Brookies and Beavers and Snakes, Oh My!

Brook trout are one of the most elemental components of the story I’m telling in The Dying Fish. I simply wouldn’t have a book called The Dying Fish if not for brook trout. Paradoxically, it’s a book about the threats to their perpetuation and, at the same time, it’s a story about resilience, about a fish that continues to exist, and sometimes thrive, in places too degraded for much of any fish to persist. The book moves on into other unexplored regions, but it starts and ends with brook trout.


Susan and I took our first little bike trip of the spring season Sunday just to get away from the city and breathe a little. We chose the Ghost Town Trail, one of the plethora of rail trails that have emerged in the last decade in western Pennsylvania. Actually, the rail trails are better counted in terms of miles, and this tally still rises year after year. Soon Pittsburgh will be a nexus for hundreds of miles of trail, enabling cyclists to perhaps bike from Lake Erie to Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. or from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Altoona or a hundred other spurs. Right now it’s almost possible to bike from Interstate 80 along the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh and south to Washington D.C.

We might have pedaled on much further but we kept spotting things that needed to be investigated and photographed and so we came back to the car having covered a grand total of 15 miles. Not a touring – class adventure, but a good warm-up for the cycling season that lies ahead.

My forthcoming book is about brook trout – the fish found in the cleanest waters of high mountain cascades. And yesterday, along a current seam of the orange acid mine drainage stained Blacklick Creek, I caught a beautiful native specimen, feeding in a place she shouldn’t have been able to tolerate.

All of the following pictures were taken along Blacklick Creek, a river drainage that I would pick as one of Pennsylvania’s most degraded by mining activity. It’s a vibrant ecological community today though.

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