“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/ Close bosom friend of the maturing sun…” (John Keats)
First Cast: On the Comeback Trail…
The liquid light of afternoon filled the Slate Run gorge. I stood there in the much needed rainfall waiting for the stream to come alive with trout and motion. Although the run remained September low, several of the pools were deep and calm. It was the season to expect some Isonychia (Slate Drake) mayfly activity, and I worked my favorite imitation of its nymphal form, a beadhead Prince, a #14.
I’d caught a small brookie, but the next fish really rocked the waters underneath those dripping ledges. When the big brown came to net for several quick photos and release, I knew it was the largest I had found there in a year, or more.
In the dimming light of day, I reinforced my own belief that fishing for wild trout on this pristine water was improving monthly and would soon be back to its former glory. We would always need to be vigilant and work as stewards for protection of these runs, but this brown trout’s release felt like a small step toward autumn brightness.
Second Cast: There’s One in Every Crowd…
I went to check on a local headwaters stream and found a nice surprise. I had inched my way into a black willow pool that in years past has held some very nice brown trout, stocked or wild. Between a sunken log and the high bank of the willow lay a good-sized sucker, maybe 18 inches long. At first the sucker appeared to be lying by a short black log, but as I leaned forward, peering into the waist-deep water, I became aware that the “log” took on the profile of a trout– a big trout with a black coat of age.
The image of the sucker was my entry to a vision of the Great Beyond. I quickly substituted my dry fly for a weighted nymph, but the water’s depth, the overhanging branches, and the long sunken log conspired to make this a challenge of the first degree.
The fish was only six or seven feet away from me, but the work of getting the deep drift aligned with the trout’s nose wasn’t easy. In fact, it took me close to half an hour of careful roll-casting and bow-and-arrow shots to get the drift I wanted without scaring off the fish. The spidery darkness of an undercut bank was just a fin’s flash to the left.
The white mouth opened on the stonefly and closed. I raised the rod tip sharply. There was weight on the line. There were head shakes and a whole lot of dancing as I tried to work the big brown (I’d say 25 inches, because it looked to be 27) down the pool and away from the sunken log.
Well, we know how that story ends…
Sometimes we’d like to change the direction in which our story goes, but unless we’re writing fiction or telling the famous fishing lie, we seldom have the chance to influence it with more than a token gesture. We could curse ourselves for being simply human, but it seems better just to laugh or shrug it off, remembering why we bothered coming out here in the first place.
Third Cast: Hand Me Down That Spawnin’ Robe!…
I was on the headwaters of a favorite Potter County stream and found it to be (as expected) low and very clear. Not a great scenario for success, but with a careful step and a penchant for autumn wildness, it was good to be on the brook trout water.
With a short 7-foot fly rod and a Stimulator dry fly tied to a 5x leader point, I stalked the deeper pools and riffles. There was a first flush of autumn color in the leaves; the sky shone like a powder-blue dome. The small wild brown trout and the brookies (one brightly colored male in particular) were pretty things, quick to rise, and quick to the hand that gave them their release. The day, itself, was promising.
Yeah, a new season gripped the ridge tops with its yellow fingertips, and the spirit of adventure sang.