So, How Was the Fishing?

1. Sometimes when there’s nothing new to say or to add to the overall blogging compost, I like to hear that ageless question directed at a rambler on the trail or in the water:

“So how was the fishing?”

Hearing it, I think, well… everything is okay. I may have been ill for three weeks, but now I’m back in the game and everything’s alright.

The sky was overcast, the air was comfortably warm along the trout stream that I’ll call “Fisher Brook.” I hiked the forest trail that parallels the stream for about a mile before I dropped down to the narrow tumbling brook and started casting. It was good to be out fishing once again, but I had to wonder why the water level seemed so low considering that a foot of snow had recently melted from the slopes.

Casting a variety of nymphs and dry flies, I found that the Little Black Stonefly nymph was the most effective pattern of the day (no surprise there, considering the prevalence of the natural at this time of year). After several hours of wandering and casting in solitude, I hiked back to the car. No one asked me how the fishing was, but the forest creatures had a way of forwarding the inquiry. I translated:

“So, how was the fishing?” asked the ruffed grouse and the “fisher cat” and the cherry tree, among other friends in the non-human realm.

“Well, I did better back in January when the springtime seemed a million miles away. That was something, when the brookies rose to a dry fly in 42 degree water. Today was a lot warmer, though the water temperature may have been the same. I caught a few small ones, pretty little things, with the best fish going about seven inches in length. Not bad, but not as good as we’d expect.” And then I added:

“Thanks for asking.”

2. The next day I was on a steelhead stream in the Cattaraugus watershed, and the contrast with Fisher Brook was dramatic. I visit every March, and every year my eyes are opened by the flood damage and the creek’s unstable character. Before arriving, I never know if I’ll be interested in resuming the quest for steelhead (at least here), but once I’m on the water I’m ignited for the two-mile trek to the spawning grounds.

As usual, I parked my vehicle at the tavern parking lot where the tributary enters the wide, brawling river. The tavern owner stood outside and drawled his welcome to me as a fisherman. I appreciated his summary of angling conditions and I promised to return for beer and food when my day was over.

There’d be nothing new for me to say on this occasion, but sometimes even the repetitive mantra, “nothing doing now,” is a welcome sound to the dedicated angler or hiker.

As with Fisher Brook, I basically had the stream to myself. In this case, fishing in solitude probably meant that few, if any, steelhead would be found in the high, chill waters. Maybe the creek needed to warm up a few degrees before the steelhead run began in earnest. The stream’s dark and silted water was a perfect cover for the fish. Unlike my route at the brook trout stream where a forest trail assisted me, this was two miles of crossing and re-crossing the same trail-less, clay-colored waters where hope was as fragile as a first spring wildflower.

Back at the parking lot and inside the crowded bar, fellows I had never met before (some of whom may have never fished a day) shouted their friendly question: “So, how was the fishing?”

Wow, someone actually cares about these fruitless attempts? The inquiries seemed at least half sincere, so I appreciated the chance to tell one and all that even though the fishing sucked, at least I tried and, actually, it was kind of fun.

The question formed a line in the air (not unlike a fishing line with a fly at tippet’s end), and my answer rose to greet it and be hooked by satisfaction.

I considered buying a few of these guys a beer. And, of course, I added my few golden words:

“Thanks for asking.”

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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20 Responses to So, How Was the Fishing?

  1. Brent says:

    Welcome back to the blog! (I, too, have been lax at writing, but I don’t have your excuse). Two very different streams with nothing in common except your refrain that at least you tried. Spring’s in the air, at least!

    • Thanks Brent. Spring’s in the air maybe but this afternoon winter returned with wet snow and some of the slipperiest road conditions of the entire season. I could use some sunny weather!

  2. Jet Eliot says:

    Lovely post, RR — your adventures and words gave me a smile. I especially loved hearing who all is asking “how’s the fishing.” I, too, am glad they asked.

  3. I really enjoy your blog, great writing. Always like the trout and stream photos.
    We come up to the northcentral Pa area one week in the fall each year to fish.

    • Thank you, Patrick. Glad that you’re enjoying this, and I appreciate hearing from you. Yeah, fishing the north-central streams in fall can be a splendid experience when conditions are almost classical. And spending a week there sounds terrific!

  4. plaidcamper says:

    From this end, there’s always something new, so I’ll say “thanks for writing!”
    It’s all in the trying and being there, so I hope you’re feeling better being back up and hiking/fishing out and about. We missed reading your adventures with the humans and non-humans – welcome back!

    • It is “all in the trying and being there,” at least in spirit when the body might have other plans about recuperating from the ailments. P.C, thanks as always for the kind words, and hope you have another great weekend.

  5. Bob Stanton says:

    There you are! I was beginning to worry. Glad you’re feeling better – may the approach of more spring-like weather continue to be a curative. I’m getting eager to try out some wet fly tactics beyond the good ol’ swing.

    • I’m alive and kicking (sort of), but three weeks of heavy bronchitis and a bitch of a head cold have worn me frazzled. Yeah I’m hoping that a positive change in weather has me back in good form soon. Thanks, Bob, for the good wishes, and may those wet fly tactics bring you fun.

  6. Doug says:

    Glad to see you back at it my friend. As they say, if your not trying, your not fishing. I don’t know who says that, but thought I’d throw it in anyway. Glad you’re feeling better as well. It sucks to be sick. Haven’t been out much lately. Basically been working out some new poems. But I always have time to check on my old friend’s adventures. Good to see you back in action bro.

    • Thanks for checking back with me, Doug. It’s a good feeling to know you’re there, like having a compatible fishing bud along the stream. Glad to hear that new poems are working out, too. Like fishing, when you give it your best shot anyway!

  7. JZ says:

    I am glad to hear that all these creatures and trees under the canopy of the forest have your back Walt. In a sense, it must feel like home to both you and them. I know, because it had been a spell since I was fishing, until last week. It feels good to hike to those places where you can cast a line and stand on the edge of a riff listening to rushing water. A quite peaceful pool where natures natural sounds are only heard can be wonderfully soothing. I am glad you are well and your post is always nice to read to this subscriber. I’ll raise a cold one to you Walt for keeping the faith faithful..

    • I accept, JZ, and thank you much! Yes, whenever circumstances keep us away from the solace found in nature, things can get a little touchy. It does feel good to get back into that country of the sweetly singing waters where the prospect of a rising trout is just around the bend. It’s good to hear that you got out last week, and soon our angling prospects will seem much brighter. Thank you for the good wishes, JZ, and keep me posted on how your season goes.

  8. I’m happy to see you’re back Walt. Just as I thought, you brought in Spring just the way I thought you would. Thanks for that. I also broke a long standing tradition this year and have already gotten out once. The fishing sucked but it sure was good to be alive.

  9. loydtruss says:

    Oh, how I would love to live in your neck of the woods, and fish some of those beautiful streams there. Those brook tout on this outing would be my bonus. So impressed with the pics especially the moss covered brook stream; I could see it on canvas. Thanks for sharing

    • Thank you, Bill. The brook trout are a bonus here for those who like this kind of country. We’ve got to look out for them and give them a helping hand where possible. You’re welcome to visit them anytime!

  10. Ralph says:

    The “fishing” is always good. 🙂 Some times the “catching” lags a bit…..but never the fishing.

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