The fog eerily hung over the stream and the humidity felt like it was adding years and weight to my body with each breath. Each step required attention. Thankfully coffee and the excitement of fishing a great stream focused my thoughts in the early morning light. Light rain added to the ambiance and blurred my vision like I was wearing well-used goggles in a pool. Long shallow pools with intermittent patches of aquatic grasses were broken by steep limestone ridges and boulder strewn riffles.
My first step into the stream was along a long, slow run. I strategically worked my casts along seams of flow adjacent to weed beds and large rocks with no success. Moving upstream, I positioned myself to cast in the downstream edge of a steep riffle feature. I switched out the anchor fly to a green weenie after hanging up on the bottom repeatedly with a heavier bead head nymph. The first several casts kept pace with the bubbles on the surface. Knowing I had to improve my drifts, I focused on completing good tuck casts.
The adjustment of the cast drove the flies into the water and helped the flies drift naturally. A flash of gold and the sighter stopped. A quick lift of the rod and I felt success. A brown trout with a yellow belly and deep brown dorsal stripe hit the green weenie. It was a stunning fish. After releasing the fish, I took a deep breath and took in the beauty of the setting. A freshness and sense of the fullness of life filled me with my inhale.
The water type or combination of depth and velocity produced fish throughout the rest of the morning. My time on the water was equally refreshing and challenging. I was able to focus and relax, clearing my mind and letting nature wash over me.
Central Pennsylvania is a special place for trout fishing. The unique geological setting and climate combine to create multiple stream valleys with cold, high-nutrient water. This morning I had the chance to get back to the area. Much needed rain fell across the region last night, moderately spiking flows in several of the streams. As I was fishing, the rain subsided for a bit, leaving that unmistakable after-rain smell. To me, it smells life affirming, a promise of care and well-being, of nourishment.
Sitting on the front porch describing my morning of fishing to my wife and in-laws, the rain began to fall again. Unprompted, my mother-in-law asked me if I knew the word that describes the smell of rain and stated that it was one of her favorite smells. Her story brought me back to catching the first fish of the day. Petrichor is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. I had to look it up. But it seems fitting that moments like the scent of a refreshing rain should be described by its own word. I will not forget this morning anytime soon and will always appreciate petrichor.