The Wild Trout Throw a Party

I woke up around 3:15 a.m. with several lines of silly thought reverberating in my head. For better or worse, these lines may have given impetus for this latest post. One of them was close to a throw-away: “We’ve got NO BEER for the party. Just a PEACH!” Well, I wasn’t going to that party anyway. Another line, echoing a well-known Dylan song, made more sense: “O Mama, can this really be the end, to be stuck inside of GREENWOOD with the Covid-blues again?”

the big brown called the party…

I don’t really feel so stuck here in Greenwood. I’m fortunate to live in some woolly country with a lot of space for getting lost nearby and keeping others safe from my special brand of nuttiness. Here the wild trout call me to some streams in the area, one of which has proved rather interesting this year. It’s the headwaters of my home-river, the exact branch of which remains necessarily vague.

every party needs some fresh wild leeks…

The state opened the regular trout season early– by surprise– in order to facilitate social distancing of expected crowds. I got to the stream on the first “real” opening day, alone with the clouds, cool air and muddied water. I was way above the highest stocking point along the stream, not expecting much more than the satisfaction of being free, unstuck from the confines of our social crisis.

who invited this guy– exoskeleton on hemlock bark…

The stream is not a popular one. It flows gently through a valley filled with farms, old meadows and patchy forest land. It feels remote, although in actuality it parallels a quiet road and has some issues with flood-borne litter and sedimentation. Ninety-nine percent of its limited fishermen prefer to angle for the stocked trout hosed in at its lowest bridge.

a 14-inch brown emerged from beneath this tire…

I last fished it in the early spring of 2019 and lost a large brown that broke off in a log-jam. This year I returned to its muddy water with a short stout leader and a weighted Woolly Bugger. I quickly had a fight on my hands. The seven-foot four-weight bamboo took a mean bend but I landed then returned a heavy 21-inch brown– a wild fish or, if not, most certainly a holdover from the golden days before we ever heard of Covid-19.

one of numerous wild fish…

I made a second visit just the other day. Upstream, even closer to the source, farther upstream than I’d fished before. A quarter-inch of rain that fell the previous night presented cloudy water once again, enabling me to fish confidently with a streamer. The old fields and the hemlock woods felt wonderful. I couldn’t believe my luck– wild browns and holdovers, many in the eight to nine-inch range, with several of them close to 14 inches. And a painted rainbow, obviously a holdover, pulled out from the logs and measuring a full 17 inches long.

the old rainbow fought me underneath this bridge…

another holdover…

I remembered a throw away line, an image, that bounced around my thoughts that morning at 3:15, or minutes later… It concerned an old guy who I met at the city transfer station where I’d taken my recyclables. The septuagenarian passed me in his car, driving slowly with his window down. He held an empty bottle of Scotch as he headed toward the bin containing a variety of clear glass. He told me, “It was fun getting this thing ready for recycling.”

It was fun revisiting an old, unpopular trout stream close to home. A treat getting reacquainted. Like a one-man party where the beer had vanished, but where the lonely peach was worth the tasting.

the big fish from a small stream…

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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29 Responses to The Wild Trout Throw a Party

  1. Brent says:

    If that’s the stream I think you’re referring to–a small Genesee tributary just over the county line to the southwest–the pictures are of a much more forested section than I’m familiar with. Love the hemlocks since I’m currently “Stuck in this apartment with those COVID blues again,” to paraphrase both you and Dylan.

    • You’re close… probably to the southeast, though. And yes, like the stream in the opposite direction, there’s a surprising amount of hemlock not noticeable from the roadway. Pleasant to get “unstuck in.” Hope you find a similar/equivalent place nearby!

  2. plaidcamper says:

    It’s good to see that the green, green woods are offering you space to throw yourself all the outdoor (socially distant) fishing parties you might wish for. With this, and the hope you don’t run out of reasons to visit the recycling spot, I think things are looking pretty peachy there. May that continue long past the flattened curve! Pre-Covid? It’s like prehistory…
    Thanks, Walt!

    • Hey, may we never run out of reasons to visit the recycling spot, or our favorite breweries! So from this peach of a party place to yours, Adam, thanks, and happy days ahead!

  3. tiostib says:

    Such experiences build the memories that wash away the other days when fishing was mostly an excuse to breathe fresh air. You’ve brought a smile to my face as I remember my own fishing adventure surprises. Thank you.

  4. anthonykleb says:

    Pretty sad that you would take wild trout, throw them on the bank just for a picture, I’m sure suffocating them for a picture was worth it. Some conservationist you are.

    • The two were laid out carefully for as long as I could hold my own breath, then swim away.

      • anthonykleb says:

        They all swim away, dying or not. It’s just a shame to think about how many wild and native fish die just for a picture. They need to be kept wet. That Rainbow had leaves and debris stuck to its slime coating which is an indication that its skin was dry. Check out Keep Em Wet for more information

  5. Here’s a recent email of appreciation sent unsuccessfully to RR from Marion (UB), which I’m including here, with thanks (WF):

    “What an outing!!! Great fish… just great! It’s always amazing to find fish in places you might think they shouldn’t be– under a wheel and tire? Ha! Looked like another nice day ‘astream!

  6. Anthony, I’ll grant you, a wild fish should be kept wet, and no fish should be killed for the so-called glory of a photograph. That rainbow may have been drier than I wanted but it was hastily returned, apparently fine. I’m not offering any excuses. Any long time reader of this blog can tell you that I don’t take many photos on the ground. As we know, fly fishing, as with any of the “blood sports” has an element of injury & death (a small percentage of trout caught under catch-and-release angling are lost, more so when the waters warm) although it’s less than with other types of fishing. It’s essential that we try to minimize our impact on the native population (and here the holdover trout). If indeed this rainbow was too dry, I apologize & will try to do better. B/t/w, I haven’t intentionally killed a wild trout since a camp-out in 1987, not to say that no wild fish have succumbed to my releases.

    But here’s a point I think you may have missed: the theme here, if there is one, is that an “unpopular” stream in our own backyard is often overlooked & taken for granted, and thus suffers from abuse & ignorance. Here at the blog, many of us try to give credence to the overlooked & the unpopular (witness the trashing of this local trout stream). We try to see some beauty in our own backyards, maybe some big fish magic in that forgotten stream, so that others may see it too and thus work toward its preservation.

  7. Hey Walt
    Great story.
    What’s a good fly to use on the Kinderhook this time of year?
    Pete M.

    Hi Pete! Thanks for the comment & the question concerning the Kinderhook. I would say that for the duration of April there are several good fly options for the Kinderhook, depending on local water conditions… While the water is a little high & cold, try black or olive Woolly Buggers or nymph/wet fly patterns such as the Pheasant-Tail or Hare’s-Ear. Very soon be on the look for dry fly action, too. Good patterns for April would be Black Stonefly, Stimulator, Quill Gordon and, especially, Hendrickson. Elkhair Caddis will also be useful soon.

  8. will says:

    Those are some truly amazing fish, the coloration is amazing. The par marks on the smaller brown are cool too. Glad you had a successful day – on multiple levels.

  9. Lester Kish says:

    A “peach” of an outing Walt. Quite productive. Under the radar waters are increasingly difficult to find, even if only for a few moments. I wish we had more of them.

    • Thanks for your reflection, Les. You’re right, these “under the radar” streams are getting less common as time goes on. In this case, I’ve lived near the stream for more than 30 years, hearing how it’s too marginal to be of interest, so I didn’t start checking it out till recently. That’s why in-stream research is important in those areas where very few others are investigating. With some clean-up & some sentry duty, a stream like this has a good chance to improve.

  10. Bob Stanton says:

    Beautiful, Walt, beautiful. My own outings have been less than stellar, but we’ll see how it shapes up. And uh, what was the name of the Sex Pistols first album? “Nevermind the Didactics…” 😉

    • I should’ve had a net with me for this particular stream but wasn’t expecting such results. It’s one of those places where, just going by hearsay and the lack of experience, you could feel silly carrying in a net. Now I know. Didactics done, bro! (see below). Happier fishing!

  11. Bob Stanton says:

    And hey! Congrats on reaching the 500 followers mark!

  12. Bob says:

    I love finding fish, especially trout, in small, out of the way, and often neglected streams. Love that kind of “hidden” trout fishing.
    And you are right on with your Kinderhook suggestions, although I’d add that the Kinderhook supports huge caddis populations, especially ones both above and below the surface that are colored black! 🙂
    Thanks Walt, really enjoyed it – And those fish are there – you’ll catch them again later in the season!

    • Thank you, Bob (M.) for weighing in on this… I miss fishing on the Kinderhook and hope I get a chance to revisit later this spring. You’re right, the K. is a prime caddis producer, and an angler should be well prepared with various shades of caddis patterns, both dry & emerger. I’ve often thought of the Kinderhook as one of those sleeper streams, with sections offering some of those “hidden” opportunities. I’ll never forget the first few trout I ever caught anywhere, near Malden Bridge in the early 1960s.

  13. Dale H says:

    We are all good here!

  14. Tim says:

    Hey Walt!
    Nice writing, photos, and discussion, as always!
    I haven’t been out much, but I’ve seen heavy Hendrickson hatches on both of our major local streams. It’s been cold, and as we often see, they drift unmolested/uneaten for a long time, and struggle to get off the water…and the trout don’t seem to realize that they are missing out on the buffet (at least on the surface!)
    I’ll give you a call!

    • Thanks Tim. Yeah the Hendrickson hatch is often disappointing for the angler in our region, since the water can still be cold enough to limit feeding by the trout. I found it interesting the other day, though. The air & water temperatures were more forgiving, I suppose… Look forward to hearing more!

  15. JZ says:

    Nice to find those often ignored streams that harbor much life Walt. Also, I think we can all be a witness to your stewardship to the environment and all living creatures that dwell. Anybody who follows your blog or reads your books can attest.

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