Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Fifty-one

The Little Schuylkill's Continued Recovery (PA)

By Joe DeMarkis

As I reach down to relase a fat little brown trout (the second within the hour,) a glimpse of white, flickering in the woods, catches my attention. There! Hidden in the laurels a movement turns to a shadow and the shadow materializes into a sleek doe with her fawn browsing on spring grasses. What a beautiful place!

The Little Schuykill River (L.S.,) nestled in the New Ringgold Valley, has replayed this scene for hundreds of anglers over the past nine years as it continues its struggle along the road of recovery. Another of our precious gems tettering precariously on the influence of man.

At the conception of this project I was overwhelmed by the amount of support offered by concerned sportsmen and environmentalists, all ready to champion this resource and reclaim it. Since then the L.S. has received the Scenic River status (a title dubbed deservedly to only the most beautiful Pennslvania waters) and enjoys a 2-mile special regularion area which is located in New Ringgold. This stretch is supported by Schuylkill County Trout Unlimited and is enjoyed by anglers not only from Schuylkill County but spottings of UFOs (Unidentified Fishing Objects) have been seen sporting New Jersey insignias on their crafts. Amazing!

. . . The 12" brown bolts back to its hiding place, becoming, as trout do so well, a shadow. A dimple under an overhanging hemlock branch refocuses my thoughts.

What if we had decided not to fight for our river and turned our back on her? It would surely have been a life sentence to unmonitored manufactures' discharge and unchecked mine drainage. But the balance is now in our favor. The Pa. Fish and Boat Commission continues a stocking program and is presently working with DEP to set up criteria for improving water quality. There is also much momentum on a statewide basis to improve the quality of the entire Schuylkill River Basin, including the Little Schuylkill which has the importance of being headwater to the largest tributary of the big river.

. . . A lucky cast and a splash indicated a take. This time the rod throbs with more intensity and the battle is stronger. A 14" plus brown trout comes to the net. A nice trout by L.S. standards. Actually, a nice trout by any river's standard.

The doe and her fawn melt into the woods and the trout returns to its hiding place. The morning air is filled with scents of hemlock and wildflowers. What a beautiful place! ~ Joe Demarkis

Note: After missing one spring stocking this season, the L.S. has been returned to the stocking list and receives its regular allotments.

Joe DeMarkis is a partner in the Wilderness Trekker, Little Schuylkill Fly Shop, and the long-time defender of the river. He can be reached at 570-366-0165

This article originally appeared in the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide, August issue. We thank Joe for use permission.

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