There is something about exploration that satisfies the soul of the angler. We spend a lot of time trying our best to come to an understanding of a familiar stretch of water, and often lack the simple fortitude to go off exploring an unknown piece of river or stream. Part of our unwillingness is due to habit, and part due to the uncertain reward at the end. What is over there in that field stretch: a 20-inch brown, or an angry bull? What is back there in the woods: a swamp, ticks, mosquitoes, brambles, or… all of the above and fish that have never seen a fly?
The other day I drove a ways to a spring creek, only to find the parking areas and pullouts each contained a vehicle. I rigged up anyway, and decided that instead of following another angler, I would go downstream into the woods and explore. A small deer path lead into the tangled undergrowth. As I progressed slowly, the ground turned to a morass and sucked at my boots. Wild rose bushes and black raspberries scratched my arms, and I scrambled over fallen trees and branches. I began to perspire. After only a couple of hundred yards, the woods became impassable. I crossed the stream and progressed at the edge of a farmer’s field. Much better. I should have thought of that before! I re-entered the woods where a rusted hulk of a tractor was slowly returning the earth, and spotted the stream. Riffles and microstructure were everywhere.
One thing kept crossing my mind: there were no footprints. The mud banks lush with skunk cabbage and the occasional trillium were untouched. Nobody had been here. Sitting on a rock to take it all in, it became apparent why. The stream was choked with fallen wood, and the bank side bushes and trees reached out to create a maze of hazards over the water. Perfect! I heard a rise as I strung up the little seven-foot rod. Looking ahead into a tiny rock-jumble and riffle, the trout were eating something with gusto. They were coming unglued and jumping out of the water for a few sparse hatches of March Browns and Blue-Winged Olive mayflies.
I tied on a big size 12 Catskill style March Brown and began to have a ball. These fish had never seen a fly. They would repeatedly hit and miss the fly until they became hooked. This little stream is fished to death. In any other section, a single mistake would put down the entire pool. I had found a piece of paradise.