Panther Run

I’ll call the small stream “Panther Run.” This Pine Creek tributary, once renowned for mountain lion sightings, is now a freestone tumbler that’s unwilling to reveal its actual moniker. I fished the run initially on a sparkling day in May, after being told by another angler that it probably was devoid of trout, that its former life and status as brook trout habitat had likely been erased by excessive climate change and resource extraction. I thanked the angler whom I met near the junction of Panther Run and Pine. I switched my small stream wand for a river stick and began my outing with a walk down to the larger water.

Mouth of Panther Run & Pine

Something gnawed at me as I fished the high-flowing Pine. Caddis were hatching sporadically but no fish rose to a dry fly or a wet. Several other anglers were reporting “skunk” conditions, and even the osprey circling just above the sycamores seemed to wonder why the prey was so reclusive. I decided to walk down to the mouth of Panther Run, if I could find it, then proceed to fish back toward the car. Unfortunately, discovery of the tributary’s mouth was tougher than imagined, so I headed back the way I came.

the osprey., too, circled high above this spot in search of finny prey…

The trout lily blooms (see photo on previous Rivertop post) were already dying but I thought of them as I drank some water at the car and got prepared to fish the small stream flowing through the woods nearby. Trout lily: also known as fawn lily, adder’s tongue and dogtooth violet. Trout lily, with its edible leaves like fawn’s ears perked to the sky, with its markings that resemble the design found on a brook trout’s olive back. Perhaps Panther Run, like a trout lily, had more to it than a common name or legend could suggest.

I left this behind to search the feeder stream…

With a short rod, 3-weight line and 6-foot leader, I presented a floater to a smattering of pools and riffles, hoping for the sight of hungry natives. I thought about the Pine Creek angler who was doubtful that brookies had survived in Panther Run. Here the Pennsylvania mountains and the widespread rivertops seemed to blend as one. A giant pine, one of the largest white pines I have seen– perhaps a remnant of the great wild forest that prevailed here more than a century before– gently raised its massive arms as I walked beneath it toward the unknown mouth at the creek.

dweller of the small cool feeder stream…

A brook trout rose to meet the hook, first one and then another. They were here– from the pine tree to the mouth of the run, surviving against all odds– the trout lily’s brother, a sister to the pine. A big picture of the wild. And why should it matter? Well, I’d say it helps to know whether or not native trout still flourish in any given locale. If a stream with wild or native trout is threatened by destruction or effacement by our kind, then a small voice in defense of threatened species can be better than an unsung passage into death.

take care…

So, hey there, adder’s tongue lily! Stamen serpent-tongued. Your seed pods loved by deer; your dogtooth bulb enjoyed by bear. Ah, sacred flower of the goddesses. Erythronium of the eastern woods. Companion to the trout.

the larger watershed….

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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15 Responses to Panther Run

  1. plaidcamper says:

    Walt, reading this made my day! Dogtooth lilies, olive hued trout, and giant white pines? What a wild picture your words and photographs painted here. Loved the last few lines. Keep singing your song – it’s a good one.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    A continuing of your “lost terrain” theme, methinks, fitting that it should close with poetry disguised as prose, an incantation to and of all things wild and mysterious. Did you happen to get my email? I ask because my computer is near the end of its useful life and doesn’t always do what it says it did or is supposed to do. There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere.

    • In this case, I hope the metaphor isn’t too strong. I get it but, no, I haven’t yet seen the email, though I was wondering if maybe you sent it or were about to. I’ll keep an eye out here somewhere in the lost terrain.

  3. loydtruss says:

    Just wondering if that friendly angler knew all along there were trout there? Great posts, thanks for sharing

  4. Carrie says:

    Great adventures! Wonderful work my friend!

  5. Brent says:

    Late to the game here, but better late than never. I see spring has finally sprung in earnest. It’s certainly farther along than at 6,643 feet on top of Clingman’s Dome!

  6. JZ says:

    Walt, if the water runs cold and if detriments haven’t scarred it badly, trout then have a chance. Mountains have a way of cradling the water and nursing back lost health. Glad you found something there not lost..

    • JZ, yes! Mountains and rivers/streams are symbiotic, nourishing each other. In this region the forests are crucial to the health of trout water, keeping it cool and free of sedimentation. Thanks.

  7. Jet Eliot says:

    Loved the poetry and peace of this post, Walt. You so beautifully express your love of the land and devotion to the wildlife that you share the land with. Wonderful to see spring greeting you here, and oh how I enjoyed being in the middle of the river in the last photo. Many thanks.

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