Reflections on a Gentle Art


wild river iris…

The Genesee River near Shongo, New York was flowing weakly and with water almost too warm for trout survival. I found a stretch of river cool enough for an evening of fly fishing and began hooking and releasing hatchery trout.

Genesee River brown…

Earlier I’d been reading about the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete (ca. 3000-1450 B.C.) and reflecting on my visit to Knossos, Crete many years ago. Nicolas Platon’s Crete (Archaeologia Mundi) is a fascinating account of Minoan life and arts, and it was good to reread the scientific accounts of Europe’s first true civilization and of how the peaceful coexistence of its kingships (in which women contributed greatly to the arts and daily life) led eventually to the classic era of ancient Greece.

long deep pool on Genesee…

I approached the tail end of a long deep pool and saw the subtle rise of a large trout. Surprised at my composure, I positioned myself for a cast where only the fly and leader would alight on the water just above the trout. Again, to my surprise, I made a decent cast and quickly had a heavy trout on the line. The fish was a head-shaking brown that battled me and won, breaking off the tippet and fly. Another surprise: no curses here, just another fine link to the realm of natural energies.

Lots of reading these days…

John K., an art restorer from Maine, had sent me his copy of the Minoan book and underscored the following sentences: The fear of death was almost obliterated by the ubiquitous joy of living. The whole of life was pervaded by an ardent faith in the goddess, Nature, the source of all creation and harmony. He also inscribed the title page with his own take on Western culture: “Would that the present world could go back to a time when war was unheard of, and women were held in high esteem.” His sentiment could easily have been my own when I decided to visit the ancient isle in 1982.

shade provided by the canopy…

Wild roses scented the air occasionally along the river banks and helped efface concerns about the rampant growth of Japanese knotweed growing there as well. Marion A.’s  dry fly pattern, an Egg-sac Rusty Spinner, was the only fly I needed till quitting time at dark. I caught a dozen trout– leaping rainbows and stodgy browns, several of which surpassed the 15-inches mark.

UB’s Egg-sac Spinner…

Another book I’ve been enjoying of late is Ed Van Put’s Trout Fishing in the Catskills, an excellent, pioneering portrait of American angling history, and a gift from a good friend, Don T., who once lived in my neck of the woods but now claims the West Branch Ausable as a home river. Ah, the Catskills… As a kid, I spent 10 years living in eastern New York with a backyard view of those mountains, so the Catskills were like a seminal monument imprinted on my wandering mind and angling brain.

Conhocton River, 6.13.20…

The great trout rivers– the East and West Branches of the Delaware, the Beaverkill, the Willowemoc, the Schoharie, the Esopus, and the Neversink, among others, have held a high esteem in the hearts and minds of fisherfolk throughout the past two centuries, and I too have been drawn deeply to their magic over the years.

Genesee River trout…6.17.20.

I can’t quite get enough of them, despite their distance from home. I know some of the streams fairly well, but others, like the Neversink and its smaller neighbors, continue to invite me for a first-time visit. June is a great time for dry fly fishing in the East, for humming along to Gershwin’s “Summertime” and reflecting on the gentle art of casting over pools and riffles. I will get there but, for now, I’m here, and that’s what matters.

The sun was setting on another visit to the Genesee. The large Potamanthid, a yellow mayfly, hatched from riffles near the parking lot, but it was too dark to bother changing flies. I stuck with the Rusty Spinner that remained just visible on the water– for myself and one last brown trout of the day.

Conhocton River…



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 Reflections on a Gentle Art

  1. Ross says:

    Looks like the Genny was good to you, despite the low, warm water .. nice. Took a stroll along the WAG trail last nite with my sister from TX and my daughter, from Yorks to Graves. Eyeing the water, enjoying the sounds; osprey, cedar waxwings, phlox ..

    • Glad that you & yours had an enjoyable walk along the WAG, Ross. The trail is good for evening rambles– smell of wild roses, sight of waxwings chasing mayflies, dreams of rising trout. Thank you!

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Being on the Neversink sounds pretty good – something to look forward to, for the name alone! Those two lines starting with the fear of death are quite something, and words to live by. Excellent reflections on the river and the page – thanks, Walt!

    • Yes! The name Neversink always intrigued me in a comforting sense, and I look forward to fishing this historical stream that has a lot of natural beauty too. Thank you PlaidCamper!

  3. tiostib says:

    Comforting words, thank you.

  4. UB says:

    Chester didn’t mind throwing those flies?! Looks like you had a good evening on the Genesee. Seeing those Golden Drakes must have been pretty neat! Pretty nice how you weave the Minoan’s and Crete into a story/blog post, skillful, really skillfully done! I don’t think I have the skill or eloquence to accurately show my appreciation of the John K. paragraph. It is simply great!
    Should be back in Slate Run the 28th through the 4th. Will try to get a few posts up about the runs at that time. UB

    • UB, Rest assured that Chester had a fine time laying out your spinner imitations on the Genny. One big trout is now living with one incised at the jaw for a while, but another fly of the same pattern handled a lot of action and came through in excellent form. Thanks again for those flies and for your kind words on this post!

  5. loydtruss says:

    Oh, how I wish I had access to all those streams you fish there. I see the Bambo got a workout on this outing, making it worth the bunch of trout you landed. What length Bambo is Chester? Who knows I may add a Bambo to my fly fishing arsenal before I end my fly fishing days. Great post thanks for sharing

    • Bill, My original Chester bamboo is a 7’6″ for a 5-weight, and my second one, the rod I call Chester2 (the one pictured here) is an 8-footer also for a 5-weight line. I love ’em both and they do accentuate the pleasure of an outing on the river. I think you’d appreciate the craftsmanship & the feeling that a bamboo rod provides whether on the river or the lake. Take care, and thanks for reading.

  6. UB says:

    The only bamboo I have came inherited to me. A friend of mine passed away in 2007 and gave me all his ‘fly fishing stuff’ – and I believe he may have gotten a bamboo as a retirement gift. A 5 wt., 7’6″ Phillipson that I only determined was good for a 5 wt line by putting a 5 wt line on a manual reel on it. But the balance is still ‘off’. I think it might balance better with one of those heavy automatic reels spooled with a 5 wt line on it (which also came with the inherited stuff). I intend to fish it when I get back here late June.

    • That’s pretty cool, UB. I like Phillipsons. Yours might feel better with a slightly larger single-action reel (autos make me shudder) & a slightly heavier line, say a #6. Anyway I hope you have fun with it. I have a 7-footer 4-weight that Tom Maxwell refurbished back in the 90s. My first bamboo.

  7. Blaine Emery says:

    I drove home to WV from the Adirondacks through the Catskills yesterday. I had read about them many times, but not seen them before my drive. So, reading your post this morning was perfect timing, and makes me want to return and to go deep into their interior instead of just probing the edges. Thank you for the post – it provided a very nice compliment to my Sunday morning coffee and reminded me early of all things beautiful and important.

  8. Glad you enjoyed your visit to upstate New York, Blaine, and that your interest in the Catskill region has been perked as well. The history and the natural beauty of the region can really grow on you, as many of us have learned. Thanks for your response here and keep me posted on your explorations.

  9. Don says:

    Sounds like you had a great day. The “tug is the drug” whether it be stocked or wild.

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