These frigid nights have me dreaming of warm spring afternoons along a trout stream. The sound of the crickets and peepers bringing the evening world awake, the earthy smell of the rich brown soil, and the feel of warm rain, are all yearned for. And, while we'll be encased by snow and ice for another six weeks or so, I can recall some warmth from ten months prior.
One of my favorite memories from last year had to be our late April trip to Poe Valley State Park in Bald Eagle State Forest. Poe Lake is nestled in a deep valley between two high ridges, nearly nine miles from the nearest paved road. It's a fun adventure just driving there. We were a party of five that day, with my nephew Jace joining our hunt for some trout. We saw deer and turkey on the drive into the park, and when we arrived, we spent some time playing around the new beach and playground. Poe Valley recently upgraded their facilities, and it really is a gem in the mountains. The lake is stocked with trout, as is the small stream that flows out of the spillway. I've had success fishing the lake, but I never spent too much time on the stream, which recedes to a trickle mid summer.
It was rather windy on the lake that day. And, the casting was difficult. With three boys Kindergarten and below, it was not an ideal situation. I was probably doing more hook management than proper lure placement in the deep lake waters, so we headed toward the much more appealing forested stream, which had plenty of logs to clamor over, waterfalls to throw rocks into, and oh yeah, trout to catch. What I failed to realize in the beginning of our adventure, was that the Big Poe Creek would provide a much better fit. Shelter from the wind and smaller water played into our skill set quite well. For a long time, the fish didn't cooperate, even though we could see schools of them lazing about in the translucent long, shallow pools.
Jace, try as he might, could not convince some of the lunker browns and brooks to snap at his silver phoebe, but he kept at it, and I couldn't help but admire his diligence. I perched for a bit with Quinn on a beautiful old moss covered tree which had long since fallen across the stream, making a perfect bridge, albeit slippery, so we crawled along instead of standing up. Kale tried his hand at a few holes below the logjams, and eventually even tried tossing visible speckled fish a few wax worms to entice them to the surface. Nothing seemed to be working.
We enjoyed the scene as it was, and as we walked, hopped, and skipped through the Tolkien-like woodlands, I kept an eye out for a good run which might be harboring some orange bellied dynamos. Somehow, I had missed a nice little riffle, for we had unknowingly walked by it entirely the first time through. Now, I double backed with Jace and Kale, and perched them one at a time on a piece of limestone that stood like an island mid stream. From it, they could cast their lines a few feet forward and allow the water to do all the work of the presentation. Based on the way the day had gone, I wasn't expecting much, but figured it was worth a shot as I patiently explained to my two doubters that although the water was shallow, it was fast, and there is nothing an old brookie likes more than to sit along the gravel at the edge of a riffle and dart in and out of the current to snatch whatever fishy morsels might float by.
Jace's line dropped in first, and just as the monofilament curled along the heart of the run, a foot long char smashed it and leaped high from the water while Jace battled him to shore. We dropped the chubby prize into the old wicker creel. Next it was Kale's turn to roll the dice. Fortunately, we delivered a nearly identical cast to the previous one, and although the water had been an uproar of commotion just minutes earlier, an unperturbed colorful brook trout swallowed the worm and dug deep into the bank sending Kale's drag screaming. Boy was it fun to watch him land the flipping trout along the bank, and I clawed at it like a incompetent carnivore just to get it into the basket, which I was finally able to do. After a few more shots with Jace, we called it a day, and excitedly we hiked out to share our good fortune with Aunt Bek and little Quinn-who was already napping in the backseat. Perhaps, the most rewarding catch of the day was not the fine trout we had in our possession, but rather the terrific photo Bek had taken that framed our day quite beautifully.