A Good Day For It

The sunlit day was beautiful. I found myself fishing in the cold water (35 degrees F.) of a Pennsylvania river where the trout seemed few and far between. I did manage to capture and release a first brown trout of the season and, later, lost a large rainbow that was activated by a minor hatch of stoneflies, having chased a drifting nymph.

Wildlife was on the move. I’d seen a group of killdeer by the river road. The song sparrows, newly arrived from a warmer climate, caroled from the alder crowns, and rusty blackbirds, notable for their gleaming eyes and squeaky phrasings, mingled with other avian migrants as I poked along the water’s edge. A mink and I surprised each other at close range– the mink hunting for physical sustenance, and the angler seeking a spiritual boost.

The next day, on New York’s Genesee, was another warm one in the 60s, but the water still retained the temperature of snow-melt. Even though the trout were scarce, the solitude felt special and complete until I saw a jogger pacing toward me on the rail trail. He seemed focused on the ground ahead of him, as if he hadn’t seen me, but I heard him sharply say, “A good day for it!” as he passed.

I was left with an impression like the words from a poet friend who wrote (in a poem called Fly-Fishing) “Their gear is the best sort of technology,/ light and quiet, tools for inserting oneself/ into a place without disturbing it.” I thought of my fish rod as a tool. I raised it for a backward cast of line then brought it forward once again, happy that the river made no disparaging comment to be heard.

I was soon to meet up with an angling pal downriver. Waiting for Tim to get there from his work responsibilities, I switched my graphite instrument for one of my favorite split-cane rods. Assembling that newer tool, I noticed a serious problem. The lower ferrule had begun to separate at the glue line of its silken windings.

old graphite & symbolic skunk cabbage…

Tim arrived, and I had him inspect the situation. He had once constructed an entire split-bamboo from culm and all the basic ingredients, so I welcomed his diagnosis. Sure enough, it was a good day for it– catching the problem prior to casting with the rod again and inviting certain disaster.

first of year…

That evening I contacted my rod builder and was relieved. I could ship the rod to Virginia, and since I hadn’t been at fault for damages, I wouldn’t have to mortgage the house to have “the best sort of technology” repaired. It looked like the only real cost for me would be measured by the time lost in not casting it a while.

goodbye to winter…

As for the fishing, let’s just say… no catch this time. I had taken up the graphite once again, and Tim plied one of his bamboo rods. We waded slowly through the quiet evening river, keeping our profiles low and unobtrusive, eyes alert for stonefly rises, but resigning ourselves to “nothing much going on.”

hello to coltsfoot, first spring wildflower…

That “nothing” can be a positive notion at times, especially when considering its contrast in the mayhem of society and in the disheartening destruction that occurs in our environment both near and far. This night I was glad for the peace of nothingness and how it might have been expressed most favorably by a passing jogger who exclaimed, “A good day for it!”

Good for fishing, running, making observations, and catching up with our springtime dreams before they slip away.

on Genesee…

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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15 Responses to A Good Day For It

  1. Jet Eliot says:

    What a joy it was to read your lovely narrative ushering the new season, Walt. Such an exciting time to be outdoors. I was so happy for you to have your first fishing event; though sorry you had fishing rod troubles, but glad it didn’t slow you down that day. I know how much you enjoy this beloved hobby, and what a long wait it is in between seasons. I liked hearing about the other wildlife, too, espec. the rusty blackbirds, a bird we do not have in the U.S. west. I also greeted the skunk cabbage with joy, another eastern creature that I associate with you and the early spring. Thanks so much for this uplifting salute to spring, my friend. Have a blast.

    • Thank you, Jet! It’s a great season just to muddle along with senses on alert. Once the green fuse starts to sparkle, gentle spring explosions quicken day by day. The rusty blackbird, like the fox sparrow & a number of other migrant species, seem to stop in for just a day or two & then they’re gone for points north, so it’s nice to catch them when we can.

  2. Brent says:

    Whatever camera you’re using gave you incredibly vivid colors on those last few pictures. The bee in the flowers is worthy of entry in a contest. How far does that rail trail along the Genesee extend?

    • Thanks! The waterproof Olympus welcomes rare light conditions… I think the rail trail is intact from Genesee down to Belmont, with plans to extend it considerably north & south.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    I enjoyed your “nothing much going on” narrative here, Walt. We’ve spent a nothing much kind of day here today, and they can be the very best of days! Lovely photographs, descriptions and musings, and a delight to experience your eastern spring awakening.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Oh, no! Chester? I was wiggling some fiberglass in a store the other day, contemplating a purchase. Granted, it’s not ‘boo, but perhaps a worthy small stream companion. It’s just why do manufacturers feel the need to make the blanks so…ugly? Some are downright garish, and while it doesn’t affect their fish-catching abilities per se, waving a bright yellow rod in a subdued woodland setting might put already wary salmonids on high alert, I fear. Ah, well. First world problems, as they say.

    • Yup, Chester (2) it is. The good boy might have been a little overworked last season locally & out West but, no excuses, gotta mend him nonetheless. I would say that a good fiberglass outlet is the place to be for anyone contemplating a new purchase, all things considered. For those of us who have been enchanted by the sight of lovely instruments, the amount of ugly looking glass might seem insurmountable, but some comfortable & attractive fiberglass can be wiggled in places such as Phil B.’s shop on Kettle Creek.
      The first rod that I ever owned, as a kid, was one of those garish yellow sticks, no doubt an Eagle Claw, that I enjoyed until a car door brought it to an ignominious end. I could look back nostalgically at the piece, but something tells me that it’s better left alone.
      As you mentioned, Bob, this is all inconsequential “First World” stuff, in light of what’s occurring hither & yon, but fun to contemplate nonetheless.

  5. loydtruss says:

    Glad to see this brutal Winter gone and Spring is finally arriving. All seasons have their downfalls, but the worst season for Southerns has to be the tornados during the Spring months. We have witnessed over 45 stressful tornados in Alabama since the season began in March. I can remember growing up as a young boy never witnessing a tornado, but times have changed since that period and two words can sum up the results——-climate change!!!
    Sorry to get off subject here but your post showing how beautiful nature can be when we all work together got me wondering. Thanks for sharing

    • I agree, Bill; climate change is raising hell across the planet, some places more than others. After keeping tabs on what the South is going through lately, I’ve been concerned for you there, and I hope that things settle down for a while & allow you all to experience some peace & quiet in the natural world.

  6. Mike Brunner says:

    Mr. Franklin,
    My name is Mike Brunner. We had a cabin up in Benton Hollow off Sweden Hill Road for many years & I actually fished with you quite a few times on the Genny around the Shongo area.
    I just wanted to drop you a note to tell you I enjoy reading your blogs & testing my memory with your pictures.
    Your last release about the Allegheny brought back alot of memories. I often fished it early in the year, listening to Pirates spring training games before & after fishing a stretch.
    I also spent many, many days on the Pine & the Runs. I no longer get to fish these places because I’m in Grand Lake Stream, Maine most of the year, fishing for salmon & brookies, & smallies in the summer. Believe me, no complaints, but I truly miss the Runs, lunch at Tom & Deb’s & supper at the hotel (the old one!).
    Take care & keep up the good work!
    Thank you & best regards,
    Mike Brunner

    • Great to hear from you, Mike, and thanks for getting in touch! It’s been a long time since those Shongo fishing days but I’ve wondered if you were still around this area, especially when passing through Brookland & the Sweden Hill area. Glad to hear that you are in a great place for the trout & salmon (I really like that part of Maine) and hope you have a fine new season, along with those baseball Pirates! Again, thanks for reading, and keep me posted on the life in Maine.

  7. And over at the SRS website in a post titled – “4-15-2020: What the ‘h’ ‘e’ Double Hockey Sticks?? … and the Mystery Hat” (blogs-Spring-older posts – dated April 15, 2020) has a reference to Mike in it. I was so glad that I found the person that had owned the mystery hat. Spoke with him today and he’s heading back to Maine tomorrow morning very early.
    Great first fish of the season and really great picture of the fly! Is that peacock herl wing buds? What are the other materials?
    I should be heading back late this or early next week! The forsythias are blooming like cray right now and I mentioned that I thought that meant Hendricksons would be hatching and Mike stated that he associated that with Quill Gordons! Either way, it’s starting up! Good posting RTR! UB

    • Great story on the Mystery Hat, UB! Just reread what you had posted then. Wow, Mike Brunner owned that hat, and I just got reintroduced to him (see above). Small world, Grand Lake Stream hat. Don’t lose it! As for the fly in question, yeah probably peacock herl, and I can’t remember what else got in the mix. I’ve got so many ugly flies that I have tied, I can’t remember what’s what. Anyway, it’s almost Quill Gordon/forsythia time, so enjoy it. Thanks, and hats off to ya (for now).

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