A Different Kind of Fish

I’m gonna keep this short because I’m on the road to Virginia. My title for the post does not refer to a species other than the usual salmonid that you might encounter here, but to a wild brown trout, modest in size yet bright in color, that chased my tandem wets as if to say, “I’m here; we’re back; this creek isn’t empty anymore.”

below the hatchery; sign says No Fishing Beyond…

I had heard from reliable sources that New York State’s Spring Creek was coming back to life, as far as trout numbers were concerned. The winter of 2014 had been much harsher than usual in upstate New York and in many regions of the East. Even the Great Lakes had frozen up. The wintering waterfowl, especially the fish-eating variety, converged on the few open waters in the state (i.e., Spring Creek, whose lime-based waters remain relatively uniform throughout the year) and ate the resident fishes almost to the point of extinction.

clear and filled with cress…

Some of you might recall occasional reports I gave from Spring Creek outings prior to the population crash in 2014. The wild trout were large and brightly colored from the rich diet obtained in this special water. I haven’t been back to the stream since then. It takes a while for a creek to recover from its losses. The results of a recent electro-survey at Spring Creek are encouraging.

railroad bridge, 1914

There was no one on the stream when I returned. The section just below the state hatchery was flowing clear and full. The place looked healthier than I remembered it. Instead of the usual crowd of anglers on the small stretch of public water, there was little sign of anyone around.

I was fishing tandem nymphs or wet flies with a 90 year-old Thomas bamboo. The old railroad bridge with “1914” inscribed in concrete lent an air of timelessness beneath an overcast sky, with chill air and a promise of rain. I was seeing no fish whatsoever. I was wondering if the fishery report was an analysis well upstream of this public section, when it happened. My trout came out of hiding.

at rest on the wheel of time…

I’d forgotten to bring my landing net, but I held the fish just long enough to hear a voice as if to say, I used to be a nowhere fish, and for three long years we nowhere trout were nowhere near at all. It’s good to be back, but really, if you don’t mind, I want to be gone! The brown shot away before I could get a decent photo.

another detail from the hub of rivertop waters…

At home that night, I randomly surfed some You Tube music interviews and made the following connection. Captain Beefheart, a different kind of fish himself, says whatever he wants and stops making sense in a way both comical and wondrous. For the children and other animals of this world.




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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16 Responses to A Different Kind of Fish

  1. JZ says:

    Fishing an old Thomas rod while throwing a bridge of wets beside a crossover dated 1914, is just a little bit nostalgic. Just a little Walt! It also sounds like a brown trout to remember. Especially on water that’s recovering from a earlier harsh winter. Sometimes just one fish can make a trip. This was your surprise and I bet it had to be enjoyable. The picture looks like a perfect setting in regards to Spring creeks. The smooth gliding water flowing over cress beds with skinny open lanes between. Technical water that always is tougher on the angler than the fish. A places that emphasize the importance of a plan, especially during the afternoon (smile). I love posts such as these, because it leads me to dream. Dreaming isn’t a bad thing Walt, making time for them is the natural order I like to follow, for sure…Happy Thanksgiving my friend.

    • Indeed, JZ, it’s a special location for reasons not the least of which is that a spring creek like this, though fairly common in south-central PA, is a rarity in upstate New York. And limestone waters constitute just a fraction of one percent of freshwater streams in the country. Add the element of nostalgia, lovely water, and resurging populations, you have an interesting place to spend some casting time. Enjoyable. Challenging. Rewarding when the game is on. And I’m glad that thoughts this way can lead to dream and inspiration. Thank you for this, fella, and I hope your holiday is a great one.

  2. Brent says:

    It must be nice to see the balance of the fishery return after the time on the skids. Was that the persistent cold of the bad polar vortex year? Down here, you’re likely to have cool but dry conditions, but I think the water levels should be hanging in there. See you tomorrow evening!

    • Yes, the super cold of ’14 is largely behind the shift of ecological conditions that resulted in the crash, although other factors may have been involved, as well. I’m looking forward to cool (which is warmer than our cold) and dry conditions down in the Olde Dominion!

  3. plaidcamper says:

    What a dreary world it would be without the different kinds of fish! Another enjoyable piece, and you must be delighted to see a stream with a recovering population.
    Thanks, Walt – enjoy your travels and holiday!

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Safe travels, Walt. I pressume you’re going to do some fishing in the Old Dominion?

  5. There’s hardly ever better news than to find out that something thought dead comes back to live. In this case both the water and it’s inhabitants. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Walt and we’ll see you on the flip side!

  6. Walt – I was delighted to see the Caledonia Fish Hatchery in the first picture. I believe that is where Seth Green first successfully bred brook trout. It was an achievement in fish culture but probably contributed to the weakening of the genetics of the brook trout in the Adirondacks. I hope you get time to fish a little in the Shenandoahs! Enjoy the thanksgiving holiday with your family

    • Yeah that’s the legendary Seth Green Fish Hatchery, Mark. As you know, the place has some angling history behind it. As for now, I’ll be sampling the Blue Ridge trout streams for the next few days, revisiting favorite stretches, hoping to bring you and others some good news regarding the brook trout and its prospects. All the best to you and your family for an excellent Thanksgiving together.

  7. loydtruss says:

    Fishing a 90 year old bamboo fly rod and landing colorful trout from crystal clear mountain streams in the northeast is what makes trout fishing so special!!! You picked a great area to enjoy Thanksgiving—-thanks for sharing

  8. CastingAcross says:

    Wow. Beautiful scenery – I forgot this stream existed!

    Have a safe trip down to my old stomping grounds and be sure to enjoy the fishing and BBQ in equal measure.

    • Thanks Matthew. Yeah the stream is coming back to re-freshen our memories. As for our Old Dominion, I’m enjoying the fishing and thinking that, if I wasn’t already stuffed, that famous BBQ in these parts would sure be tasty.

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