It was a three-day weekend with a common theme. It started on a Saturday with a visit to the upper Allegheny River. An overnight rainfall had discolored the water a bit; the forest leaves were brightening with autumn change, and many were already falling to the ground. Although the river remained at low volume, I managed to catch and release a nice brown and a splendid rainbow by casting a dun-colored caddis fly.
On Sunday came a highlight. I finally had an opportunity to fish with blogging pal, Bob Stanton. Some of you readers may know him by name. Bob has been a long-time supporter of Rivertop Rambles, and we had been threatening to fly-fish with each other for at least a couple of years. Bob needed an introduction to Slate Run, so I met him as he swung eastward out of Warren, PA and we reinvented a small but scenic corner of the world.
Slate Run was still at minimal flow but the water was cold and at least a few of its wild trout told us that we didn’t do too badly. It was good to hear, also, from the Slate Run Tackle Shop that a recent electro-survey of the upper Slate watershed had indicated the wild trout were surviving the regional drought better than expected.
As for Bob, he caught a few Slate Run trout, and I didn’t do too badly either (witnessing but not catching a couple of veteran brown trout replete with battle scars). I was also pleased that a large, coiled snake I almost stepped on in the rocks was a garter snake and not a timber rattler.
We made an evening stop at neighboring Cedar Run but there the water was still too low for comfort. We saw a few nice fish but mostly we saw the flash of their retreating bodies as they witnessed the skulking approach of alien beings at the tail of their pools.
One wild brown of about 15 inches or so was really turned-around by our presence. When Bob first saw the big fellow it was resting in a “downstream position” (a trout typically faces upstream in the current). Minutes later, as I walked by its position at the bottom of the pool, the brown was turned laterally and facing me on the bank. Its tail was almost in the face of its partner, another sizeable brown trout, forming a right angle of piscine oddness between the two.
I can only imagine what was going on down there, and honestly, I had tipped back only one bottle of Two-Hearted Ale while eating at the Hotel Manor prior to checking out this stream.
On Monday I visited upper Kettle Creek near Germania. En route, I found amusement by counting the political campaign signs planted in residential yards. Despite all the wretched media accounts of recent days, the Trump signs trounced the Clinton signs, 19 to 1. Not surprising really, when you consider the staunchly Republican terrain I live in, where residents often seem to vote against their own best interests. I felt like I was driving through a field of sheep, the animals looking up to me as I passed, saying something like, “You’re not the guy we like to follow; who are you?”
Well, I was heading to the Safety Zone again– goin’ fishin’, where the political and economic climate suits my soul, and where all this other shit means nothing till I hit the voting booth in November.
I was surprised that the state fishing regulations had changed on upper Kettle Creek from Brook Trout Enhancement (a no-kill policy, open year-around, for brook trout) to Catch and Release, All Tackle. Somehow I had missed the news about the change this year, not that it was really all that different. There was still a no-kill policy for brook trout, with year-around fishing, but now there was a no-kill policy on wild brown trout, too. The change sounds pretty good, at first, but then I wonder if it will draw an overabundance of hardware fishermen and worm-dunkers, of tackle that can be injurious to a fragile population of trout still struggling to reassert itself from low numbers and from compromised environmental conditions.
Kettle Creek has one of the strongest wild brook trout populations in Pennsylvania, and its wild browns are nothing to sniff at either, but I wonder if encouraging the no-kill policy of browns will impede the progress of native brooks. Studies have shown that browns can out-compete the brooks for food and cover when populations mingle, and they are more adaptable to conditions when the waters warm to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or more (read climate change).
Anyway, the fishing was much faster on Monday. The flow, still minimal, was heavier than on Slate or Cedar Run, and I returned a dozen brookies to their haunts. None of them had reached the sizes of trout that I had been accustomed to at this location, but the largest of them shone with colors of autumn glory.
They were stunning in their smallness, and they seemed to take revenge on those Clinton/Trump signs I’d been counting. Instead of 19 to 1, I got a new tally: Brook Trout 12, Suckers 0.