Autumn Letter

The day begins like a sheet of paper waiting for words. Its composition won’t go digital until later, when darkness comes again. Two bald eagles sit together on a carcass near the road as I go speeding by, wishing I could stop and view them on my route to Slate Run for a visit. The day begins like an exercise in writing.

My Slate Run pal, Dale H., told Jim K. to watch out because I’ll probably try to slip a photo of him into my next post. Smart guy, that Dale.

Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile…” beams in from a satellite and fills the car with song. A hunter, face behind a woolen mask, stands with shotgun in the middle of the Blackwell Road in front of me as Bob sings of an uncontrolled “Grandpa” (just before he died) who builds a fire on Main Street and then shoots it full of holes. Yeah Mama, I’m glad to be driving on, along the curves and through the holes of surrealistic day, the end not yet in sight.

Apropos of next to nothing, this small rainbow came from the Allegheny on 11/10/19 after losing a couple of big fish there…

I’m late to a meeting of the Slate Run Sportsman group. Someone there says, “You weren’t supposed to go fishing yet,” and I reply, “What month is this, November?” Just because the days are shorter doesn’t mean my brain has to stay on track. Soon, Marion presents me with a gift of artificial flies, their beauty hooked inside my day, a promise of fair seasons yet to come.

Marion’s gift came with a letter signed with a special flourish…

I’ll meet Jim at the Hotel Manor, pull out from the Penn State/Minnesota football game displayed above the bar, and hit the water. Word follows word; sentence follows sentence; no one follows anyone (thankfully) through the chilly hours (34 degrees F.!) of the Slate Run Gorge.

one of Marion Alexander’s fine emergers…

The stream flows like a fullback on a Saturday mission, ready to be downstream and away. We cast our players carefully– yes, Green Weenie, Prince Nymph (formerly known as Isonychia), Pheasant-Tail, and Egg– Jim laughs at the notion of an artificial egg rolling over bedrock like a football or a song, but it’s the only pattern of the day to lure wild brook and brown trout to their table.

Slate Run brookie. The larger browns didn’t want to be photographed.

The day ends quickly for the anglers’ page. The sun, like a warm fire high above the wooded gorge, banks itself prematurely, fills with dark holes of the universe as we head homeward, breaking down our gear, thankful for yet another opportunity to fish.

Chester2 on the stump (despite his apolitical convictions)…

Later, I’m reminded of a phrase from the writer, Henry James, who said, “Letters mingle souls.” That ideal, a letter from an ordinary day, is cast for you, my readers. And like so many others now in cyberspace, it welcomes a response– in words or in a thought.

Slate Run as a football field? Nah, the Sportsmen would never allow it.

I really like Marion’s dark-winged olive dry flies….

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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18 Responses to Autumn Letter

  1. Brent says:

    I like the “Chester on the stump” pun. He might set politics aside, but the real sacrifice for a red-blooded American fly rod is to set aside the college football for a cold day on the water!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been following “rivertoprambles” for about 3 months and have to tell you how much I’m enjoying your “rambles”. I have fished the northern tier of Pennsylvania including Warren, McKean and Potter Counties for just shy if 50 years. Your stories remind me that i need to return to places like Slate Run and the upper Allegheny more often. Please keep the stories and pictures coming and thank you.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! Stories from your experiences, plus any ideas that you would like to share would be invaluable for me & other readers to hear & know about. Please keep in touch, and yes, I hope you have many more enjoyable hours on these beautiful waters.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Touchdown! Your playbook for an “ordinary” day yields another winner. Hats off (and then pulled back on quick time) for rambling those chilly river banks, then getting back, warming up and sharing the day.
    Thanks, Walt!

  4. Bob says:

    Very nice Walt, enjoyed it:)

  5. JZ says:

    Chilly, though I will be walking her banks soon enough. Something nice about being connected on a cold baron landscape that warms ya. Chicken soup style in an odd way. One fish is all I ask, but I’ve been rewarded well over that on occasion. Stepping outside from inside warmth, car, hotel Manor, fly-shop cabin or whatever, hits ya hard, lol. Probably wonder why just the hell your here, I hear you say. Cant be for trout Walt, but it is, or isn’t, and the cold air while holding a cane rod will do you good. The picture with Chester on a stump says it all. Actually a real nice picture at that! The frameable kind over a tying desk. A flyrods job is never really over is it Walt..

    • Chester & I say thanks, JZ, for understanding why we even bother shuffling out there on a cold day when the weather inside is probably a lot more comfortable. But there IS something warming out there, even when it’s not so easy to define. A fly rod’s job is never done. Enjoy!

  6. Anonymous says:

    If my bamboo rod has a bend to the right – but when I cast it – the line and l flies land straight, does that mean I lean to the left? ( 😉 ) Consequently, if the tip top is straight but my casts land right, then I must be leaning right… right? I seek shooting and casting down the middle – where have those days gone? Talk about a stump? I’ll jump off it now.

    Some seriously nice macro shots of the flies Walt! The BWO was illuminated really nicely. Do you use a photographic lighting hood or were these shot with the magic of iPhone or some post processing? On that BWO – looks like one or two too many turns of hackle if you ask me, but that’s just an opinion.

    “… yet another opportunity to fish.” Next year – next year…! My time’s a comin’ – Ha!

    The poetry written in this blog comes through in a very nice fashion – not too in your face and at times very much so a thinking man’s inference or two. Thumbs up Walt!
    JZ’s right about the framing of Chet II – nice pic!


    • Thanks again, Marion, it’s been fun. Your casting comments with regard to a bamboo rod remind me of the song “Politician” by Cream… “I support the left, although I’m leaning to the right…” Other than that, you’ve got me… stumped.
      Glad you like those close-ups of the flies. No fancy processing or iPhone expertise, just through the eye of my little Olympic waterproof/idiot-proof camera that I carry on the water. As for the BWO, I think she’s dressed just fine. For cold weather, or warm. And thanks also for the kindness toward the poetry & all.
      Be well. Appreciatively,

  7. Jet Eliot says:

    What a gift this autumn letter was, Walt, thanks so much. Enjoyed the musical background, descriptions, and the theme of your love for fishing all woven into this easy-going look at life in the moment. Here’s my favorite line, a gentle summary of the thoughts and images: “The sun, like a warm fire high above the wooded gorge, banks itself prematurely, fills with dark holes of the universe as we head homeward, breaking down our gear, thankful for yet another opportunity to fish.”

    • Thanks for this reflection, Jet. I especially like your taking the time to single out a favorite line providing “a gentle summary…” of the letter post. This is helpful, and much appreciated.

  8. tiostib says:

    Friends, fishing, flies, football…I think you’ve got Fall wrapped well.

  9. Chocoviv says:

    Looks interesting!

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