Staircase Run

The day surely started out on a bright note– a little birding in the early morning sunshine of the yard, my small binoculars picking up a bit of the warblers waving through– Blackburnian, black-throated green, ovenbird, Louisiana water-thrush and, later, the black-throated blue warbler– beautiful emissaries from an avian world that migrates through too quickly.

I had a simple plan to fish a Pennsylvania trout stream on my bucket list, a first-time visit to a small feeder stream in the mountains near Cedar Run. The gravel road was sloppy wet and pitted; the sky quickly clouded over and promised rain, and I aborted my trout stream mission after unsuccessfully fishing it for half a mile. I didn’t quit, however.

I returned to Cedar Run whose fully-flowing waters weren’t exactly welcoming to the likes of me. I noticed a small cascade, a side stream splashing in a curve from a deep and forested ravine. It seemed to beckon– maybe the brook trout would be more accommodating in its heights. I chanced it, and I’m glad I did, although the red rocks of the little gorge were slippery and a trick to maneuver on.

the Mineralist looks at the Minimalist (Cedar Run bedrock looking like a map)

I called the water “Staircase Run” because the stream reminded me of that– a natural ladder to an untouched beauty and the first small brook trout of the day. Reaching the second waterfall of Staircase Run I paused to consider my position. It wasn’t worth risking an injury by climbing farther past the falls; I’d caught one fish on a day that just didn’t feel like it would be productive. After all, the fishing had been slow for the previous two weeks. It could only get better now with the prospect of good hatches soon to come.

note the “stairway” at left

I turned around for a slow descent toward Cedar Run. Another cool shower began to penetrate the forest. Reaching my vehicle, I didn’t quit. I simply headed south to where the sun might be shining and the trout more willing to feed.

I fished two more runs that day, this time in the Slate Run watershed, and I did a little better in the warm sun of afternoon, with several species of insects coming off the streams sporadically. It was slow as hell, but it was fishing. When the day was done, I had said hell-o to five small streams in a matter of hours.

What kept me going was the view provided earlier at Staircase Run–  a view from a tiny world enclosed by walls of dripping shale, by evergreens and reddish bedrock.  I couldn’t see much beyond a few hundred feet of deep ravine with tumbling water, but the elements all pointed toward the best part of an angling season, to the few short weeks ahead, a prelude to the summer.

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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18 Responses to Staircase Run

  1. plaidcamper says:

    I enjoyed your writing and photographs once again. The small world views of the Staircase Run are quite something. These small beauties are real treasures, geographically and emotionally, and what relief they provide!
    Your photograph of the reel and greenery is a standout picture.
    Thanks for this, it’s always appreciated.

    • PC, in my mind, “geographically and emotionally” pinpoint what it is I tried to bring out. Thanks, as always, for your thoughts and recognition of these small displays!

  2. Brent says:

    There are entire worlds hidden in those little mountain valleys. To have cold, clean water at one’s feet and gray-green dripping slate and ferns at one’s eye level is a successful weekend, no matter the fish haul.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    One of the things that I love about RR is its penchant for making me thankful for the small things, the rare, the beautiful – some much needed perspective, really. Something to make me say, “Today wasn’t so bad, after all,” and maybe find a correlation somewhere. Example: Today was a crap day. Mowed two lawns in the rain that wasn’t supposed to happen, then spent the remainder priming siding in the heat and sun that followed. Feeling shagged and pissed-off, I looked up to watch two Red-shouldered Hawks wheeling over me for several minutes. For some reason they are not as common around here as their red-tailed brethren, but their aerial display rejuvenated me.

    • Bob, Those wheeling hawks would have lifted me right out of sore shoulders, arms, and general fatigue. Yes! Red-shouldered aren’t that common around here, so seeing them is a treat, especially in display. I’ll sometimes see ravens cavorting overhead in a similar way, just playing or doing what comes naturally. As always, mucho thanks, and good luck with the yard, the siding, and all.

  4. JZ says:

    At this stage of the game, meaning as years continue to unfold, it isn’t necessarily about the numbers brought to hand. Those days have meaning too, but just enjoying the day and taking in the beauty around you can be fulfillment enough. The manic craze that can consume us in any endeavor can be exhausting and take away the pure joy of just breathing in the peace. Relax, I sometimes remind myself, nothing here is the end of the world, its the beginning. Your writing reminds me of that and reinforces that nature can smooth jagged edges in a spiritual way. Much like Staircase Run, each and every step is a journey and appreciation to something higher and a pleasure to absorb..

  5. JZ, you’ve got it. A place like Staircase shows us the beginning, and the place where balance can be found with just the effort that it takes to slow down a little and allow our edges to be smoothed. Thank you for your thoughts and understanding!

  6. Les Kish says:

    Walt, you and I both crossed “bucket list” fisheries off of our list. The staircase run is a pretty sight indeed. As for those warblers, well they’re back here too, only today they shiver from the snow.

    • Thanks Les, I think we just crossed in cyber-space. It feels good to hit a bucket list fishery, even if we don’t know it all that well, as yet. Wow, I can’t believe you’re getting snow now. Here we’ve got a heat wave after a cool wet spring. Almost 90 degrees today! Kinda crazy.

  7. A day can’t possibly get any better Walt.

  8. Walt – wonderful job capturing the peace and solitude of the forgotten places, distant from the constant drumbeat in the name of progress.

  9. loydtruss says:

    Those water falls are outstanding and worth the effort you made to fish their waters—–a word of caution, be careful on the moss covered rocks, don’t want to lose you to a fall. Do you carry a walking staff? The Warblers are frequent visitors to our bird feeders. Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks Bill. At my age I’m especially careful on the rocks and boulders, and I wear shoes with cleats. I’m not yet at a point where I like to use a wading staff, unless pushed to do so. With an emphasis on the small streams, I usually don’t need a staff, but I’ll use it on the heavier water. I’m glad you’re enjoying the bird life, too!

  10. Looks like it was a fantastic day. The colours on that brookie really pop. Such beautiful fish.

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