Lost Horizons and Limestone Memories

Big Spring…as it was

My friend Mike Saylor sent me a text message the other night. He was cheerily reporting catching seven wild brown trout on a central Pennsylvania limestone stream earlier that day. “I got up to Schoolhouse Pool and had just sat down on the bench when trout started to rise” he related. The blue-winged olive hatch used to be a regular winter occurance for he and I. I was glad to hear that he had a great time.

A February Olive on a Falling Spring snow bank

I do miss fishing throughout the winter, though in truth many of my old favorite limestone waters declined a great deal over the past decade. Somehow fishing pressure and angler interest increased, yet the focus on conservation didn’t keep pace.

Mike was fishing a small limestoner that was once my favorite dry fly stream, a place I wrote about dozens of time in my newspaper column, but never named. It was small water and couldn’t take the publicity and continue to be a healthy, productive fishery. Sadly the pressure increased anyway and it got to the point that the place would be crowded on a Monday in the middle of winter. I curtailed my visits at that point.

I was pleased to hear a couple of years ago that the rush had quieted somewhat, and Mike’s fine afternoon of dry fly fishing showed that the quality of the fishery has improved.

I see angler’s crowding everywhere these days, fishing on top of one another. I’ve wondered sometimes if people were giving out free money at those pools. I don’t know if a lot of those fishermen are simply inexperienced and believe they have to follow others to find a place where trout live or not. I have never been one to seek out the busy parking lots and crowded pools, whether I knew that river or not.

I admit I am old school. I like a little solitude, even when fishing with friends. Years ago my friend Tom Botlock and I would often go fishing together. We would drive up and share stories and ideas along the way, but when we rigged up along the river we would head off in opposite directions. Most of the time we wouldn’t see each other until we met back at the car at evening. We shared the day’s adventures on the ride home. We both thoroughly enjoyed those trips.

I like wading in solitude, stalking trout at my own pace, while taking notice of the next rise upstream to plan the next stalk, perhaps minutes, perhaps hours later.

I am getting to like fishing in my drift boat. I generally take one friend along, alternating turns as we find rising fish. On the best days, when there aren’t many boats on the same reach of river, it can be a little like two man solitude.

Fishing through the winter here in the Catskills does offer solitude. Most of the time I don’t have to share the water with anyone except an eagle or two. I wouldn’t mind sharing it with a feeding trout though.

A Winter’s Day on Spring Creek
Photo courtesy Andrew Boryan

The sun is out this afternoon, but the wind has a real bite at 25 degrees. There is hope for a warming trend for the weekend, and the rivers have dropped during the past few days. Some sunshine, warmer air and shallower water has me thinking about a tug on the end of my line…

My friend’s text message found me nearly ready to toss my gear in the Jeep and head south with a box of blue winged olives. I know just the right size and shade of color those brown trout like down there, but there are things to do up here. I do wish that dry fly fishing was one of them.

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