Allegheny Spring

I was situated comfortably on the stream again. I was casting streamers with the new split-cane rod until the stonefly hatch informed me that a nymph or dry fly might be interesting. To be out in the warm spring air was joyful, following a long and arduous winter. Nature seemed more accommodating now, its name allied closely with the Latin word natura, meaning “to be born.”

winter’s final grip, Zoar Valley

Casting an artificial fly while trying to acknowledge the emergent life around me was a fascinating experiment, stimulating but only a partial success. The sun was brighter but the passing clouds reminded me of the wind plus an urgency expressed by the season’s first frogs, the first insects and the first songs of arriving birds. I tried to absorb them through my meditation with design– reflections that I might attempt to share through writing.

old South Bend steelhead rod w/ Cattaraugus shell…

Standing in the stream at wood’s edge, I was interrupted by a quiet “Hello” from someone approaching through the alders. A uniformed official, a game warden, apologized for the breach of silence, saying, “I didn’t want to scare you and make you fall in the river. How’s it going?” I looked up at the warden and explained that it was good to be fishing once again despite the rising wind that made the effort challenging. I told him that I hooked and lost a nice trout on a streamer, and now, with stoneflies hatching and a couple of rise forms at the surface, I was ready to begin my dry fly season.

Catt watershed, saw no fish, third week of March…

Oh, and by the way, would you care to inspect my fishing license? “Sure, just turn a bit so I can see your tag. Thanks.” The big license on my back, with 2019 printed boldly on yellow plastic, did the trick.  I thanked the man for doing his job out here in Penn’s Woods and, before long, the honey-colored bamboo was bending admirably, pulsing with a heavy rainbow that had taken a drifting Black Stonefly on the surface.

I guess I’ve never been a warden’s worry. In fact, I’ve always been thankful that, in these days of environmental deregulation and diminishing custodial manpower, folks are out occasionally observing our behavior with the wildlife. Speaking with the warden, I was pulled in from my springtime reveries to an edge-land as firm as the riverbed. There was a balance there, of sorts, a fortification between our own kind and the natural environment.

willow buds galore…

Standing in the river at the forest’s edge, I was glad to be removed from modern life, if only for several hours. The Machine World was another Moloch, devouring individuality and personal freedom, sacrifice in the name of pure efficiency. But to fish alone, or with a kindred spirit, in the warm winds of the Allegheny foothills was to sense a true resistance to society’s dominion. A simple act, this fishing, and yet…

first fish of the season on a dry fly…

The strength and marrow that is Nature can be found in any earthen framework for the viewing and expenditure of time. Here, the hills and river valley, the cold flowing water in natura, bring the joy and comfort of renewal.

Chester2’s first ‘bow…

Allegheny, 3/30/19…





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 Allegheny Spring

  1. plaidcamper says:

    I enjoyed these waterside meditations, and can sense a certain spring in your step as you removed yourself for a little while from the modern world (and why wouldn’t you, if you possibly could?!) Good stuff, and here’s wishing you and Chester2 many more quiet outings along the banks at the edge of the forest.
    Thanks, Walt!

    • And thanks, Plaid! I’ll take that spring in my step, if possible, ’cause I’ve been draggin’ my winter heels & boots for a while. I hope April finds things going well out your way.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    “…to be born again.” I like that – it is exactly what I seek every time I step outside. And was it Traver who said that his fishing was “a small act of rebellion”?

  3. Brent says:

    You hint at an interesting philosophical balancing act here: On one hand, the streambank or the mountainside is a respite from modernity; on the other, keeping it this way may require intervention(s) from a peculiar creation of modern society, the regulatory state. Of course, regulation cuts both ways, but that’s a separate box of flies to open up for discussion.

    Any chance we’ll hear peepers this weekend?

    • Yeah it brings us to that “meditation with design,” getting a balance between freedom and regulation. The ideal of self-regulation is beyond us at this point until we experience a condition of sustained peace. I think that anglers in general are getting better at self-regulation, especially when they’re able to fish in beautiful, uncrowded conditions. Culturally speaking, however, we’ve got a long way to go…
      As for the hyla, the peepers, they could be piping this weekend from the sloughs of Keeney Swamp in pancake country. Let’s give a listen!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a very enjoyable trip afield. And a nice interaction with the Warden as well.

  5. Anonymous says:

    A bright colored rainbow on a warm spring day is a nice sign of things to come Walt. A lot to be thankful for as we anglers look forward to the upcoming hatches and rising trout. Heck, I’m glad you saw a warden out on the stream. They are wonderful people who have a passion for the outdoors and all the things we enjoy. They watch over to make sure the resource is enjoyed by all and not abused. Thanks wardens and thanks for you post Walt..

    • Thank you for the sentiment on all counts! Yes, this particular warden was respectful, friendly and yet was doing his job, walking well beyond his vehicle to ensure that things were going well. Sure, he’s required to do this sort of thing, but the unobtrusive manner in which the job gets accomplished is important too.

  6. Jet Eliot says:

    Your relief at winter’s end and joyful celebration of spring are well expressed here, Walt. How utterly delightful it must feel to be back on the river with all your nature friends. Zoar Valley is majestic. My favorite line today, “The sun was brighter but the passing clouds reminded me of the wind plus an urgency expressed by the season’s first frogs, the first insects and the first songs of arriving birds.” Warmest thanks, Walt…and happy spring!

    • Thank you for the great spring wishes, Jet, and I appreciate your recognition of certain words and phrases that ring the April bell. I hope that the new season in California is a glorious occasion for you and yours.

  7. loydtruss says:

    Glad you had a good interaction with the Game Warden. These individuals don’t get the recognition they deserve;beautiful rainbow landed with Chester2—-thanks for sharing

  8. There’s always something special about ‘firsts’. First fish on a rod, fly, etc… It seems to always be a great feeling. It sure seems like a good day when you have the opportunity to fish – and then catch a ‘first’.

    Is Chester II built like Chester I? Or is it a different animal altogether? (was good to see you at the meeting Walt)

    • Hey good to see you, too, Marion. Firsts are awesome, indeed. Example, first brown trout out of Slate Run came Saturday, after meeting. Dale could vouch for its heftiness. But any nice day on the water in a place like Slate is full of wonder. Chester2 is my name for a second rod built by Brian Kleinchester, a young bamboo craftsman from Virginia who mentored with Rick Robbins in the Tom Maxwell line of builders. It’s a 3-piece 8-footer for a 5-weight. Chester (1), the older rod, is a 2-piece 7’6″ instrument for a 5-weight line. I like them even better than my T.&T. and other rods. One is darker than the other but they’re Chester Rods all the way. And thanks, again!

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