Oftentimes in the middle of the winter, when I'm feeling cooped up from the cold and drained from constant interaction with my students, I begin daydreaming and plotting where I'll go over my summer vacation. A lot of those ideas and plans fall through or get pushed aside for others. This one stuck and turned out to be a great time for reflection, rejuvenation, and landing beautiful fish.
My grand plan was to spend a week camping and fly fishing in and around Potter County. The Wilds of PA, God's Country. There were quite a few streams I wanted to check out so I chose two camping spots as my home base - Little Pine State Park and Ole Bull State Park. These would put me in the Pine Creek and Kettle Creek Watersheds respectively.
I spent the most of the week at Little Pine State Park. I fished Pine Creek proper and landed some beautiful browns and some beat up rainbows (all on really small prince nymphs). I spent another few days exploring some of Pine's great tribs (Slate, Cedar, etc) and some other watersheds that run parallel to Pine through Sproul State Forest. Slate Run is a crazy stream. I drove way back Slate Run Rd. to access the stream and successfully freaked myself out after a few hours of slipping on the slate-like rocks and convincing myself I was hearing Rattlers around every bend and branch. It's streamside is covered with high grass and ferns. Beautiful to look at, but creepy to walk through when your by yourself in the middle of rattler country and far from anyone or anything. It's good to be humbled by nature on a regular basis. The only downside to fishing alone is that there is always a small voice in the back of your head reminding you that if you were to fall, get bitten, etc, no one would likely find you for a few days. Eh, it's worth it though.
After a few days in the Pine Creek valley, I packed up and moved on over to Ole Bull - up and over the next set of mountains and into the Kettle Creek Watershed. Unfortunately, due to a few days of downpour, I only got to fish Kettle Creek and missed a few gems that I really wanted to get to. I landed quite a few beautiful browns in the FFO section of Kettle Creek and even got a few to take a wicked small grifffith's gnat. I'm hoping to make this an annual thing and to make it back up to Ole Bull sooner rather than later. Having explored new water the entire trip, I quickly realized how much I had to realize on my instinct to find fish. This, in turn, showed me that I actually have learned quite a bit over the past year or two since fly fishing has become something I do quite frequently.
A few random non-fishing thoughts - it was really great to get away by myself for a few days and to let things settle. I end up spending a lot of time alone anyway simply because of what I enjoy doing - fly fishing, biking, etc - but this was different. Most days I barely interacted with more than two people and probably only said a total of a few sentences. It was nice to get away from the ego a bit, to wake up and have nothing to do but explore remote streams and try new water, to get of routines and to get back into just being. It's all pretty simple, really - just be.
My soundtrack for the week of solitude and fly fishing including a lot of Steve Gunn. Love this guy's music. His album Time Off is actually what got me into the Dead a couple of years ago.
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.