A Trout in the Milk

“Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

H.D. Thoreau

On April 15th Leighanne and I drove south from the wintry residues of western New York for a weekend in the Pittsburgh environs and then onward for a week in central Virginia. Away from home, the fresh spring season came alive as vibrantly as a trout dunked momentarily into a stream of cold fresh milk.

“one of the forgotten classics of rock and roll history”

I am not advocating an experiment whereby hatchery trout, or any kind of fish, are allowed to swim outside of their natural waters. I’m merely suggesting that “circumstantial evidence is very strong” at times, as in this case where a season is most welcoming. En route to Virginia we drove through the mountains of western Maryland and West Virginia in an unanticipated “nor’easter” for about eight hours when the trip, under normal weather conditions, should have taken only half that time. Unlike hundreds of other unprepared travelers, we came through relatively unscathed, and thankful for the southern warmth and bright blue sky.

from Pittsburgh to Ohiopyle State Park…
Youghiogheny River…

Another trout in the milk, for me, has been more like a piranha in the bloodstream. Several months ago, I suffered a physical injury that limits my ability, for now, to walk long distances or even to wade a favorite stream, so I felt lucky to have strolled a bit of the southern trails and have had a measure of success while casting a dry fly to the river denizens.

kayak sans kayaker…

To find words for my experiences I look to the seed syllables of language– to the wind and water and the birds– to communicate and share the joy and pain. The seed syllables can be sourced, as well, in the plants and animals and landforms of our place in the world. We may feel their impulse and respond with the equivalent of a field note, i.e., “Saw a kayak turned topsy-turvy in the rapids.” Later, the field note can develop the full reflection of an experience: “From the high bridge spanning the Youghiogheny River (aka “the Yawk”), the stranded kayak seemed to shimmy like a rainbow trout.”

Cucumber Falls
Meadow Run (a misnomer), a trout stream that’s more pastoral farther up…

The poet or the naturalist-at-heart transcribes a little corner of the world to help share its beauty or significance with others. Thus, we find our place in Nature and suggest its variability as we build an art form or develop a sense of peace or solitude or hope. Why not? We could do worse than mirror our relationships with the non-human world or that deeper place anchored in the overlap of civilization and the wild.

wild brooks were fairly numerous
a nice brown… unfortunately, a camera breakdown has precluded my use of rainbow trout photos taken in the lowlands, and of pictures snapped from Skyline Drive…

The writer William Stafford once said that “Poetry is something everyone is caught up in, early (as in childhood), and a few keep on doing.” The pursuit of poetry or music and the arts in general can help overcome the fragmentation of our specialized, adult lives. One need not be an artist to appreciate the work that artists do, nor be a fisherman to recognize a good trout finning in the milk.


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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24 Responses to A Trout in the Milk

  1. Brent says:

    You managed to salvage some memorable experiences from your trip, trout in the milk or not (and at least some were firmly in water!). I’ll have to give you a call later to see how things have gone.

    • Yes, “salvage” in the sense of rescuing a capsized kayak which, I presume, was regained. Despite the roughness after leaving your location, we did okay, thanks to better weather down the road.

  2. UB says:

    As a young man I rafted twice, the Youghiogheny, with fellow bandmates and friends. Camped and ate pancakes for breakfast is another memory that comes to mind. Wow, a lifetime ago. I wasn’t fly fishing back then, but I suspected, if not knew, that there must of been trout in that stream/river. Some great pictures, as always, and nice scenes and fish! Spring is slowly clawing its way forward I guess. It’s 43° here at 8:15am on the 29th! Thanks for sharing another great post! UB

    • Thanks, UB, for the update & the memories from the mighty “Yawk.” The area in & around the river’s Ohiopyle State Park offers some excellent outdoor opportunities, including a pursuit of trout.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    I hope you’re step by step closer to shaking off your injury, Walt. Frustrating, however temporarily, to be unable to fully pursue your passions.
    In a topsy-turvy world, it’s always a delight to read your reflective pieces, remember to slow down and appreciate the places where we find ourselves. (I like the look of the land where you visited, not so very far from where my brother lives; it’s an attractive and distinct environment!)
    Fingers crossed that you’ll be wading with abandon soon!

    • Thank you much, Adam. I’m glad the lay out of the land here rings a bell for you. And yeah, it’s frustrating being suddenly limited & in limbo as I wait for answers. Getting old is not a game for sissies, surely, so I try to tough it out & go with Mother Nature as she lays down the route for all of us. I’ll take your advice, as always, and keep the fingers crossed.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Nice way to start my day reading your post Walt. Hope everything in world is good and i’m sure your appreciative of everything you have and can do. Your journies touch the soul and speak of incredible places off a beaten path. take care my friend

  5. babsje says:

    Wonderful walk down memory lane for me – I hadn’t thought of Ohiopyle and the Yawk since leaving southwestern PA for university decades ago. I hope your injury improves without complications and that you’ll be walking better soon, and not just in a memory lane sort of way. Also, great looking Trout photo!

    • Thanks babsje! Happy that I could spur a stroll down memory lane for you. Ohiopyle is a pretty cool place & I’m sure I’ll learn more about it in future days. I thought of you & your love for the great blue herons when I watched these amazing fisher birds on the recent trip.

  6. Another fine piece of writing. I must say, never heard that particular Thoreau quote.

  7. Hi. I hope you recover quickly from the injury. And, by the way, I never expected to see a Beefheart album cover in WordPress.

    • Thanks Neil, and glad you noticed the good Captain’s album cover here. I never expected to place such a thing, but whimsy has its ways. I’ve still got all the Magic Band albums, in vinyl!

  8. tiostib says:

    Seed syllables, a delightful thought to ponder on my morning walk through a new Spring. Thank you!

  9. Jet Eliot says:

    I soaked up your lovely words and reverence for nature, Walt, and enjoyed hearing about your road trip. Best of luck in healing, my friend, ohhhh there is nothing like mobility, eh?

  10. No, there’s nothing like mobility for helping us get around. Thanks for the kind words & wishes, Jet!

  11. Bob Stanton says:

    So sorry to hear about your injury, Walt. I’ve been dealing with some stuff myself. This getting older stuff isn’t for sissies. Haven’t been on the water much, it’s been less than ideal circumstances weather and water level-wise. Hopefully we will both be in better shape to do some serious bushwhacking and trout chasing soon.

    • Oh, the travails of an advancing age! Sorry to hear you’ve been also dealing with difficulties of an unusual nature, Bob. Hopefully you are still getting out there when you want. I agree that the season has been less than ideal so far. If I can get back into walking mode soon, we’ll have to plan on meeting on the water once again. That would be uplifting, something I look forward to.

  12. Ross says:

    Ohiopyle State Park looks like a nice place to explore. Glad you were able to get out and to catch some nice ones, despite your injury Walt. The pictures of running water, flora and fin are all great images of our coming spring and good weather. Must be something going around; I too have been dealing with some physical challenges myself that limit my wanderings. A couple of planned surgeries coming up will have me back up out again.

    • Always good to hear from you, Ross. It sounds like we may be floundering around in similar boats, and I wish you the best in your repairs! Will hope to see you again before too long.

  13. loydtruss says:

    Sorry to hear of your mishap, hope you recover soon in the meantime keep us inspired with posts like this one. Great read—thanks for sharing

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