Part 1. It all seemed to jell on a bright blue, late winter day. A set of tarpon flies arrived in the mail. The stand-out for my inexperienced saltwater eyes was a #3/0 Black Death.
For tarpon? Well, yeah, the tickets for visiting our daughter in the Virgin Isles were purchased for departure in late April. Fishing in the salt would be a pretty new experience for this rivertop rambler but, as any long-time RR reader might surmise, I’m open for another edgy horizon.
Presently there were more important patterns to consider. Say, for brook trout. Like the Black Stonefly which, if the day continued warming, could be hatching on the rivertops by early afternoon.
Black Death and Little Black Stonefly. Blue Quill (coming soon) and Orange Butt Tarpon. I like the juxtaposition of image and idea, extremes in the range of patterns wrapped up in the moment like some mythical instant when life and death are one.
By the power of association I think of Death Trumpets, Craterellus fallux, the black chanterelle mushroom on the cover of my book of poems (okay, it’s also a clever way to continue plugging my new collection!) The trumpet, looks aside, is actually a culinary delight, if you’re the sort who digs the fungi kingdom and knows how to navigate among the good mushrooms and the dangerous.
Part 2. The black and the blue converged on a feeder stream near Cross Fork Creek. This stream in the Kettle Creek watershed has been on my bucket list for several years, and I finally got around to checking it out with a fly rod.
The blue sky was all too beautiful as it accented the first coltsfoot blossoms of the year and brought a sparkle to a wild trout stream adjacent to one of the wildest areas in Pennsylvania. It was comfortable exploring this feeder stream on a late winter day, but I saw no trout during my two-hour tour with rod and stonefly nymph.
I hauled my disappointment down to Kettle Creek, above Cross Fork village. There I took my wading efforts into the lower section of the special regulations water and, again, saw little despite my best efforts.
The place should have been productive but, alas, the stretch is dependent on stocked trout, and who knows if there were any holdovers in the creek. Wood frogs clacked their news from neighboring ponds; black stoneflies hatched predictably according to my expectations, but no trout rose or shifted side to side for nymphs within my field of vision.
It’s hard to complain, though, about fishing on a day like this. The trout seemed wonderfully unattainable. Each time I shook my head in disbelief, I saw another flock of robins or blackbirds newly arrived from the south. I even saw a bald eagle soaring by, secure in the knowledge that it could fish better than an old fart standing in the creek. Its certain eye and crushing talons were a whole lot more effective than a tapered stick and a line that wavered over the pools.
Part 3. The weekend wasn’t over yet. I had the next day, and one more shot to take. I visited a cool little stream (44 degrees F.) in the upper Pine Creek watershed, a wild place where one was more likely to encounter a ruffed grouse or a fisher than another human being.
“Fisher Run” has small wild brookies that have no competition from brown or rainbow trout. If you take a short fly rod there and cast a barbless nymph on a tapered leader, you’ll do fine. You might see a brookie rush your fly on cast number one. You’ll get a lot of hook ups, brief ones, which is fine because the fish are all are destined for return to the water anyway.
The stream’s a beauty and, despite the cold water, you might even get a rise to a dry fly (I’m a sucker for tying on a small dry Stimulator). The world falls away as you fish and you catch a handful of brookies (by god, with several unsuccessful outings of late, I was feeling the symptoms of withdrawal!)
The Black Death, the tarpon fly, joined the Black Stonefly in my head.
Several nights ago I had a lucid dream (a first) about visiting the Virgin Islands… My wife and daughter and I were being guided by a friend whose small boat puttered from the shallow harbor. A hundred fly-fishers were whipping the calm waters there for tarpon. They were probably casting flies like the Orange Butt Tarpon and Black Death.
Their heavy fly lines were striped with three colors. Red, white, and blue! It felt good to leave them all behind and hit the open sea ahead, but I worried about the fish that we might catch. They might be other than tarpon. They might be ballyhoo or hogfish or flounder or… TRUMPetfish with a “politician’s haircut” over the eyes!
Aargh! It’s good to wake up on a blue brookie day among the hills and mountains of the world.
A good thing, yes, like learning about one of my favorite living guitarists. Walter Trout (terrific name) had spent the last two years on the cusp of death, but now his health has pretty much returned. Catch him blazing in a “Rock Me Baby” shoot-out with guitarist son, Jon Trout. It’s tarpon rock; it’s resurrection on a warm spring day.