. The word play and impassioned pulse. The life of it when my own words are inadequate. Let it shine like a golden pebble or a trout’s fin at the bottom of a pool…
Btw, Doug, I enjoyed your poems and photos posted on line. Keep up the good stuff, brother. Thanks for Passing By, and stop again always.
Nice outing Walt for these hot northeast days. We have been fortunate that our streams have remained cool
The special ones do not like photos, but as long as our minds journal is operational we’ll always have a picture.
We’ve been fortunate indeed here in the northeastern region of the states. We’ve had some heated days but our higher altitude waters seem to be doing okay so far. And you’re right, Alan, as long as our mind’s journal can be opened and reviewed, we’ve got it made. Thanks!
Walt, thanks for your refreshing post this morning. It went with my coffee and pancakes very well! Isn’t it interesting how the 60’s and 70’s music has stayed with us through the years…………..I am not a fan of today’s music much either.
Beautiful trout are a treasure and to give them a morning wake up call is, indeed, special.
Glad that all this sat well with your breakfast fare, Mel. I’d say there’s a timeless quality to fine trout and music today, but as in any era, we’ve just got to seek ’em out. That said, the 60s/70s were special in this regard because we were young then, and the best of that music remains exceptional. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
I like letters Walt. Remember when we wrote to our girlfriends, and they wrote back? And paper, you could feel it. It was tangible, substantial. You could keep it, file it away in some box to be found years, decades later, written in someones own hand. And old faded photos of our former selves, taken with an Instamatic!
I remember, Les, oh yeah. Little letters scribbled with pencil and passed surreptitiously in class, long letters in flowery envelopes, barely legible epistles scrawled with a drunken hand– filed away, as you say, and found years later. Tangible stuff, faded photos, etc. Les, I’ve got boxes and boxes, much of them filled with correspondence with friends and other writers. I’ve eliminated much of the silly girlfriend stuff from high school, but the good stuff is really hard to let go. Substantial still. Thanks for helping me fall back thru the years!