"That was fun."

Sometimes you have to sneak up on those Pennsylvania native brookies. Bradford County, Pa. Photo by Paula Piatt


By Paula Piatt

We all have our special places. Whether it’s a farm pond where you caught frogs as a kid, a favorite tree stand for deer season, or a trickle of a trout stream where you know the hiding places of most of the brookies.

It’s important that we visit those places, and that we visit them often. We need to reconnect with “special” every once in a while so we remember what it is and why we need to protect it.

But if you want to get a real look into “special,” to find out what that really means, visit another person’s special place with them. And then just watch what happens.

“It’s hard to believe that I’ve fished this stream for 40 years. Maybe 45 years.”

As we drove the game lands road, it started to come back to me, but not nearly as much as it did Steve. He still knew every twist and turn, pointing out the shed that “used to be there,” or the portion of the stream “just over the bank.”

It had been a while since we’d covered these roads, but it seemed like just yesterday. I’d been coming here off and on for 25 years, but Steve had traveled these roads long before we were married; long before he introduced me to the Great Outdoors.

The huckleberries still grew along the side of the road and you still crossed the many tributaries, some only as wide as a sluice pipe.

Leaving the truck, we made our way through the woods to our on-stream starting point. I instantly relied on Steve, for even though it had been years since we’d tromped through these woods, I had no doubt that we would get there. Steve’s internal radar kicked in. It was like he never left.

“There’s a pool right around the corner, the little brookies – I mean little ones – try to jump the falls. I’ve seen it in the fall.”

Once on the stream – no small feat in itself, after a couple of miles of bushwhacking to find “the big pool” – it almost seemed he could close his eyes and still find the fish.

While streams change over the years, especially with the more recent erratic weather events this watershed has seen, Steve still found what he was looking for in most cases.

“The braids” were still there, and the “big pool,” still held sizeable natives and as we headed back to the truck, sure enough, rounding the corner, we ran into the pool where small fish become mighty in trying to overcome what, for them, would be a sizeable leap. The stream still held the promise of 40 years ago – the promise that made it so special.

“As many times as I’ve fished this stream, I don’t remember seeing another fisherman.”

And we didn’t on this day. A beautiful summer Saturday found only one picnicking couple along the game lands road, but no one on the stream. It’s a paradox. You’re secretly hoping to have this special place all to yourself, but you soon realize that if it’s not special for everyone, it becomes a little bit easier for it to be forgotten or to become the Paradise that is paved over to become a parking lot


“The thing I like about this stream is no matter where I am, when I catch a fish, I know it’s going to be a brook trout.”

By the time we’d gotten up to the “Big Pool,” I was done. Wet wading in my wader boots that were too big without the waders was like wearing ankle weights that didn’t fit. We tromped through the meadowsweet and fern that were over my head in some spots, and over hidden boulders and rocks that reached out and grabbed you.

But Steve’s enthusiasm never waned. It was like watching a 10-year-old at Christmas open presents for six hours – and trying to keep up the pace. Around each bend and through each riffle and pool, he was catching and releasing natives – from tiny three inchers to the largest pushing 10 inches.

One pool in particular offered almost five minutes of “cat and mouse,” as he cast to the brookie, which rose and looked at the grasshopper imitation a number of times before retreating to the bottom for good.

“That was fun.”

Yes, it was. Dead tired after leaving the stream, sleeping on the ride home was not an option, as Steve recounted the day and the innumerable days of the past. If I had a dollar for every time he said, “If I had a dollar for every fish I caught,” I wouldn’t need to work.

But I do.

And days like that on the stream are exactly why I do what I do.

Paula Piatt is TU’s eastern sportsmen organizer, based in Sayre, Pa.


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