Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trains and Trout

The piercing screech of steel wheels rolling down steel tracks fills the valley every 25 minutes or so nearly drowning out the rushing water of the Little Juniata. The red, yellow and and white cars pulled by the Norfolk Southern engines zip by, their reflection coloring the clear waters of one Pennsylvania’s best trout streams.

Trains disrupt solitude on the Little J. By mid-June the sulphur hatches are history and most anglers are headed to other rivers. After walking downstream from the town of Spruce Creek I’ve only seen two other anglers, and they headed downstream out of sight. I fished along the Espy Farm stretch. Espy Farm is part of the Spring Ridge Club, which is more than a little notorious in fly fishing circles. Spring Ridge unsuccessfully tried to close this stretch of the Little J to public access. Its business model is to offer “private fishing” on what has been historically public waters. While I can understand their stated goals of conservation. But as Aldo Leopold said, Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. Spring Ridge has created plenty of disharmony while trying to conserve. I don’t begrudge the people of Spring Ridge their rights, I just wish they’d find a way to balance them with public’s right to enjoy public waters. I like fishing in the shadow of the farm. I like reminding the owners that it is our water too. And it is a beautiful spot that doesn’t require a long hike. And this evening I am eager to be fishing, not walking. I’ve been on the road nearly five hours. I worked the phone most of the trip and it’s time to let the waters wash away all thoughts of work.

Sporadic hatches of cahills and slate drakes brought a few trout to the surface and I was able to entice them with the imitations I had picked up from Spruce Creek Outfitters. Allan Bright knows his stuff and it’s always worth stopping in to say hello when fishing the Little J. It has been at least a year since I had anything resembling success on dry flies. Sadly dark came before I was ready to shut it down. I walked back upstream, carefully using my wading staff to keep my balance on limestone shelves and rocky bottom.

Another train roared by. I’d dream that night of trains and trout.

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