With ice flows coming down the river, freezing up currents and slowing down time, my thoughts are turning to the upcoming year and what my focus will be. I've decided that I'm going to go native this year.
Last year, my goal was to get out as much as possible and to finally figure out the motions and philosophy of fly-fishing. This year, it's going to be brookies. Brook trout are native to Pennsylvania and though usually smaller than the 'bows and browns you'll find in this area, I tend to think they are much more beautiful and detailed. Plus, the fight these little wild ones put up is a ton of fun on a 3 weight.
I'm also a firm believer that fishing for these natives pushes me to become a better fly fisherman. You have to be silent, observant, and make every cast count when your trying to land one of these beauties. Much like the blue halos that speckle across a brook trout, every movement and cast becomes magnified when fishing for them. Therefore, I hope to learn from these fellas. I'm excited to see what they can teach me about being an angler and a student of place and wildness.
That said, I'm not going to just fish for brookies. In end end, I think we too easily get caught up in the names and types of fish - wild, native, stocked, etc - and forget that the real pursuit of this is to get out there and fish. Catching trout on a fly rod is a heckuva lot of fun, no matter their heritage and lineage.
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.