A little while ago I headed to a small stream in my little corner of the world (Southwestern Pennsylvania). This brook is a vassal stream of the mighty Youghiogheny River. The Youghiogheny or Yough (pronounced Yock) begins in West Virgina then flows north through western Maryland and continues northwesterly to join the Monongahela River southwest of Pittsburgh. It is generally believed that the Yough got its name from a native American term meaning “A Stream which flows in a contrary direction”. I think that’s a great name for a river – and I can relate to it, as I often feel like I’m traveling in a contrary direction compared to those around me.
So I parked in the lot, grabbed my stuff, 11-ft Tenkara USA Iwana, small fishing waist pack, larger pack for lunch and coffee thermos, and headed off down the trail full of expectations. The air was filled with the scent of pine and fallen leaves, so different than the suburbs. Often I exit my house to be confronted by a smell like burning brakes. I think this is from the steel plant over the hill – but I can’t be positive. Smells are so integral to our experience and so evocative and yet so often overlooked when we consider our experiences. When I think of the time that I lived in Maine I think of two smells – the sweet, astringent aroma of balsam and the slightly corrupted smell of ocean aerosols and lowtides. Other smells evoke other times and places.
Eventually I could hear the stream off to my right and down in a small valley. I could hear it but it was totally obscured by hopelessly, monstrously tangled rhododendron – the kind of rhododendron thicket that has you crawling on your hands and knees, praying that the snakes and bears are indeed more scared of you than you are of them. It was going to be tough fishing. The first bridge crossing that I came to revealed two anglers wading midstream – well that’s one way to tackle the brush I guess – but I hate to wade these types of streams at any time and especially in the fall, you know spawning trout and all. I don’t want to sound too judgemental and high-minded on this point though as some may question whether I should have been fishing at all at this time of the year – well that is a fair question, and frankly I have mixed feelings. I don’t do it so very often and I figure my impact is pretty small in the grand scheme – but nonetheless…at least I was not trampling all through the stream (maybe just a rationalization on my part). So with this section of the stream accounted for I moved on upstream to give the others some room.
Finally I found a few openings that I could navigate a bit easier. Now came the challenge – casting an 11-ft rod in tight brush. Easier said than done. Approaching the stream close enough to cast was a clumsy, crawling, scrambling over things, affair. Finally getting to the stream side I had no confidence that I didn’t spook every fish within 50 feet. So I would sort of weave the rod out over the stream and using a bow-and-arrow cast send the fly to the water (hopefully). Success was not forthcoming. I’m pretty sure that snagging the low-hanging branches and the subsequent shaking to free the fly was not helping in the stealth department. As expected this was tough going but fun anyway.
A little further on I finally found a spot where the stream spilled into a “large” pool and the canopy opened enough to allow a short-stroked side-arm cast of sorts. Still not easy but better. Crawling up to the stream and casting I finally found success on a size 14 Parachute Adams – a beautiful resplendent male brookie in full fall array. That’s what it’s all about. Certainly not the largest trout I’ve caught – but ranking right up there on the satisfaction scale.
The celebration didn’t last long. Somewhere in the landing of the fish I managed to snap the second segment of the tenkara rod. Kneeling down I had laid the rod across my thighs and, I think, my elbow came down on the rod to break it. Total user error – I want to make clear – not equipment failure. So that was the little bit of fishing that I was allowed that day, oh well it was a nice spot to sit for lunch anyway. As a footnote Tenkara USA has an easy system for getting the rod repaired. You can order the replacement parts online (for a very small fee), and so within a few days I was back in business for a lot less $$ and time than many other rod warranty deals, which usually require you to send the rod back.