Winter on the Genesee

Creak of beech bough, crack of ice. No eagle sharp-eyed for a fish, no wild duck drifting on the flow. So, what is here? The trout are unobtainable, the sun glimmers faintly in the canopy, the promise of a snowstorm for the night. There’s a patchwork green– the stiff fern by a stump, the skunk cabbage rising over crystalline seeps.

Genesee w/ rail-to-trail on left…

Inside the pointed cabbage heads– a fire. A cold Catskill Mountains night, late 19th-century. A lonely angler sitting by the hearth, with pen to paper, scratching out another of his “Little Talks.” Theodore Gordon rambles conversationally, confiding, questioning, provoking one more issue of his day– for trout, for angler, for himself. By morning, his successes and failures will invite him to another round of tying artificial flies, their beauty resonating through the century that follows.

Skunk cabbage holds one particle of sun. It flourishes and greens a Catskill riverside, a woodstove meditation, streams that flow through any healthy land. The hiker pauses by a wild plant near the Genesee. The snow will come, the warmth remain.

Quill Gordon, first created by T. Gordon; photo copyright Mike Valla…
beavers like cherry…
poets like…
Genny reminds me of upper Pine…
view from Owl Farm, early 2022…
and then came the snow (15 inches?).

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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33 Responses to Winter on the Genesee

  1. Mike Valla says:

    I tied that quill Gordon and I took the photo.
    But you can use it.

    Mike Valla

  2. Mike Valla says:

    The photo is copyrighted. From my book Tying Catskill Style Dry Flies. Mike Valla. Appoutdoors has nothing to do with the copyright.

  3. Don T. says:

    Good reading for a snowy winter day.
    Stay warm and safe.

  4. Brent says:

    The house sure looks good in snow! We got 6 to 8 inches, I’d say, although our shoveling may have been a bit easier than you had to deal with. And now we get to come inside and see some great looking artwork over the mantle, thanks to you!

  5. Dave Hutchison says:

    We were surprised that the beavers were chewing the cherry trees, hadn’t noticed that before..

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    It continues to come down pretty hard here. Lots of shoveling in my near future. On the flipside, I can dig out the snowshoes and strap on the skis! Yeehaw! I’ve actually been waiting for this for a while.

  7. Hey there. That’s a lot of snow. Here in greater Philly we’ve had very little snow so far this winter, but there’s a lot of winter left. Anything could happen. Take care when shoveling— i.e. don’t overdo it.

  8. plaidcamper says:

    “Creak of beech bough, crack of ice…” and splash of bourbon, a well deserved warmer after shovelling snow – winter has many good points, outside and indoors – cheers, Walt!

  9. Teri Messmer says:

    A virtual hike for me, missing the winter scenes in this seventh week of post op recovery. Looking through the window at snow is like Zooming instead of physical visiting! Better than nothing but not much of a substitute! Teri

    • Thank you for the visit, Teri! It seems like you’re recuperating very well, and if Zooming with the snow is less desirable than being out there in the fun of it all, consider that the wind is less than friendly now, and a hot beverage makes for a pleasant interlude. Thank you also for the interest & kindness you’ve conveyed on Zoom. Are you living in NYS?

  10. slaterunjohn says:

    Most interesting post, Walt, I sure can relate!

  11. loydtruss says:

    I like the Northeast through all the seasons except winter, which is my least favorite. Awesome, images, thanks for sharing

  12. Our friend UB (Marion) had trouble getting through to this post, so I decided to copy & paste his email here because it’s always good to hear how things are going both in Michigan & in Slate Run. Here goes: “We dodged the snow bullet on this one. It went south of MI and dove down into Tennessee and Kentucky before heading up your way. I’m not complaining. We have snow on the ground and a bit of ice on the hill portion of the driveway. However this did not seem to be a problem for the propane company delivering 480 some gallons (it’s a 1000 gallon tank… a whole other story) last Saturday thankfully. Your ‘bottle collection’ seems to be coming along. I have one just like that if that’s the 375ml bottle. You really live in a gorgeous place there RTR. Very pretty and while the snow is a workout and taxing, it is beautiful! I’ve got to look into acquiring a copy of that Theodore Gordon book! That tie looks exquisite! I had tied the Catskill style of the Quill Gordon years ago but have since morphed the pattern into a parachute style. Caught a very nice brown up in the Dungle (or is it called the Dunkle?) hole there on Slate almost 10 years ago on the Catskill version. Whittling away at cleaning up the tying den still. Gotta make more progress as I need to do some tying! Stay warm guys! UB”

    • Thanks much, UB! I hope your server gets things figured out. Till then there’s always an email transfer… Maybe it’s just as well you didn’t get all this snow. Your driveway would have been an adventure! As for the Q. G., I too tie it mostly via parachute, but the Catskill is traditional & very pretty. Yeah, the Dunkle Hole on Slate. Someday I’d like to figure out who or what Dunkle was!

  13. alex55manta says:

    It would be nice to know hole the holes got named that aren’t obviously named (like the Old Hickory Hole…. as the Old Hickory camp is just up the mountain from it). Wonder if Dunkle was someone before the timbering or during or after? It’s fun to ponder such. UB

  14. tiostib says:

    Thank you, always a pleasure to travel with your word stories. This one awakens memories of my own previous winter wanderings through a blanketed white wilderness world.

  15. JZ says:

    Yeh, then came the snow. It’s all good contemplating and planning this years outings. There will be better days ahead for all anglers, though December 29th yielded my biggest fish of the year on Penns. My Brookies will weather out the cold and the snowpack to the bewilderment of all anglers. They like all fish show what toughness is all about against all odds that are stacked against them.
    So sip your whiskey and drink you IPA’s, better days are ahead while sit over the vise tying flys. Semper Fi 😊

  16. Good advice for the vise there, JZ, and glad you got out for a good one at the year’s end. This past month has offered no angling ops for me in NY, but my thoughts still go out to those tough old brookies underneath the ice & to all those who dream about them in the days to come.

  17. Jet Eliot says:

    A wonderful path you lead us on here, Walt, with your much-loved Genesee, the skunk cabbage and Theodore Gordon. Then voila we get to the end and see the snow came in a big way. I enjoyed the countryside winter photos, and as always, your eloquent words.

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