Ephemera: the Eco-Myths

1/   From mayfly egg to molting nymph, from deep channel into warming shallows, from the underwater shuck into floating dun’s regalia– the two-tailed fly… A few escape the charge of hungry trout, ascend into willows for the garb of ghostly spinners built to breed… The sexes wheel and clasp; some females seek their stream of birth, mistake wet macadam roads for water, strew their eggs on surfaces, their mouths sewn shut by metamorphosis… Unpolluted glides exhale a first big hatch. The anglers bait their visions, swarm and cast.

Kettle Creek headwater…

2/  The call comes in– the urban anglers drop their ordinary lives, drive all night with dreams of trout, unhinged by flies.

3/  Not long ago, I was driving south for trout. I noticed loons on open water, ospreys flying overhead. I stopped to say Hello… The springtime migrants paused and listened. I restarted on my journey, windows down. I heard the green froggy tongue, the spirit of the marsh, resound.

It’s no secret; the forest is mother to the trout…

4/  In the forest, two days out of town, we’re heated underneath our packs, listening to a bear cub bawling for its mother on the top of Greenlick Ridge. The cry– solemn and sublime through solitude: “Find it, find the lost, the grail of leaf and flower, wood and stream; find the Nemeton, the sacred place of flesh and soil.”

5/  Shoulder-wide, the stump holds him just above a clearing in the lumbered woods. He would rise beyond gravity and earth-rape, burrow into the health of old-growth trees… He grips a poplar walking-stick, a crafted gift from beavers in the marsh below. Paradise is gained from a singular hint– a cool wind roughing his skin into bark.

downstream Kettle ‘bow…

6/  The Green Drake mayfly flutters from the stream, becomes a cloud of ghostly evening dancers, somber black-and-white breeders called the Coffin Fly… The large vibrant insects tempt the leap and flash of hungry trout. They lay their eggs on the surface film and die… I peer into gauzy wings of a captured dun, see a woman anorexic walking in loose dark clothes, the face shorn of hope and dream and aspiration. She has fed her soul to the young, to the savagery and richness of the river dance. The mayfly and the deep green valley are as one.

a Bob Stanton dry fly partners with Chester2…

7/  The Indian Pipe has deep roots and translucent leaves, waxy fingers feasting on death– the Corpse Plant– epiparasitic— smoky spirit of the shade, nodding its head to offerings from the stream, to bark-boats sailing on the riffle. Indian Pipe ingests the nutrients released by a fungus, symbiotic moments, thoughts remembering a time of dried tobacco shared.

no Indian Pipe in side-yard of Owl Farm, but memories like “tobacco shared.”

8/  I look at the body of a dry fly, the Green-Ass McGee, and see a skunk in its guinea feather-wing, an arrow in its hook… A tale emerges, one of Bobcat, when the feline was a timorous beast, when he took a squirt from prankster Skunk hiding in the streamside bushes… Skunk regretted what he did, moaning, “Now old Bob will kick my striped ass good!” He ran clumsily from the seething cat (no longer shy, no longer fearful), avenging eyes like a bow cut from a willow wand, an arrow shot from claw and sinew into the bucket of a sorry Skunk… The prankster’s juice spilled on the ground, stinking the trail for days.

Bobcat sez, “Only Old-Man Fisher dares to screw around with Porcupine….”

9/  I fished high and low on Kettle Creek, in present time and old, with June mountains greening over Black Kettle’s fishery, over “strange romantic land” of pioneers who feared the wild… The slack line drifted, tightened repeatedly at the doors of trout, swirling past logs and boulders, gliding through the healthy pools… I heard a sound; I knew the word… Sononjoh… a sunlit riffle sang the ancient name.

Tiger Swallowtails bring the news to late-spring watersheds….

G.-A. McGee, a killer pattern during Kettle Creek & Genesee River caddis hatches…

Kettle Creek, Oleona…



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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12 Responses to Ephemera: the Eco-Myths

  1. Brent says:

    These are beautiful lines of poetry. Did they just come to you on the stream, or have you been writing for a book? Happy Father’s Day (again)!

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Enjoyable ephemera! Lovely lines here, spoken in several tongues and full of life and death. What a dance – thanks, Walt!

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    Lovely, Walt. Can’t wait to get back there with you!

  4. Thought maybe you were on the long hike! Thanks. We’ll get there.

  5. tiostib says:

    what a marvelous journey you’ve taken me on, carried my mind off to other times, other waters, brought a smile to my soul. Thank you.

  6. Jet Eliot says:

    Really enjoyed this ode to summer, and life, Walt, and your poetry, so very moving.

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