The Opener

[Reflections from a time on or near the opening of the regular trout season in New York State]

falls on Tannery Creek

falls on Tannery Creek

A beautiful day with sun and bluebird song… just before the weather crashed and brought back snow and wintry temperatures.

April Fool’s Day, not a time of cosmic harmony.

tools for "opening day"

tools for “opening day”

I fished the headwaters of Naples Creek, above the circus of fishing tourists wielding their plastic nets, red wigglers, egg sacs, spinners, and (yeah) artificial flies.

I caught them like this, small residents, instead of the big 7-pound spawners.

I caught them like this, small residents, instead of the big 7-pound spawners.

Okay, I participated, loosely, in a religious event. It was gonna be different this year. The winter had been warm; the spawing rainbows had largely dropped back to the lake already; the crowd would be relatively thin…

I was heading toward this falls on "Crapper Creek," when the inevitable occurred...

I was heading toward this falls on “Crapper Creek,” when the inevitable occurred…

The crowd was thinner than it usually is, but still kind of fat. I headed up Tannery Creek, Reservoir Creek, Eelpot Creek (upper Naples), Grimes Creek, and “Crapper Creek,” where I took took a tumbing slide down a high bank and, oh so fortunately, landed unhurt.

warning signs

warning signs

Instead of seeing a band of stars flashing across my eyes, I saw leaping trout on a bridge (even though no one else seemed to be catching large rainbows this day). I saw the muskrat that swam from an undercut, intercepting my drifting fly then swimming into another hole upstream before the hook popped free.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I saw the four or five-pound trout that struck from an undercut bank in a different stream but missed the passing fly. Unfortunately, that was the only large fish (live one) that I saw all day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I saw loons on a local marsh and farm pond. Actually my wife saw them first, a few days after the “Opener,” but maybe I was seeing them in preview as I lay there on the mud of Crapper Creek. Who knows. It’s nice to see these migrators whenever or wherever they appear.DSCN7891

I saw, again, the first bloodroot flower of the season. It wasn’t a great specimen. It was partly closed and a bit disheveled so I didn’t bother taking a photo. Instead, I thought of the flower as recorded in Earthstars, Chanterelles, Destroying Angels, my new book of poetry. I rose from the bedrock of the creek and climbed back toward the car.DSCN7889

Mishaps? Perhaps. I’ve had better times, and I’ve had worse. Living the life that opens day by day.DSCN7886

St. Croix pelican (photo by Alyssa Franklin) awaiting the rivertop competitor.

St. Croix pelican (photo by Alyssa Franklin) awaiting the rivertop competitor.


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!
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16 Responses to The Opener

  1. Salla says:

    Love the poem and enjoyed the pictures too. Sometimes the fall is inevitable. I am very clumsy so hiking mudbaths are a recurring event in my life.

  2. Hi Walt, I enjoyed this immensely. Mostly because here in the high country we don’t experience opening day. As a matter of fact, in my life I experience fall(s) frequently! Glad you hurt nothing important.

    • Howard, You might say that I fell for the idea of opening day this year. Usually I ignore it because there isn’t a “closed season” in my schedule; there’s always some stream that’s legally open. But heh, sometimes we do it for old times sake. Like you, I try to avoid broken bones for tradition’s sake and other reasons. Thanks!

  3. plaidcamper says:

    There’s always a “Crapper Creek” out there somewhere…but you made it back, and the creek view gave you a great story to share. Hugely enjoyable, thanks for this, and I hope you put the opening day tools to good use!

    • The mythical Crapper Creek is always out there somewhere, and you’re right, Plaid, sometimes it just seems to wait for us, with paddle or no. Tools have been well employed! Thanks friend!

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    What a pretty bridge, and, if landed, would that have been your first muskrat on a fly?

    • Yeah, cool bridge, which gives us the idea what the town is like when conditions are right. And yup, the muskrat would have been a first. I made sure not to set the hook on this guy. He was on long enough. Muskrat fur makes good dubbing but I’ve got enough already! Thanks Bob.

  5. loydtruss says:

    I’m still trying to get use to opening day for trout season there, its like opening day for deer and turkey season here. Watch out for those mud mishaps, they get more frequent as we age. Beautiful area, love Tannery Creek——Thanks for sharing

    • Trout opener used to be a big deal here, Bill, but things are slowly changing. Climate change is partly responsible. Angling habits are different, too, from what they were, oh, four or five decades ago… Mishaps/mudhaps do occur more often in older age, for sure. I’m trying to be a bit more careful. Anyway, thanks for reading, and take care on the river!

  6. Mark Wittman says:

    Walt – glad to hear you weren’t serious hurt! The season opens here in CT tomorrow although the weather reminds me of opening day in NYS which is usually accompanied with some snow. I’ve hooked a lot of strange things on the fly but never a muskrat. I guess it’s lucky that the hook popped out, I am not sure I would want to tangle with one up close.

    • Thank you, Mark. The weather has definitely taken a turn toward the… normal?… if such a thing exists with the climate scene anymore. Rather cold and snowy, more traditional for the time of season opener. Which is probably a good thing, given that the flush of spring was happening a little too fast for comfort. Yeah, the muskrat on a fly was a first for me, and I’m glad I didn’t have to land it!

  7. peter mckenna says:

    Nice Walt Pete

  8. Mike says:

    Glad the fall didn’t amount to anything other than a good blog post, Walt. The season opener is different these days, for reasons you mention in some of the earlier comments, but it is still a special day even if just for the memories of the past and the promise of the future. Thanks for sharing!

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