The transition of tires on gravel normally indicates I am pulling off pavement into a parking area for fishing. I now love that sound, it’s my first step in the process of walking to the water. This weekend, I traveled to Northern Pennsylvania for a camping and fishing trip with my friend Andy. The campground was miles within the National Forest and navigating there required 45 minutes of travel on narrow, gravel roads. My dependance on my phone for getting nearly anywhere leaves my “city kid” self a bit vulnerable to getting lost when I lose a cell signal. Downloading maps of the area days before the trip helped me to find my way to the camp. Once a signal was lost, the sound of gravel wasn’t as relaxing as usual.  

Class A brook trout streams are ubiquitous in Northern Pennsylvania. The forests are remote, with long stretches of gravel logging roads. The area is given more attention in the winter when snow mobile enthusiasts enjoy the many trails. In Spring, far fewer people explore the area, likely due to lingering cold temperatures and the chances for high water and muddy roads. Solitude is easy to find in this region of the state this time of year. 

Arriving at the camp, Andy greeted me with a welcoming smile and told me he woke up to a frigid 21-degree morning and was still thawing out himself. He suggested we take our time to set up at the camp before heading to the stream, allowing the air and water to warm. I explored the area around the camp and was invigorated by the beauty of the steep forested mountain valley with a hemlock riparian floodplain and babbling headwater streams funneling cold water to the creek.  

The Author Fishing for Brook Trout – Photo Credit Andy Becker

All week I was looking forward to fishing with dry flies, as I had not been able to catch a fish during a hatch or on the water surface yet this year. While rigging up my small stream rod, Andy showed me the immaculate flies he had tied for the trip. Graciously, he gave me several flies to start my day. Each parachute was perfectly hackled with precisely replicated proportions. Looking into his fly boxes was like inspecting a curated Instagram post of the most skilled fly tiers. 

We made our way downstream through the may apple covered floodplains, avoiding the fallen trees (some appeared felled for habitat restoration) that blocked the deer trails. Following Andy’s lead, we worked out a system to fish together without spooking upstream fish.

A chill was still in the air for the first hour of drifts we made with our dry flies. Strikes were few and far between until the air warmed enough to make the knit hat and hoody uncomfortably warm to wear. Near noon, the interest of the fish in our flies intensified. The strikes became aggressive and startling. At first, my reflexes were not adapted to the rapid, subtle responses needed to set the hook. On my first hook set, my nerves were wound up and I launched the small fish attached to my fly over my head into the stream downstream. I was a little embarrassed by my over-aggression. 

Andy searching pocket water for a rise.

“You know what I really love about brook trout?” Andy inquired, normalizing my red-faced embarrassment. 

 “Native? Beauty?” I replied with the first things to come to mind.

“They take the fly with unmatched enthusiasm.”

 “That they do. And I seem to set the hook with an oversized level of aggression.”

Raising the rod to aid gathering line quickly – Photo Credit Andy Becker

The remainder of the day we worked upstream, alternating fishing, and catching lots of stunning trout. Each newly discovered reach produced more explosive takes than the last. Variations of features in the stream and remnants of past human activities lead us to question what may have gone on here before. Logging? Mining? Tanneries? I decided to spend some time in the future researching the area.

I found the company of a friend on the river helped me to stay out of my head, relax, learn, and enjoy myself. When I hung a fly in a tree or badly missed a cast, our conversations and company prevented me from dwelling on my mistakes. The fun and satisfaction of a great day built as the minutes passed. 

Andy’s comment about enthusiasm stayed with me throughout the trip. What if I faced challenges with unmatched enthusiasm?

Each brook trout living in this remote stream has not been conditioned into jaded reluctance. Their lack of caution is relative to their need to make the most of each opportunity. In their case, they pursue food. In my case it may be for meeting new people or trying new things. 

Maybe I should be more like the brook trout. Maybe we all could benefit from unmatched enthusiasm?

Keep mending…

Photo Credit – Andy Becker

One Reply to “A Fish with Unmatched Enthusiasm ”

  1. Because of my lack of getting things done in a timely fashion, I read your last blog before this one!
    Ah, more about your friend, Andy! A good match for your fishing trips!
    I am encouraged by how many good fishing places you visit! All enjoyable and all appreciated by others! And kept in relatively good shape!
    Truly a gift to us all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *