Black and Blue (My Brookie Fix)

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.

Black Death (purchased)

Black Death (purchased)

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 stonefly

black stonefly

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

The day, being overcast and loaded with potential rain, looked to be better for angling, and it was.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“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!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.


About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Black and Blue (My Brookie Fix)

  1. Les Kish says:

    Walt, I bet that “Black Death” puts up a pretty good fight on a 3 weight! As for the mushroom roulette, I limit myself to morels and shaggy manes. And I agree, the world does fall away (or at least it should), when you’re on the water……

    • I’m betting it does too, Les, if I’m lucky enough to feel it– not on a 3 weight but, let’s say, on an 8!. As for wild mushrooms, I’m conservative, as well, when it comes to picking and eating. Beyond that, I like the great diversity of the realm that lends itself to poetry. Thanks for reading this and weighing in.

  2. Brent says:

    Great early signs of Spring in the northern woods! We’re starting to see blossoms and even some early leaves. With the post specifically, I like the repeated mentions of color as a motif. Orange, Black, Blue; Red, White, and Blue.

    • Color is a key here, Brent, thanks for noticing. In the real world and in dreams. I know you’re living in the tropics, compared to here, but I hope the spring comes in slowly enough for you to appreciate its stages.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Well, all this put a wide smile on my face! That lucid dream, yikes. I hope the escape to open water is a positive future sign, relating to red, white and blue…
    Your photographs are wonderful, particularly the one of Fisher Run. As ever, thoroughly enjoyed the delightful names of the flies – they are evocative, although I know practically nothing of fly-fishing.
    The guitar playing between father and son Trout was spectacular, and I’ll be aiming to hook me some Walter Trout sounds a little later. Thanks for the musical introduction, and for this post!

    • Eh, you’re welcome Plaid! Yeah those red/white/blue fly lines were unique to my eyes. I have no problem with the colors but, associatively, those damn TRUMPet fish are just too weird.
      Glad you liked the Trout music, too. When you have time, hit the search on my blog for Walter Trout and you’ll find a super rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me.” The video blows me away.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Lovely picture, the last one. Is the reel a Hardy?

  5. John Z says:

    Nice stuff, keep rambling Walt….Spring is near, or here, select your preference.

  6. loydtruss says:

    The salt water thing is on my bucket list. I’m looking forward to a report from the Virgin Islands.
    I enlarged all those images of the streams you were fishing just to get a better look, so beautiful. So many likely places for trout to hang out; surprised to learn that some streams are stocked. Colorful brook trout; I see you were using your bamboo. Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks for commenting, Bill. I’d say fishing the salt could be a lot of fun if you get into the right water. I’m surmising, from what I hear, since I have so little experience at this point. I probably wouldn’t have planned an outing, but my daughter is now living on an island, and it would be hard to visit her without taking along a fly rod. I’m kind of excited about the visit and will let you know, for sure, how it goes.
      Thanks, too, for enlarging the stream images. There are many trout streams in my area, some of them with wild trout exclusively, some with stocked and wild fish, and a few with only stockers in them. My favorite are the truly wild ones, but I’ll fish any of the others when I can. And now, with warmer weather, the bamboo rods get exercized more frequently.

  7. benmck90 says:

    That black death fly looks promising. I know it’s a “tarpon” fly, but I’m sure the striped bass up here would have a go at it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.