Waking up in a fog
of early morning rain
amid the leftover smoke
from last night's fire,
Where will I fish today?
When I first arrived at the stream this morning there were already two cars parked. Being a wild trout stream that gets stocked, I usually don't see anyone on it after the first few weeks of opening day, so I was a bit surprised and had an "Ah, man" moment. Do I stay and fish behind these guys or go somewhere else and do some exploring? It had rained all morning and the clouds coming up over the next hill seemed to want to tell the same story as their fellas that ran through in the morning, so I decided to stay and see what I could conjure up.
I walked a bit upstream through tall grass weighed down with fresh rain until I came up on a nice, deep hole. With my third cast, I brought to hand a wild brown. Then, another, and another. It went like that for a good hour as I worked my way upstream. Every hole, riffle, and eddy I fished gave up at least one fish. I eventually ran into to the guys that had gotten here in the rain and realized why I was doing so well; they were both fishing with spin rods while I had been nymphing low and deep. We were fishing the water differently.
And that's how the day went. I stopped trying to keep count after 20 and fished through many small spurts of rain showers. The water was a bit high and murky and the wild browns were keyed in on my prince nymph hung off of a greenie weenie. It turned out to be one of the best days of fishing I've had this year. If I had let those two cars dissuade me earlier in the day, I would have missed out on some awesome fishing. I'm glad I didn't let another fisherman tell my story.
I was recently asked to describe who had an impact on my life as a "naturalist" and lover of the outdoors and chose Gary Snyder. An excerpt of this piece ran in this article in the local paper. Below is the full piece.
Having grown up in a family that didn’t really venture into the outdoors and only ever being a very part-time Boy Scout, I was left without much of an environmental ethic until high school when I came across Gary Snyder. I first heard of him as Japhy Ryder in Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums which led me to his book of poetry Turtle Island and eventually The Gary Snyder Reader, an anthology that has followed me to college, up to Maine, across to the California coast, up into the rockies, and still sits on my bedstand here in Marietta. His poetry about being in the mountains and wildness spoke to me as a teenager living out his adolescent flailings in suburbia. I latched onto his sparse, beautiful aesthetic and quickly took on his views of the importance of place. This ethic that place and how we interact with it has the ability to define us has shaped who I am today.
His poems like “For the Children”, “Riprap”, and “I Went Into the Maverick Bar” have all acted as a soundtrack to my life at different points. His writing taught me not only to protect and care for our resources, but also to find beauty and connection with them. Thanks to Snyder, I was put both on a literary path through the likes of Ed Abbey, Jim Harrison, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Han Shan, Li Po, and Rick Bass and a lifelong path of writing, trail work and environmental education, and now as a catch and release fly fisherman and steward of our coldwater resources. Thanks to him I was given the chance to create my own set of environmental ethics and was able to create my own path through place and wildness.
I stumbled upon the name "Raftman's Path" walking the river trail that traverses through the little town I live in. It was named during the days when lumber was a huge commodity in this area. The Susquehanna River was an industrial thoroughfare - bearing down loads of lumber from the northern reaches of Pennsylvania towards the Chesapeake. Marietta was a stopping point, a place for the lumber either to go to the mills lining its banks or shoot further downstream through pig iron smoke. Raftmen would guide the lumber down to the mouth of the Susquehanna into the Chesapeake - an estuary of salt, water, lumber, ore, eel and shad. When their job was done, they would walk the raftman's path back through the Susquehanna Riverlands of Lancaster County towards their homes. The path is now wooded and meanders through some of the only "wild" places left in the county.