Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Penns Creek Adventure

A spectacular wild brookie

There are times when the crush of life seems to push me to a reclusive extreme. Last week I found myself far back in my introverted shell and not really wanting to come out. Rather than gritting my teeth and facing the world, I usually retire to the safety of my studio and accomplish next to nothing. Fortunately for me, I had been invited to a fishing camp on the famed waters of Penns Creek for some downtime with friends. The timing of this outing couldn't have been better. The mere preparation of my gear for the trip kept my mind and hands busy with organization. It felt like I was at least moving forward... even if the steps were small.
Tiny jewel in a trickle of a stream
As my truck covered the miles eastbound, I could feel the burden of everyday life being lifted and the knot between my shoulder blades slowly worked itself away.

Somewhere in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, my brain shifted gears and began to work at a more pleasant and productive pace. Thoughts of wild brook trout threatened to put my final destination on hold. Finally, I gave in and drifted the truck to the side of a narrow dusty road and lashed up my little 3-weight rod.
I was not disappointed as my rod was soon bent with a spectacularly marked little trout. I laughed out loud knowing no one was there to hear me... but not really caring if anyone did.
The scene played itself over several times in the next two hours. The trout were there, but nearly impossible to get a fly to. Well-placed casts were rewarded with a confident take... though most of my casts were not "well-placed" and much of my time was spent picking my fly out of the hemlock branches. Such is life on a tiny tangled mountain stream and I walked back to the truck grinning like I'd won the lottery.

Al Budny with a typical Penns brown trout

When I finally arrived at the cabin on Penns Creek, fish were rising in the green water and would continue to do so for most of the next three days. The fishing would be spectacular by Penns Creek standards. Many wild browns were hooked and landed or lost and I still can't believe how hard they fight!

"Sweetie" napping on a pile of  waders

For a while at least, life slowed to a comfortable rhythm. Sitting on the cabin's porch in the afternoon, it was easy to spot fish rising to the abundant mayflies on the nearby river. Still, with a beer in hand, my butt firmly planted in a soft chair, and the pleasant company of a few well-mannered bird dogs, there was never much of a rush to gear up and fish. It happened in its own time. And if it didn't... that was okay too.

We ate and drank too much, smoked good cigars, told stories (some true and some not so much), and generally did the things men do when women aren't around to keep us in line. On the river, the inviting sound of hardy laughter carried above the hum of moving water. I slept soundly each night, tired, well-fed, and happy.
Joe and Al taking in the morning

We found ourselves awake early, drinking coffee and feeling better than we should have on only 6 hours of sleep. We watched the river and tied a few flies. Breakfast was a production of epic proportion. Sausage, bacon, eggs, home fries, Texas toast, pancakes... all cooked outside on a giant wood-fire-heated griddle called "The Monster." At no point was it necessary to think about lunch after ingesting the mega-calorie Monster breakfast. It was all I could do to bend over and lace up my wading shoes for the morning!

Finally, as if to tell us our Penns Creek experience was nearing the end, a steady rain set in. High winds and falling temperatures went almost unnoticed as we sat near the fireplace and celebrated the day. Still, we knew the fishing was done. As it turned out, an unusual April snow storm would pound the area a day later. Our departure was well-timed.

I hope to return to Penns in the near future. I also know it may never treat me this well again.


Peter Brown said...

Jim, what a difference a week makes - I'm glad your black cloud has lifted!

By the way, I hope that last photo inspires a new painting!

Dar said...

A fantastic way to unwind...
swish, hit, another great bite.