Whiskey Run

1. The beauty of the stream is a simple gift, a holiday revelation. There’s a wholeness to its many parts where pool and riffle, snowy bank and mossy rock cohere. The solitude, the wooded hills, the winter trout are gathered here like friends and family.

Holiday “whiskey walk” #1…

The stream sounds like a poem. It flows from a place beyond all words. The form and content, the rhythm and meter, spring from eddies of civility and wildness. Water smooths the roughness of time, the hardship of labor, and the sense of wrong within.

Whiskey walk #2…

The stream enters stream; the mind takes wing. I give it eyes, like microscopic orbs of dragonfly, to see every place along the route at once! There’s an arced and sinuous flow defying the bounds of gravity, yet it holds me to its rocky banks. The sea is calling, naturally, but this snowy iridescence is the mountain stream’s alone.

mountain laurel, north of Rt. 6, the farthest north I’ve found it…

2. Whiskey Run, as I call it, enters a feeder stream high up in the Pine Creek drainage. I fished this “feeder” two miles from its source in the Allegheny Foothills, thinking of my friend Joe Bartek’s holiday message, “Happiness is a bent rod.” Indeed. The little six-foot fly rod doubled up twice on this challenging stream.

this bottle supports the proposed American Prairie Nat’l Monument in Montana…

The feeder stream is narrow and often crowded with low-hanging limbs. A late-December fog enclosed my world of fly-fishing, locking my attention on the underhand swings and bow shots aimed at shelving banks and tiny pools. Once known for its native brooks, the six-mile stream now features a fair population of wild browns.

wild brown #1…

wild brown #2…

The trout seemed few and far between, but up in the forest, comfortably distant from the busy highway, I got lucky. Two nice browns were captured and released– a 13-incher from an undercut bank, and a heavy 14-inch specimen that rushed the wet fly from its log-jam in fast water. I was happy for these fish. They were large and unexpected in this tiny stream. The life they gave a bent rod fed an angler’s joy and satisfaction.

feeder stream above its junction with Whiskey Run…

“Whiskey Run”

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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23 Responses to Whiskey Run

  1. Brent says:

    I love this line: “The sea is calling, naturally, but this snowy iridescence is the mountain stream’s alone.” There’s a liveliness, a cleanliness, found in a fast-moving high elevation stream that can’t often be found in other bodies of water.

    And funny you note the mountain laurel (was it anywhere near Brookland?). I was wondering, as we drove north, where its northernmost outpost might be. Turns out that it should, theoretically, be found in the Southern Tier and well into New England: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalmia_latifolia#/media/File:Kalmia_latifolia_map.png

    • Thanks Brent. I thought of you when I found that bit of laurel near Brookland, ’cause we had wondered how far north it could be found. I can’t think of any near home other than that, but maybe we also found it growing around Allegany State Park & environs.

  2. Fun post to read and great images! Happy New Year!

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Thanks, Walt, for the civility and wildness in this and all the other ramblings you post – always enjoyable, always appreciated! Lovely images as well, and I’ve a hankering for a dusting of snow having seen these.
    Enjoy the whiskey, and all the best for the coming year!

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Beautiful. Amazing to believe that a small stream as such could yield those fish, but that’s why we do it: Fishermen believe in what is not readily apparent to the eye. Hope and possibility are our constant companions. Happy New Year, mon frère!

    • Yes, Happy New Year to you, Bob. The fishing had been slow there, just a couple of little ones seen darting away, and I was about to give up when the first brown blew in & kept me going higher into the woods. It doesn’t always work out so positively but, as you say, hope & possibility hang around no matter what.

  5. UB - Marion says:

    Looks like … a great way to finish out the year!
    Looks like … an enjoyable hike with family and friends.
    Looked like … fun was had by all.
    Looks like … a great little run to finish off the fishing of the ‘old’ year.
    Happy New Year Walt – to you and your family – to everyone who enjoys this blog.
    Here’s hoping the coming year brings us all good health and good fortune!
    (I’ll lift one to toast a bit later – just a little too early to hit the 12 year old Scotch)
    UB

    • Cheers Marion (now & later) and thanks for your support of RR & the Slate Run Sportsmen work. It looks like we’re in the transition time right now but 2020 looms, and we wish you & yours a happy & healthy new year.

  6. tiostib says:

    Thank you, your beautiful word journey took me back to my own winter memories on a small stream on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. Wishing you good fishing in the coming year!

  7. So, I was literally thinking, “This post sounds like a poem” when I scrolled up and saw the line, “The stream sounds like a poem.” ❤ Beautiful images, word, and spirit as always, Walt. A gorgeous new year to you.

  8. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    Awesome looking stream with some nice pocket holes, just wondering was the wet fly was the only pattern used? Those were some quality browns taken. I assume Chester was not on this trip?
    Streams like the one you were fishing make me wish I lived in the area. Great post thanks for sharing

    • UB - Marion says:

      Looks like an old fiberglass rod….Fenwick?
      UB

      • Marion, you’re right, that’s an old Fenwick FF60 fiberglass, a 6-foot for a 5-weight and I like its slow, forgiving action on those brushy streams.

      • UB says:

        Pretty dang cool Walt!!!
        Care to share what those wet flies were?
        No biggie if they are family secrets… but… just sayin’ if they ‘aint’???
        UB

    • Thanks for the appreciation, Bill. Wet fly was the only type of pattern used here for both the browns & the brookies. Maybe I’ll also try a dry fly on the next visit, out of curiosity. Chester & Chester2 are on vacation for a while until the weather warms but are thankful for the thought!

      • Marion, Almost embarrassed to say those “wet flies” were simply variations of a Glow Bug, or Egg, the most elemental & effective pattern I can find for such a time & place.

  9. UB says:

    Ga…..ga….ga…… GLO-BUG!?!?!?!?!? lol Walt – many may take offense…I do not! Interesting though… an egg pattern got them to take – nice!
    I fish it in the Fall a bunch but didn’t know it’d work this late. So glad you had success!
    Till you get out again….
    UB

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