First Signs (At 37 Degrees)

This one is as short and simple as the first tentative signs of spring. I keep under the radar of what’s happening in the news and just report on what is not so new. The weather is becoming fair, at last, and so I take another swipe at casting with a fly.

It seems like people are taking their worries and concerns to the street. I feel the spike of a long-awaited season, as if society could puff the northland temperatures above the freezing mark, as if a mortal could invoke the spring to make its lovely shift… Ah yes, hope springs eternal and fishes rise to the hatch.

I hope to fish Bob Stanton’s “Bleeding Heart Soft-Hackle” fly real soon…

My son and his wife came up from Virginia. Four of us got our annual fill of pancakes smothered in syrup made outside the Maple Tree Inn beside the wilds of Keeney Swamp. We hiked the Buckseller Trail in the Susquehannock State Forest and, sure enough, the following afternoon, the weather called me to sample a favorite trout stream in the Pennsylvania hills.

whose house this is i think i know…

Ice still clung to the stream banks.  For early spring, the water was low and clear and cold. The forested southern slopes retained their snow. The northern slopes were sunnier and free of winter white. The air temperature edged above the freezing mark. I got no response from a bead-head nymph, so decided to try a dry fly on the stream…

A brook trout rose from the shallows and took the Humpy dry. The water was only 37 degrees Fahrenheit. I’d never caught and released a brook trout on a dry fly in a mountain stream with water temp less than 42 degrees, so the fish and I set a personal record, of sorts. Anglers don’t typically get serious about dry-fly action till the water warms well above the 50 degree mark, but that’s on bigger streams where it takes more energy for a trout to rise the greater distance to the surface.

Humpin’ it…

The American robins, the song sparrows and red-winged blackbirds were finally trickling back here on migration. They were taking it to the streams of spring like we might take to the river or the beach or to the highways leading to new waters. Birds were doing what they had to do, responding to the laws of nature. Hungry fish were starting to move, as well.

a nice one came from there…

The youth of America, assembling on the streets in recent days to protest certain aspects of the status quo, had a different mission, naturally, than the creatures of the wild, but one no less intent on survival and a higher calling.

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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23 Responses to First Signs (At 37 Degrees)

  1. plaidcamper says:

    I enjoyed these first signs of spring – it’s good to know it is out there somewhere. As ever, you hooked a few political parallels, points made with subtlety, a gentle catch and release – no harsh bash on the head, and on we swim, hope springing eternally…
    As you know, I’m generally ignorant of matters in the fly-fishing realm, but there’s such delight in the glorious names of each fly – almost as colourful as your photographs of the flies – little works of art!
    Thanks, Walt!

  2. Thank you, Adam. Yeah a few signs indicated, parallel points, the pressure zones… The flies with a colorful name, appearance… and somewhere a first wildflower blooms. I always appreciate your company.

  3. Brent says:

    That’s another beautifully vivid fish picture there. Your trout stream looks to be about the same size as Buckseller Run, from what I can see. Does Buckseller itself offer any fishing?

  4. JZ says:

    Spring is in the air and soon my flies will be touching water. My hope as always is to enjoy the fishing trips in the forest that lie ahead. This Good Friday seems like a fine fresh start. Early in the morning to rise and late at night to return. I can drive 3 hours, one way, just to arrive at a spot. I fish till dark and listen to music or talk radio on the way home. Its a practice I’m quite familiar with and have done for a lot of years. My adventures wait for me, as do the brook trout that I love to catch. I’m ready to get reacquainted with nature and the wet moss that capsulate these small brooks…Your writes are the best Walt!

  5. tarzan341 says:

    Everything is perking up, and the flies will be flying soon. Good Luck to you and all that you know and do !

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    I’m getting pretty psyched for the seasonal grandeur to unfold, as harbingers abound. Saw some little black stones fluttering about, skunk cabbage and coltsfoot push forth their blossoms, and the bird that symbolizes Spring above all others – that’s right, the Turkey Vulture – is on the wing. Fly boxes are being filled as we uh, …speak!

    • Your area is ahead of us here in Wrecksville, NY; we still have snow cover in half of the yard. Vultures have been here, but I have yet to walk up the hill to watch the woodcocks flights, even though the birds have been here for a while. Yeah I’m psyched for it, too. Thanks Bob. By the way, your flies are photogenic. Can’t wait to try them out!

  7. Nice to see you fishing dries in the cold weather! My favorite way to fish in the winter but then I am all for bucking conventional wisdom! Your trip to the Maple Tree Inn reminded me those spring days in college when we would get a group together to go to the Maple Tree to eat our fill of buckwheat pancakes and fresh maple syrup, so nice to hear that they are still open!

  8. As usual Walt, you’ve hit a homerun. I’m still waiting to get out for the first time this year. One day we have 70 degrees and the next it snows. It’s snowing again right now after a beautiful sunny day. Retirement looks better and better every day that I can’t get out to grab some outdoors time.

  9. loydtruss says:

    One awesome dry fly, used to land some colorful wild trout; a trip I’m still in search of, landing a wild trout on some fantastic freestone streams. You are blessed to live in such a place that affords you opportunity to fish the many beautiful mountain streams you cast a fly in. Thanks for sharing

  10. tarzan341 says:

    Where do you go to “Fish on the Fly”

  11. Dale says:

    Walt do you know the recipe for that bleeding heart soft shackle fly it looks interesting!

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