We’ve had a lot of rain and cool air of late, and Saturday’s tree-planting event was right in the thick of it. Nonetheless, the Upper Genesee Chapter of Trout Unlimited managed to plant more than a thousand small trees along our project water, ensuring greater soil stability and improved trout habitat at least in one small corner of the planet. We got wet, of course, but if trout can live full-time in water, the least we humans could do is to view their aqueous realms and appreciate them for a few soggy hours.
In addition to the trees we planted Saturday, I was given a bag of 100 willow trees and 25 white pines which I half-heartedly accepted for planting on the headwaters of our project stream. I took them, figuring I could get them in the ground within five days or so, as long as the rain held off and didn’t require the construction of a Genesee River ark.
By Wednesday the weather was gorgeous and comfortable and the job got done. I muddled about the stream banks and enjoyed the song of flowing water and the sight of darting trout while accumulating more mud than a tri-claw mud machine in March (I haven’t actually inspected one of those alien devices, but the phrase came handily and sounded good).
Planting trees is a thing we do to reinforce the feeling of hope and continuity. Once the trees are in the ground, we more or less forget about them and perhaps inspect them a time or two each year. Many don’t survive, and the ones that do hang on might grow so slowly that to try to watch them more regularly could drive you crazy. Trees are planted for the long run, for a time beyond my final day, and they help to clarify my own existence. Planting helps to minimize the sense that I’m just muddling through the hours with little purpose.
Naturally, all work and no play makes the rambler a grumpy old bastard, so I did manage to squeeze in a few hours of fishing when the streams receded and grew clearer. I had another good outing on a local brook trout stream as trout rose readily to a dry fly. Next day, however, after planting was done, I fished the West Branch of the river and had less to show for my efforts, although encountering such May beauties as the season’s first orioles belling among the apple blossoms lent a feeling of total freshness to the hour.
Fish were not inclined to take a dry fly. They would strike a weighted nymph and break it off in surging water. Messing around, and losing hope, I cut back the leader to a stoutness adequate for a cone-head Muddler Minnow and fed it to the larger pools. Ah, now there’s something different– a trout sweeping across the pool to grab the fly! Once again, the Muddler Minnow had its hour in the sun.
Don Gapen tied the first Muddler Minnow in the 1930s along the banks of the Nipigon River in Ontario. It wasn’t long before his streamer pattern hooked up with a 10 lb. 4oz. brook trout in the famous river. The Muddler could imitate a sculpin, a crayfish and any number of subsurface food items (plus dry terrestrials when treated with floatant). It became one of the world’s best known and most versatile patterns. It’s essential, in my opinion, like a fresh new row of willow trees along a marginalized stream. In seasons of high water, it’s good for an old muddler like myself who enjoys a tightened line.