A Letort Original

[ Although I introduced the following subject in a post about a year ago, I’d like to present it once more, this time from a somewhat difficult angle, accompanied by recent photos from the New York home water. Thanks, as always, and I hope that you enjoy.]

I’ve met him several times, most recently a year ago, February. On the famed Letort Spring Creek. A whiskery fellow, rheumy-eyed, with broken teeth, experienced on the water. He enjoys casting with a telescoping black steel rod that almost looks illegal raised above the classic limestone pools. There’s no bamboo involved, no fiberglass, no reel. Just a short tapered leader for a line… And make it stout– enough to wield a heavy #4 Ant.

top: Nocky’s Ant; bottom: #8 streamer…

Talk about original… Nocky Hobbs (not his actual name) calls it “the original American Tenkara rod.” Not that he’s averse to fishing with bamboo. He’s lived along the great Letort for 40 years and fished it with the likes of Vincent Marinaro, Charlie Fox and Lefty Kreh. He’s worked the mystic currents with bamboo but gave up the cane when the cost for its repair became prohibitive.

The well-fed and selective browns of the Letort have always been a challenge, but they scuffle regularly with his banged-up pole, its duct tape spread out like tattoos. This angler catches wild browns on a barbless hook then quickly turns them loose.

I remember it well. My second outing with fly rod, Chester2. Nocky held the new bamboo, looked it over, stirred it in the air and said, to my surprise, “I like it.” I was a dabbler in those cress-filled headwaters, but he made me feel at home.

skunk cabbage: poking thru the ice…

Letort fishermen generally refrain from wading in the clear flow of the silt-bottomed stream. It’s difficult to cast from the marshy, brush-lined banks, but Nocky finds the stream a little more accessible. The telescoping instrument works wonders there. Originally a 16-footer, the dented veteran is shorter now, but still swings the wet fly where its owner wants it drifted– through the deep rooms curtained with watercress, through aqueous caves inhabited by large reclusive browns.

The Black Ant is a favorite wet fly pattern. It can be effective year around, says Nocky. I accepted one and tied it to my leader, mostly in tribute to Mr. Hobb’s experience. It didn’t work for me that winter day (ants are pretty damned scarce in February, no matter where you fish), so I wasn’t surprised that my first wild brown trout of the season took a different fly– a bead-head Pheasant-tail Nymph.

dance of the teasel heads…

My best catch of the day? Meeting Nocky Hobbs again. There was more to learn, of course, but talking with him brought the surge of spring, the first birdsong from the banks of the Letort. The chickadee, wren and sparrow sang their witness songs for all.

end of the WAG Trail, Cryder Creek…

the stone(d) poet…

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 Letort Original

  1. Brent says:

    I suppose if you fish a great water long enough, and in the company of all those notables, you earn the right to cast a wonky, unconventional rod that fits the intersection of your tastes and the stream’s needs.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    I know that spring is on the way when Walt Franklin posts a picture of skunk cabbage making its improbable, defiant late winter appearance!

  3. plaidcamper says:

    I like knowing there are characters like Nocky Hobbs out there, full of determination and resilience, doing what they do. Great portrait, and lovely late winter(?!) scenes and sounds. The ants will be on the march soon enough…
    Thanks, Walt!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sandhill Cranes showed up at our place a few days ago. Every time I wake up at night to turn over I hear them squawking! Do they know something we do not? Maybe spring really is coming on fast? High was50 today – made the hike around the place pleasant.
    No red-Winged Blackbirds yet – but they must be around the corner if the cranes are here I think.
    Through your written words – I’m glad to see you anticipating spring and appreciating ‘characters’ Walt! The Old Tannery had probably more than a few – ask me about Pike sometime.
    UB

  5. Marion, Must be great to be visited by the sandhills! I look for them every visit out West but usually don’t see them till we’re back around Wisconsin area. I looked for red-wings today. No sign yet, but I did catch a couple big brown trout in the Allegheny… I’ll make a note to ask you about the Pike character… The Old Tannery had its share of personalities.

    • Anonymous says:

      Brown trout or red-winged blackbirds….brown trout or red-winged blackbirds….brown trout or red-winged blackbirds…. I’ll take the brown trout probably 7 or 8 times out of ten. The Red-Winged Blackbirds will come and terrorize the other birds at my feeder soon enough. Ha!

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