Just Good Fishing

The cooling temperatures of late summer and early fall brings a spike in fish behavior and in human interest on the stream. Although I’m anchored to another academic year, I try to focus on the local streams and overgrown trails to balance my work with pleasure. With a short drive to a headwater stream, I can fish a weekend morning while the tiny Tricos hover, then go home and do whatever else requires doing.

I’ve been missing from this creek for a year or more, so it’s good to get back and  reacquaint myself with the water’s changeability and free-flowing ways. It’s good to go local, to regain some depth inside this place and fish it after a season or two of outward travel.

the beaver dams are new; the stream’s face changes every year…

The sky is overcast, the air cool and foggy, comfortable. I watch the first hovering cloud of Trico spinners settling closer to the water. Now it’s time to cast that #22 spinner– one of the smallest flies I dare to fish with. But it’s fun.

Small stuff– live Trico spinner (left), imitation (right)…

At first I’m catching and releasing miniature browns. Then a wild brook trout or two comes in, bright fish in the eight or nine-inch range. If I’m lucky I’ll see a larger shape rising to the surface, and I’ll take a brown for several moments of admiration. When I’m not so fortunate, I’ll lose a heavy bruiser risen to a fly I’ve drifted down below the long pool’s riffle.

one of many young brown trout in the stream…

It’s not that there’s a great fish in my creek, or a lot of big ones to be taken. Oh, I’ve seen a few outstanding trout over the years– the rare fish spooked from its lair, out of reach except for night fishing. It’s just that I’m at home here, relaxed in the solitude of water, and awake to some of its greater challenges.

It’s like being at the roots of nature– listening to poetry, to the sound of birds, amphibians, water running over stone. Poetry has predated the written word, historically, and what I hear eludes translation to the page. There’s more to fishing than meets the eye, of course, but satisfaction rises out of creativity, in writing “just good language,” and in reconnection with our origins.

Patrick Ewing reading his poems for the Harvest Reading (9/7/19), Wheeler Hill, N.Y.

Cardinal Flower

Native lobelia/ scarlet robed/flares/ above the muskrat’s wake.// Trout rise/ for the small emergent mayfly–/ the heron’s eye/ notes a wavering/ white-striped fin.// Blossoms stir/ along the stalks–/ small red birds/ lift their wings…// A shadow falls/ across the riffle.

Poetry everywhere… Leighanne, Wheeler Hill, 9/7/19…

The trout are enlivened by the cooler temperatures and, in some cases, by a spawning urge. The bird migrations have begun, and the chance to see the seldom seen is heightened. It feels right to walk, wade and hike again. Our summer lethargies are diminished, and a sense of wholeness looms, assuming that our work loads aren’t too burdensome and our health is pretty good.

“Just a stump,” at waterside…

By evening, stream and the surrounding valley are a gentle wash of cricket song, goldenrod and bright new color. The whole planet seems to beckon from its natural aspects, before the end of days. Good fishing, and good hiking, bring it on.

the wild natives make it “good”…

a Genesee trib, the home water….

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 Just Good Fishing

  1. plaidcamper says:

    Good language here, and a delight to read and see this piece about the small stuff (which is often more engaging than the alleged big stuff) – and yes, the good fishing/hiking/writing or whatever keeps you rolling, bring it on! Here’s wishing you all the local poetical delights into this new academic year and season, Walt. Stay in good health, and keep stumping on.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    I’ll be looking for some good fishing this morning as I hit the main branch of the Clarion. Wish me luck…

  3. Brent says:

    I somehow missed this in my email yesterday, but it’s a great little welcome to autumn in any case. My favorite part of the goldenrod blooms is that they appear en masse just as the greens of grass and tree begin to tire and fade. They’re a vanguard of brighter colors as the heat fades away.

  4. Anonymous says:

    That water looks inviting Walt. I remember in an earlier writing of yours, the water was special to you. Its always nice to return after a lengthy hiatus to see what changed. Most things don’t, unless ravaged by some storm. Enjoy the fall fishing, Its a great time to be on the water Walt. Cool evenings, shorter days are ahead. When I was younger, it always saddened me to see summer leave. Change is part of life and we have to change as well. My mindset is reflective of that adaptation. I look forward to the challenge of every new season..Take care Walt.

    • Exactly, the challenge of every new season! Like you, I used to opine the passage of summer, but mostly because of opportunities missed or goals not quite fulfilled. As far as fishing goes, autumn brings more opportunity, at least for myself, plus a whole new set of goals and expectations. No matter the season, living it to the max of one’s potential is what counts. Thanks, my friend.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Coming up from Jersey Shore last Wednesday I thought the Goldenrod looked particularly striking! Was good to see you at the meeting yesterday Walt! I didn’t quite catch what you said about the ‘E-motion’ that was made during the meeting so I think I missed some good humor as a result.
    Changes – I’ve had a few this past year and am looking forward to one last ‘change’ the end of this month. This will attenuate my activity (again) for the rest of this year unfortunately. Glad to see you get out and about though!

    • Thanks Unintentional Blogger! It was good seeing & speaking with you, as well. I hope the result of all those “changes” you experienced will be positive & bright. I had wanted to give you a Slate Run “document” I wrote but you slipped away before I remembered that I had it. If you’ll hit my email address, franklinL3@yahoo.com and send me your street address there, I’ll be happy to forward a copy!

  6. tiostib says:

    With this exquisite piece of writing, you have done me the ultimate service, taken me on a journey during my favorite season which now I can only make in my mind. You have stirred the memories of so many beautiful Fall mornings, so many enchanted moments of oneness with a sublime world. Your love of life and fishing radiates from this post.

    Thank you!

  7. Bob Matuzak says:

    Reading this as I head to Spring creek. I love the fall and better fishing the weather brings – but I can’t help feeling a little melancholy and thankful – another season coming to a close and grateful I got to enjoy it.
    Thanks Walt.

  8. Jet Eliot says:

    A true pleasure, Walt, to enjoy your home waters with you…the beautiful scenery, the quiet contentment, and your lovely words. Wonderful to see you enjoying, my friend.

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