I fished on and off for three days in the rain. The heavy but periodic rainfall in south-central Pennsylvania felt rather warm and welcoming, though I knew that harsher storms were causing trouble elsewhere in the country. There wasn’t much time for fly-fishing, but I had an opportunity for revisiting several classic trout streams and refitting my ego in more modest attire. At least I was comfortable in a poncho and appropriate winter gear.
Spring creeks are exceptional trout streams flowing out of deep springs in a limestone base. Nutrient rich, their wild fish are well-fed, colorful, and extremely fussy when an angler presents an artificial fly or lure adjacent to their watercress abodes. Pennsylvania’s Falling Springs, Big Springs and Letort Spring Run are fine examples of the kind, and I love the challenges they present to the caster of flies.
For the most part, these streams are remarkably stable considering their presence in agricultural, suburban and industrial zones. They stay relatively clear despite heavy precipitation, and their water temperatures are generally cool in summer and fairly warm in winter. That said, spring creeks have some serious problems, too. In addition to continuing urban development in their watersheds, the streams often draw pollution, sediment and, in the case of the Letort, “sink holes” and collapsing ground.
We can be thankful that various conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited have worked to safeguard spring creeks and to alleviate some major issues, but it’s in everyone’s interest to learn about these waters and to further our collective efforts to preserve them.
I may have grumbled a little at my overall lack of fishing time, but I was glad for the surprise visit from my son, his wife and his in-laws who drove up to Gettysburg from Virginia to visit my wife and me. While my small bamboo fly rod dried out in the car trunk, we dined in old-town Gettysburg and then proceeded to absorb some history at the National Battlefield. Standing on Little Round Top where so many Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives along the hill of rocks made our heads spin through the gap of 150 years since the Civil War.
Later, at the Appalachian Brewery in town, we toasted craft beers to our health and to better times for this ailing nation, to the healing of rifts in our society and in the world. “Imagine all the people…” toasting the same, listening to the song of dreams, to truth and valor, as in the words of grieving high school students, thinking of how a small but sturdy step taken within ourselves can make a difference overall… Imagine.
My wife and I enjoyed a short stay at two remarkable Bed & Breakfasts in this country of limestone waters and late winter rains. Once again (as in last winter) we stayed at The Inn at Ragged Edge near Chambersburg and then at Pheasant Field near Carlisle. Both of these historic country homes are ideal havens for discriminating fly-fishers and saner folks who travel through.
Granted, I have no photos of wild trout from this excursion. I’ll have no excuses, either, except to say that the fishing was tough. The neighboring Yellow Breeches was blown-out with high yellow water, and even the Letort was spreading and taking color, though I did get a strike or two on a small olive streamer.
When fishing these small streams in the rain, I was happy for the song of birds. I hadn’t heard it in many months, it seems. The first springtime notes from bluebird, blackbird, robin, cardinal, and sparrow brought my thinking to a point…
I thought of Charlie Fox, Lefty Kreh and Vince Marinaro, legendary Pennsylvania fishermen who suggested that it’s no disgrace to be skunked by the fabulous Letort, perhaps the most challenging trout stream in America. To be humbled here was to join the ranks of global pilgrims who had assembled with fly rods and then stalked away scratching their heads and mumbling quietly.
Catching and releasing trout has its reward, of course, but to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the ghosts of such angling pioneers seemed like pretty good karma to me, even in the rain.