February 19th, 2007

Messing About in Creeks
By Dave Pearson, PA

"There is nothing absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." Kenneth Grahame, The Wind In the Willows

Or even better; messing about in creeks. I spent my younger and more formative years in Lawrence, Kansas. My father was finishing his formal education, which would eventually land him in Central Pennsylvania; I was just starting mine. I was in Lawrence three years; kindergarten through second grade.

At the end of the street where we lived was a small park and through the park ran a creek. It wasn't very wide or deep five or six feet on average, and about thigh deep on my five-year-old self. It was filled with minnows (dace, as I recall), crayfish (or "crawfish" as we said in Lawrence in those days; we also said "sack" for "bag" as in "on this school trip you will need to pack a "sack lunch"), and snails lots of little black snails.

I recall being fascinated by the moving water and its inhabitants. I built dams and islands and castles on the islands, caught the minnows and crayfish, splashed about, and had a great deal of fun messing about in the creek.

Third grade saw me in Central Pennsylvania with farms, mountains (none of those in Kansas), and quite a few more creeks. Some were like the water I left in Kansas, save for the snails, some were bigger, and more than a few were filled with trout. I soon learned trout are not as easily corralled as minnows. For a while I thought they were a myth until I saw an angler catch one. Dams and sticks just weren't going to do. I needed a rod and reel. I ended up with a fly outfit from S&H Green Stamps. The rod was white with maroon wraps, about eight feet long. The reel may have been an actual Pfleuger, but in retrospect, it may have been a knockoff. Probably was, I ended up gluing the screws that held the frame together in place. The reel held genuine level line (no backing) which was far too light for the rod. To the end of the line I attached a length of four pound mono and a size 8 hook. In those days I fished with worms.

No one in my family fished, but they were generally supportive of this endeavor. To this end they got me a subscription to Field and Stream. There was quite a bit of information in there, most of it incomprehensible to me at the time, but I managed to glean a few tidbits and pick up enough jargon to query Max, the proprietor of the local sporting goods store, on the how, whys, and wherefores, of local trout. I remember Max as a man of few words, but those he did utter proved of value. He wanted to sell me a Fenwick, and I would have been happy to buy one from him, but he wouldn't take Green Stamps as remuneration.

So I learned to fish bait (later, a muskrat nymph) by way of Max's curt over the counter tutelage. I taught myself the gentle art of fly casting with a worm at the end of my leader. If my loops tightened in the least, my worm flew off the hook and into the weeds. But, eventually, I got the line, leader, hook, and worm into the water. And later...Trout!

Brook Trout

And now, after half a lifetime elsewhere, middle age finds me back in my old hometown, renewing my acquaintance with the streams of my youth and discovering new waters. I range farther in my car than I did on my bike. I'm quite amazed that the fascination still holds. Moving water still compels me. A walk on a country road or mountain path is pleasant. A walk along a stream or river is an adventure.

My interest now is a bit more refined. My "messing about" isn't confined to rocks, water, fish, crayfish, and snails. It includes insects, plants, birds and mammals that live in, on, and about the stream. My Green Stamps rod has long been replaced with split bamboo and modern graphite rods, my level line replaced with lines which have precisely engineered tapers. The worms have been replaced by hand-tied flies of fur, feather and steel. Well, mostly...perhaps some antron, nylon, and crystal flash, too.

PA creek

You mess about in creeks long enough and you can't help but see the interrelatedness of things. Everything affects everything else. Rain affects the water which affects the bugs which affects the fish and on and on. Nothing exists in isolation. This should be obvious, but it's not. It's something that needs to be learned. And best learned, I think, not in lectures or programs or classrooms or books (though all these things are of great assistance) but by messing around in creeks. If you know any children, tell them. Tell them to go outside and get wet and muddy. Tell them to mess about in a creek. ~ Dave - (black gnat)

About Dave:

Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo. His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar for a living. You may contact Dave at: pdewey2@aol.com

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