Suddenly the sky was clear, and the temperature rose well above the freezing mark. Although the ice on local streams and rivers was only now beginning to crack and drift away, I drove to Pennsylvania eager to prepare for a new season on the water. There would be no fishing yet, but at least I could obtain my 35th consecutive non-resident trouting license, along with a few supplies, and then enjoy a solitary ramble down Pine Creek.
There was much to look forward to this year, but the winter had been mostly comfortable and rewarding for me, so I wasn’t in any hurry to push ahead. One of my recent accomplishments was to read or reread a bunch of books that I acquired from my father’s library after he died about eleven years ago. One of my favorites was The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, about the early U.S. President whose savvy and intelligence and desire for democracy was refreshing to encounter and to contemplate, especially after a long period of suffering political scurvy in our highest offices.
Another pleasurable volume was an old edition of Washington Irving’s Sketch Book or, to be exact, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gentleman. The book is famous for containing the early American tales of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (how I loved these stories as a kid growing up near the author’s Catskill Mountains!), but there are also numerous accounts of inspired rambling through Great Britain and western Europe in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
A chapter of the Sketch Book called “The Angler” came to mind again while walking meditatively along the rail trail of the upper Pine… Irving/Crayon marveled at a Welsh angler humping from one side of a stream to the other, waving his fly rod in the air to keep the line above the ground or free of the hungry branches nearby, adroitly placing a fly beside a twisted root or underneath an overhang where a large trout was apt to rest.
The observer was something like the scholar in Walton’s The Compleat Angler, receiving instruction from the sage-like Piscator. Irving/Crayon admired this manifestation of the British angling mania, but he also had to chuckle at the “score of inconveniences” that the angler had to carry and deal with. “Angling is something like poetry–” he noted. “A man must be born to it,” to really get the picture.
One old fisherman, of humble means, that Irving spoke about was active year around. When the aged outdoorsman wasn’t casting, he was often telling fish tales in the village tavern and was known to his friends and neighbors as a sort of taproom oracle who could entertain, philosophize, drink, and make predictions like a pro. On some winter evenings he would work beside a crackling fire, fixing up his tackle, prepping for the next campaign, or building rods, nets and artificial flies for pupils and for customers adventuring from the confines of the gentry.
Hiking along Pine Creek, anticipating trails (and trials) along its well-known tributaries, I was almost ready for another spring of happy solitude, or with that small but cheerful brotherhood (and sisterhood) of the angle.
A nice post full of optimism for warmer (angling and otherwise) days ahead. I’ll perhaps look forward to joining you on a riverside ramble in the coming weeks and months!
I was thinking about you this morning, mon frere, wondering how your preparations for the upcoming season were progressing. I saw the first turkey vulture of the year yesterday, wobbling on the thermals, so spring is truly near, if not here. Looking forward to hooking up with you and hooking up with some piscatorial denizens of the watery elements.
The first turkey vulture is a good sign, Bob. Traditionally, they’ve been known to come back here at Canisteo on March 13th, so maybe they’ll be earlier this year all around. Actually, I saw one flying over Rochester one month ago, which really seems odd to me. As for angling, let me know your schedule this spring because we’re gonna hit the water & take a serious look!
Sighs… If only I were a little closer. Ha! What a nice enticing post! Much to look forward to this year I hope. I’m going to have to look up that Washington Irving “Sketch Book”. “Adroitly’ and “”A Man must be born to it,” to really get the picture””. Ok, hey, I’m much more a math guy than a grammatically correct sort so, please explain how I should have written the previous sentence. Had to look up adroitly and the statement of being born to it, made me smile. Think I would have liked to run into that aged woodsmen – would have been nice to hear a few of his stories. Was the hiking easy enough or was the snow deep enough for snowshoeing yet? The season is breaking here and I am certainly looking forward to getting back there. Take care RTR – UB
Speaking of first sightings… I did see a Red-Winged Blackbird here at the feeder yesterday – first of the season and I hear them all the time not when I step outside. Have seen Robins south of here only a few miles but I haven’t seem them here yet – I know they’re around. No Bluebirds yet :(.
UB, your sentence in question looks fine to me; I get the picture with no problem, though the quote marks may be a little woozy or inebriated… The Sketch Book is an easy read, enjoyable even when it seems a bit mawkish, and who’d have thought that Irving would entertain us with his take on angling in the early 1800s? Anyway, check it out when you get a chance… My walk was easy where the trail had been beaten down, but off trail is more dicey with the crust. Snowshoes? Maybe. As for those first sightings, you beat me with those red-wings! I’m still looking for number one. Perhaps today….
Its been a long cold winter with plenty of snow. Have not wet a line in a month and have tied some fly’s to pass the time. Spring is on the horizon and the ice is starting to wane. That’s the greatest thing about fishing, hope for another season always remains constant, even during a pandemic. Hope you Walt and your band of many fish blog followers stay safe because times on the water are soon to be here. So finish up those last fireside reads now because your casting rhythm’s will soon find its rhythm, or not. (laugh)
Hi JZ! The anticipation of another season on the water and on the trails is really sweet, isn’t it? The winter has been consistently cold & snowy, and that’s probably been a good thing, over all. Stay safe, yourself, and I hope you have a great new year doing what you love. And keep me posted on your fish experiences.
Won’t be long now Walt.
Waiting out the month in Myrtle Beach. When I saw your first pic of Pine Creek I said it looks like the Ansonia area. After seizing Darling Run I said yup!
Great run out of a deep hole near the mouth of the run.
I’ll be a week at Cedar Run starting Mother’s Day. Maybe we can hook up again.
With a Myrtle sojourn you already know what spring is like… Wow… And yeah, that run out of the tributary mouth is an interesting one. Didn’t see any fish there in 2020, though. I usually make a Slate & Cedar visit around Mothers’ Day week (we’ve scheduled a SR clean up the weekend after) so hopefully I can catch you there around that time.
That run produced 6 nice fish last year using Perdigons.
Look forward to catching u with you.
I’ll have to practice with those Perdigons there!
Good stuff once again, Walt! I’m going to have to look up a copy of the Sketch Book – I’m happy enough with mawkish if it’s entertaining… Spring signs emerging all about, and reason after reason to look ahead. I hope the season is a positive and memorable one for you, on and off the riverbanks!
Glad you’re on the trail to spring, Plaid! Yeah you might find the Sketch Book interesting, especially with your other interests & your cultural connection to historic Britain… Thanks, as always, for your reading & your comments here.
Beautiful images, I am ready and am sure you are ready for a melt-down to get the fly season started. Thanks for sharing
Ready-set, cast, Bill. Thanks!
I enjoyed this walk along Pine Creek thoroughly, Walt. Your photos and descriptions, memories and readings. How lovely for you to have and read your father’s books. You have a way of relaxing your reader and letting us drift along with your thoughts — it’s truly wonderful. My favorite words here: “…the early U.S. President whose savvy and intelligence and desire for democracy was refreshing to encounter and to contemplate, especially after a long period of suffering political scurvy in our highest offices.” Cheers my friend, to winter and spring, writers and words, the glory of life.
Much appreciate your insight, Jet, and thank you, especially, for underscoring a favorite line or two. It helps make what I do worth doing.
Ah, you know I love Pine Creek. First set up a tent there near Slate Run in 1985. We also love the Little Pine area. Been a few years and I’m eager to get back. Thanks for capturing it and taking me there, Walt.
You’re welcome for that, David. We share a similar Pine Creek history & background!