The Home Stretch

I was fishing the home stretch of a local river, a favorite section of the headwaters, a place where I could hang my fishing hat, or fly rod, on an aging log and feel as comfortable as a dog beside a winter fireplace. The fog had lifted from the early morning hours; the rains had finally ended (for the weekend, at least), and though the West Branch Genesee was rather high and clouded, it was eminently fishable.

foreboding clouds…

West Branch campsite…

I opened up my summer season with an old Orvis Superfine, a 4-weight rod, placing the dry fly on the riffles with incredible ease. A minute passed, then time vanished for as long as it took to land a foothills rainbow, not to mention a brookie and a small wild brown that slammed the Cahill’s pirouette.

old meadows, West Branch…

upper Pine at West Pike…

It had been a week since my last outing. Many streams and rivers had been high or flooded, so to get back on the drier home stretch was an angling treat. It was summer tough at times, inching through turbulent flows, avoiding fragrant roses and thorny boughs, stepping through chest-high meadow grass and nettles, but a sense of wildness complemented the pastoral fields and forestland. It felt good to be at home.

the lilies of home….

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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26 Responses to The Home Stretch

  1. Anonymous says:

    That’s a pretty neat looking reel Walt! What is that thing and how old is it? I’m planning on a trip back to the Greater SR Metropolitan area after the 4th. I hope to scare up a few Brookies up the runs then. I hope I have ‘good water’ and as much success as you have had this outing you document on your home water.
    I’ve noticed on one picture in a past blog that the reel was reversed – that is – mounted opposite of what is pictured in this blog. Picture inversion? Do you normally reel in line with your right hand? You a ‘Lefty’ ?
    take care

    • Thanks UB! The reel is an old Hardy Uniqua, probably from the ’30s, but still very sweet with a 4-weight line. I cast with either right or left hand for retrieval, and have certain reels fitted for such, depending on my mood. It helps me to be ambi when on the water. I’m hoping you have a wonderful SR visit after the holiday. The streams should be in good form, barring another barrage of rainy weather.

      • UB - Marion says:

        Eight days running on the Cedar Run gauge with only a trace of rain. I’ve been complaining about having too much rain over the past 10 or 11 months – I suppose it’s time for me to start complaining that there’s not enough (no… I can’t bring myself to do that quite yet – it’s just been too dang wet over this past 10 months). take care – UB

  2. plaidcamper says:

    The joy of keeping it local! Enjoyed how you described an early summer outing, high brush, thorns and all, to arrive at an outdoors that feels comfortably like home – that’s priceless. The last two photographs, the reel on log and the lilies, should be framed.
    Thanks, Walt, and I hope you’re back on the home stretch this weekend.

  3. Ross says:

    enjoyed your post Walt. As exciting as it is to explore new a different places, there is something to be said about our old, familiar haunts …, a comfortableness, but also of rediscover.

  4. Walt, you are like the movie A River Runs Through It; you almost make me want to learn to fly fish. 🙂 Everyone will probably be happier, though, if I just stick to my binoculars and birding scope.

    • David, I can’t make it look as good or easy as the movie does, but I’m honored by your link to that distinction. As a birder, though, and poet, you understand the similar worlds of beauty that the fly rod and the birding scope can bring to mind.

  5. Another great post, love the close-up of the reel! Have a great Sunday! Marcus

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    Indeed, the Hardy is a thing of beauty. The fishing time here has been pretty scarce, with high water still an obstacle. Things should shape up quickly, though. I assume your school obligations are met for the next couple of months? We should start scheming.

    • Yep, let’s start scheming. After the holiday weekend I am starting to look clear. I was wondering how your hike was….

      • Bob Stanton says:

        Anticlimactic. We had to bail after a day and a half, 17 miles in. Whit just couldn’t do it. Bad toe issues and the drudgery of carrying a pack up and down hill was too much. In retrospect, it’s a good thing we did because all the rain towards the end of the week would have made even minor stream crossings dangerous. Some other time, perhaps.

  7. Sorry to hear, though 17 miles (x2) is still a walk. The weather had me concerned for you all. Not at all pleasant. McLaughlin was doing a hundred-miler but cut it short, as well.

  8. loydtruss says:

    Really impressed with the combo you was using on this outing, what is the length of the rod you was using with, I assume a vintage reel? Thanks for sharing

  9. Brent says:

    I may be late to the game, but it’s never too late to comment on a great little ode to enjoying home during a northern summer. I’m looking forward to joining later this week!

  10. Jet Eliot says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Walt. Although the skills of your fishing are lost on a non-fisherperson like me, I always enjoy going out on these adventures with you. Going through thorny roses, waist-high nettles, turbulent water. The way time flies by, and your pure joy at being in these familiar waters. Your fish terms and lovely photos. It’s your writing–descriptions, style, rhythm–that I find tranquil and mesmerizing. Thanks very much.

    • Jet, Not only do I value comments from the angling world, I also greatly appreciate hearing from people like yourself for whom fishing is not a familiar subject. When I hear from writers/ artists like yourself who also appreciate the writing element, I feel blessed, to say the least. Thank you very much.

  11. JZ says:

    Nice to get back to more fishable waters and stretches you know like the back of your hand. Very nice Walt! I’ve ventured and fished Hammersly last week and enjoyed the solitude and tranquility. I’m heading there tomorrow and looking toward to more of the same. I fished the lower end and am gone to pick-up where I left off. Pushing my way up further and checking out the sights while casting a fly. The brooks were eager and aggressive, but I found out that they weren’t fond of ANY sort of drag. Those fish there are the most drag sensitive brooks I’ve seen in some time.
    Walt, it makes me feel lucky to hold such a beautiful fish. To enjoy clean air and to enjoy such a wonderful area. These kind of watersheds must be protected and cherished. The same with others, but it truly was a memorable day spent fishing. Hope your future days spent on the water continue to lift your spirit like it does mine my friend.

    • Always great to hear from you, JZ. Glad you made it up to Hammersley & had some fun with those drag-sensitive (educated?) brookies. It’s such a beautiful area, and I’ve been meaning to return there myself before long. Hell, maybe I’ll go there tomorrow & find you up in the deep woods. If so, don’t give them all a sore lip. I’ll need to catch a few!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’ll be there, sure would be nice to meet you. If you see a Marine plate that reads TROUT, your on the right path.

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