A Purple Haze

The evening’s Genesee was too warm (72 degrees F.) to fish at Shongo so I drove upstream and found safer water (68 degrees) for trout, in case the dry fly action turned out to be good. It turned out to be very good.

The hatchery trout, browns and rainbows, quickly rose to dry fly patterns such as the McGee, the Rusty Spinner, the Adams, and the Adams variant called the Purple Haze– especially to the Purple Haze. They slammed it hard, sometimes taking it deep but, using forceps, I could generally release the barbless hook without producing injury.

Purple haze all in my eyes/ Don’t know if it’s day or night…

Throughout the evening I could feel an inexplicable blues wash through me like the gently flowing river. I’m not sure why, but I linked it to myself, to friends and family, and to the whole inglorious world. Usually, if I’m feeling this way, a visit to the stream or forest is the antidote, the medicine, that heals. On this occasion, though, the numerous trout were slow to bring on the enchantment. When it did kick in, however, the magic blossomed like lilies on a pond.

Am I happy or in misery…

I’m not sure what trout see in the Purple Haze, other than an obvious morsel. It’s an attractor pattern rather than a strict imitation of a natural insect. For myself, this pattern imitates a certain feeling that I had, associations that assisted my activity while casting, playing and releasing fish.

Did we get enough rain?


Although I think I caught at least one stream-bred fish among the countless hatchery trout, any sense of wildness in me came from personal actions and associations. It came from casting upstream while catching my balance in stony riffles. It came from bending knees and torso to release a struggling trout. It came from listening to the final evening songs of scarlet tanager, hermit thrush and veery. Wildness came from the Purple Haze link to a Hendrix song and to the psychedelic aura of the early 1970s.

Wildness comes from peering into Pine Creek Gorge from Harrison State Park…

In the breezy morning after this particular outing, I can walk with the early sunshine to the patch of wild black raspberries and enjoy their taste. The blues from the night before are gone. The ripening berries have a purplish undertone beneath a dark exterior. The tongue will crush their “blackcap” sweetness and roll it through the mouth. The taste of wildness floods me like a song.

black raspberries (blackcaps)

Purple haze all in my brain/ (and tethered to a favorite ‘cane’)….

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky!

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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10 Responses to A Purple Haze

  1. Brent says:

    Sometimes the cure for the blues can only be found, piecemeal, among the wild places and the black raspberry patches close by. Just being patient and putting together the pieces may be what it takes. (Side note: did I somehow miss the raspberries on my visit?)

  2. JZ says:

    Another nice ramble post. It’s nice to be able and get out and explore Walt. I see you found some trout, including a healthy looking rainbow. I’m not sure what the trout see in the purple haze, but it obviously works some kind of magic over fish and water. Sure is popular out west, especially on the South Fork of the Flathead river. It worked over your stretch of water. Perhaps the pondering question of why fish consume certain representations, that look less than what is mostly seen, is just a matter of what’s immediately available. Not the most scientific answer, but perhaps the most probable. Look at this way Walt, why do people eat McDonalds? I haven’t ever had anybody say its there favorite restaurant, lol. Its fast, its ready, its cheap, its convenient and it sooths the craving for something to eat in a pinch when hungry. Perhaps that’s your answer Walt.
    I’m not a fast, ready in a flash, cheap and convenient kind of guy myself. I was when I was younger (now that’s funny!!). But if I were a trout, I would be a dam picky-one. Just give me the Drakes, Caddis, March Browns, Stones, BWO’s and the like…smile. Although I’m always game for a stimulator pattern, my brook go two . There you have it. Keep rambling Walt

  3. Yeah the Purple Haze is certainly popular out West, for example in MT and places like the Flathead, and whenever I try it here at home, the pattern gets results with surface feeders. JZ, I think you got it right. There are often times when the river’s “golden arches” beckon the hungry trout, getting them to rise at whatever floats naturally from the menu board. Cheap, convenient, almost tasty, and so available. I’m with you, too, preferring a good double StimulatorSandwich (in trout lingo) over a thin but common Caddis Burger but, if hungry enough, will rise to a decent sales pitch. Always appreciate your insights here!

  4. Leigh says:

    I have been using purple foam on caddis bodies for a couple of years now. Can’t explain it, but it works!

    Dry fly action has been really good lately.

    All the best to you and the family!

  5. plaidcamper says:

    Happy to read that your inexplicable blues got washed away in the end. Probably not so inexplicable if you’re keeping up with the state of the planet, but at least there’s respite to be found in the purple haze of the natural world.
    Walt, I hope the coming week has the songs you want to hear.

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    I too have been in a funk lately, one that is just starting to lift. That’s because of extraneous crap bearing down on me, but when isn’t it (insert knowing chuckle here). Love the new header pic, and the view from Leonard Harrison is one of my favorites in the entire whole of Pennsylvania.

    • Glad it’s starting to lift, Bob. I know… Been wondering how things are going. Lots of the extraneous here, as well. And thanks for noticing the header shot, and view from Harrison, too.

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