Back to Basics

I’m late posting anything about my recent expeditions but I had an exceptional one a few weeks ago that I thought I’d share. With all the international turmoil in the world, all our domestic troubles surrounding the presidency and even my own pressing book events, it was good to lie down and sleep on a stream bank listening to the night birds, frogs and crickets – who sometimes make the most sense of all.

I woke at dawn and stalked carefully with my pole along a deep pool of the stream, looking for large fish that might have become isolated in the few pools remaining during this low-water period. I normally use no reel these days, just a short line tied to the end of a ten-foot pole. In the pursuit of simplicity, this can’t be beat. But simple or not, the fish refused my early offerings and I was soon back on the stream bank with the zip stove churning out its rising cloud – breakfast time and coffee too.

I did find fish eventually though – in a deep pool which I believe has a rare coldwater upwelling at the bottom. It seemed that all the fish in Bull Creek were here today. But it didn’t take long for them to figure out my game and become suspicious. Funny too that I seldom lose a hooked fish while using the pole – the fight just requires a little more energy on my part.

Most of the afternoon was spent on a tributary of the main stream – a brook I’ve eyed on the maps as perhaps the most isolated water in Allegheny County. The low end was a dry rock bed but a hundred yards or so above the mouth, I began to find pools and then flowing water – pure, cold spring water, still flowing in July. This was almost a magical valley within my very urban county – full of conifers, hummingbirds, rare minnows and some incredible fossils. Not the kind of place I’d be eager to pinpoint for others on the map but there for the finding by any intrepid explorer.

So, maybe all this is said as encouragement to keep on exploring – you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve stayed at home!

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