Part 1: At the start of Columbus Day weekend I was fishing a couple of Cedar Mountain trout streams. At one point I was suiting up at a mountain crossroad when Columbus came roaring towards me on a motorcycle. He glared at me as he approached and brought his bike to an idling pause. He looked like a city cop in his helmet and black leather uniform. He took out his GPS unit and began tapping at keys…
“How do you spell Cedar?” he asked. “C-e-a-d…No,” he mumbled, talking directly at his unit.
“Cedar,” I said, “C-e-d-a-r. Look there; it’s right on the sign. Cedar Run. That way.”
“Leetonia. You can go that way, and you can also take this road,” I said, pointing to the road signs once again. “Toward Marshlands. Then take a left on Cedar Mountain Road. It’s a nice day to get lost, isn’t it?”
“A beautiful day,” replied Columbus, with the early morning sky brightening over his head, and with the forest leaves blazing quietly into multi-colored glory. “Okay, I’ll try this road.” He blasted away on his bike.
Before I had my wading shoes laced up tightly, Columbus came roaring back down the narrow mountain road and passed me at the intersection, shouting, “Why the hell doesn’t this work?” He zoomed back the way he’d come from, on the road to Colton Point.
Before I had my cane rod put together, I could hear him on his grand return, then watched in amazement as he tried to follow his directions, motoring off on the one road yet untaken, the road toward Marshlands, with a left to Cedar Run.
I fished the deep woods on a beautiful October day, alone on the headwaters of a brookie stream, catching and releasing wild trout, as if Columbus had never existed.
Part 2: Brent and Catherine were here on Columbus Day weekend and they joined Alyssa and Leighanne and me on a short trip to Allegany State Park in western New York. The air remained comfortable and the sky was absolutely clear. Before an evening hike that covered three forested miles with a gorgeous overlook on the Allegheny River Valley, we visited a place called Thunder Rocks and marvelled at the house-sized structures left here by the powers of uplift and erosion.
Driving home, we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Allegany. Daughter Alyssa would be leaving in a couple of days for a new life on an island called St. Croix. We wished her well, of course, and hoped that the Caribbean was Columbus-free.
Part 3: The Genesee River in Pennsylvania and New York is my “home river,” but other than the Genny’s uppermost miles, I don’t know it very well. The river empties out at Lake Ontario in Rochester. Before we took Alyssa to the Rochester airport for her flight to St. Croix, I grabbed an opportunity to introduce myself to the Genny’s lowest stretch.
Big trout and great Pacific salmon enter the lower Genesee in autumn, swimming up to the Lower Falls in Rochester, and if you hit the river at the right time, you can have some fabulous fishing there. I’ve heard a lot about it, so I thought I’d check it out.
If I was ever gonna feel like Columbus might have felt, blown off course to a point where the eyes grow wide, it was gonna happen here. The Genesee Gorge was beautiful with October’s brightest colors, but the river itself was wide and muddy and filled with impossible rocks. The bank fishermen were numerous. In the places where I typically fly fish, almost all the people I encounter are white. Unfortunately, minorities (including women) are seldom seen. But fishing in the city, below the Lower Falls of the Genesee, changes all that.
I looked out of place but I felt fine. Blacks, Latinos, and women of all races could be found here on a late October afternoon. Most of these people looked poor; the Orvis crowd seemed miles away. A couple of old guys, casting live bait or corn or Cleos with a spinning rod, asked if they could have my fish, in case I didn’t want them.
I had little chance of catching a fish here with a fly, although I saw some huge ones breaching the water far beyond my casting range. I don’t know what Columbus would have done if he was here, but I was thinking that if I caught a fish, I’d give it away for someone’s use.
Part 4: I daydreamed that Columbus read about my readings at the local libraries and decided to attend one. He even bought a copy of Beautiful Like a Mayfly and asked if I would sign it for him. I said, sure, I’ll sign it for you. Here is what I wrote:
“To Columbus… Thanks for rediscovering America…October 2015…”