The high bridge that I have in mind is not some railroad or passageway on a trestle over an impressive gorge or canyon. It’s a simple concrete bridge that takes a forest road in northern Pennsylvania over a favorite trout stream and provides a bit of access for an angler seeking solitude and recreation. Any mountain stream that flows 40 miles or more through a populated region of the country is bound to have a number of bridge crossings and, on this stream, the bridge I’m referring to is the one that’s closest to the uppermost springs or sources of the watershed.
The morning sky was bright and the remaining October foliage was golden as I crossed the summit of a hill and began descending into a wooded valley where this well-known watershed begins. The weather forecast promised the appearance of the first big autumn rains that afternoon. The prospect of precipitation in a dry season was exciting in itself, but I was mostly eager for some brook trout fishing with a dry fly while I had the opportunity.
I found a grassy pull-off near the highest bridge and suited up as the first gray clouds appeared above the hilltops. I hadn’t actually fished near the bridge before, but noticing several small pools and riffles modulated by log deflectors covered with moss, I couldn’t resist a start in that location.
Efforts to help Mother Nature by creating habitat through the careful placement of log and stone were obviously successful here. The volume of water was minimal and less than desirable for wild trout in much of the headwaters, but this deeper, well-oxygenated section was home to numerous brook trout eager to investigate a fly dropped on a tapered leader and a 3-weight line. The fish were small but pretty and, upon release, were eager to shoot on home and warn their kin about deception in the world.
From the highest bridge I traveled downstream for a mile or so to fish in Butternut Hollow. Here the stream was a little deeper and, again, partly structured by deflectors. The Butternut Pool, like all the mountain stream sites at low water, required a cautious predatory approach. Despite my best effort not to spook the residents with Halloween terror, I sent the bigger fish into hiding and landed just a fingerling trout.
At the Lower Green Drake Pool (named for a green fishing camp nearby), I did better, landing several larger natives and seeing a peculiar male– a spawner with a golden back and with sides like dusk on a river. The oddball native chased a fish that I was reeling in and stopped at my feet so suddenly that all I could think of was a human spurned in love.
As the sky darkened slowly with a promise of rains to come, I ventured up a small feeder stream. This tributary has lots of natural structure in the way of fallen trees and undercuts but its multitude of small fish shot away at the slightest motion of a fly rod or an arm. A 24-hour rain was coming and the level of this stream would surely rise. For a little while, at least, the wild trout would be freed from the constrictions of low water.