Good Days

I prepared for the long holiday weekend by assisting middle-school students in the planting of flags at the gravesites of veterans and fallen soldiers. The Veterans Administration Cemetery at Bath, N.Y. is a huge place, with thousands of gravestones on a landscaped hill, and the kids did an impressive job while trying to grasp the meaning and immensity of it all.

wild columbine, one of my favorites

My son and his wife joined us Saturday from D.C. and we revisited Letchworth State Park where the home river falls dramatically through an impressive gorge. The weather was dreary and wet, but our walks to the Middle and Lower falls and other sites were stimulating. We eventually hit the road and headed for Corning’s Market Street Brewery and the Glass Fest revelers jostling in the streets. We settled at a second floor table of the brewery on a deck above the crowd. Our food and drinks were delivered by a waitress named Alyssa– who doubles as a daughter of Leighanne, my wife, and me.

Good times.

family contemplations

On Sunday we buried my mother’s ashes at the family farm beside memorial stones established for the parents. Following some special recollections, we repaired for food and drink at my brother’s home nearby. The good times would continue as I visited the upper Allegheny River and worked through the selective feeding habits of rainbow trout responding to insects hatching near the surface.

above Kettle Creek

On Memorial Day, in Slate Run, Pennsylvania, we said goodbye to Brent and Catherine (returning to the tropical and politically toxic environs of Washington, D.C.) following a tasty lunch prepared by Wolf’s General Stone which, conveniently enough, is enjoined to one of my favorite fly shops on the planet.

a black swallowtail, methinks

After lunch, I assembled Chester the Fly Rod and equipped him with the first of several imitations to be cast while walking a familiar creek. Several mayfly species hatched sporadically along this beautiful water and suggested that a dry fly was the ticket to success. It took a deeply drifted nymph, however, to connect with a wild brown trout measuring 16 inches in the net.

a wild brown

Good fish.

Returning home in late afternoon, we stopped at Pine Creek (above the mouth of Babb) where I hoped to re-experience the fabulous Brown Drake hatch that had vexed me there some 30 years before. Those problematic drakes had left an indelible impression on a young angler’s mind. Well, the hatch was there again, much smaller than the one that introduced me to it long ago. The big mayflies rose up from the water like a net for catching dreams.

gave Chester quite a bend

It wasn’t easy getting action from those trout. The browns would snap at the big dry fly, missing, till I switched the “Catskill tie” to one that had a parachute design. Finally, a heavy brown trout fell into the net, and it was time to bid the waters adieu.

The month of May is wonderful, but gone for now.

I hope you had some good days, too.

Middle Falls, Letchworth

Middle Falls, Genesee River

Lower Falls, Genesee River

Lower Falls @ Letchworth

Pine Creek @ Blackwell



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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24 Responses to Good Days

  1. Brent says:

    Nice summary! You’ve inspired me to sit down at the ol’ WordPress and start on a new post for the first time in a while.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Good times indeed! Great post and photographs documenting a wonderful weekend for all kinds of bittersweet reasons. It’s all in this one, grappling with things large and small, and wonderfully life-affirming each step of the way.
    Thanks, Walt, for sharing this.

  3. Dale says:

    Hi walt imissed you some how labor day weekend iwas there in slate run also on sat was at the cabin all weekend fished cross fork creek on sunday.


    • Dale, We must have come close to crossing tracks. I didn’t get to Slate until Memorial Day. I’ll bet Cross Fork Creek was looking good that day. Hope to see you next weekend (the 10th) for the meeting and all!

      • Dale says:

        Cross fork creek was looking good caught 4 missed 2 broke one off ,not much hatch activity tho!

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Love the columbine – one of my favorites too! Took my girlfriend’s brother-in-law to the main branch of the Tionesta Saturday evening, ending his 25 year absence from the long rod. The Brown Drakes showed up as I’d hoped. I really wanted to get him to catch a trout on the fly, but it wasn’t to be that night. The good news: He’s got the bug, and we’re heading back tonight to try and settle a score with some trout.

    • Sounds like you and the partner have a Brown Drake mission, and I hope he connected last night. The drakes can come out heavily late in the eve. I had to quit Pine by 6 p.m. on Monday and they were already coming off pretty strong. Yesterday the waters were up again and made for difficult wading.

  5. JZ says:

    Good days indeed Walt! It seems you have been extraordinarily busy this holiday, but still allowing time for family and projects. Helping students organize by planting flags in the cemetery is a wonderful undertaking. Thank-you ! Those veterans may be gone, but not forgotten in the hearts of many. I am sure it wasn’t easy burying the ashes of your mother. However, the closing of that chapter doesn’t mean her book is necessarily done. The remaining pages and chapters will continue to unfold through your work and the lives of your family that she touched. In that way, the chain remains strong.
    Ah, I see Chester got a good work-out. That rod was built with care and with a skilled hand. It was made to handle BIG wild browns as pictured and those graceful brooks that are scattered across the wilds. Congrats Walt, I’m sure your heart was racing bringing that fish to the net..(smile). My heart raced a little looking at it.

    • It was a busy time, JZ, some of it easy, some of it not so easy, but overall quite good. I hope your weekend was as satisfying and joyful. Thank you for all the kind words. As for the wild brown, yeah it came quite suddenly and pretty much after I had given up on having success on the stream. It got the bloodstream pumping and the bamboo fibers flexed. Good water conditions here but fluctuating with all the rain of late.

  6. loydtruss says:

    What a way to end the month, landing some quality wild browns on top. Thanks for sharing

  7. Walt, you found a great way to spend a long weekend. This one should cause great memories for the future.

  8. Dale, Almost drove to Cross Fork Creek today but the rain drove me off from the idea. Glad you’re getting out there.

  9. Les Kish says:

    Beautiful series of waterfall shots Walt. Looks like a plenty of water too….

    • We’ve got plenty of water this year, Les. At least for now, and streams should be in good shape for the summer– if it doesn’t rain too much. Trying not to complain. Thanks!

  10. That’s a gorgeous brown Walt! Did you stop at the Glen Iris?

  11. Based on the pictures you were in some really beautiful (and fishy) areas. I’m also a big fan of wild columbines. I haven’t seen any for quite a few years, but they’re lovely flowers.

    • Wild columbines attract me like a bee to pollen. The orange ones in the East and the blue ones in the Rockies, which I hope to revisit this summer, and any others I can find. Glad you like them, too, Douglas. Thanks for commenting!

  12. Jet Eliot says:

    Beautiful photos, Walt, enjoyed this post. Loved the columbine, and the falls are huge.

    • Thanks Jet. For me, the columbines and waterfalls complement each other, the flower often blooming on the cliffs overlooking streams and rivers. Glad they work for you, too!

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