I start this week's post with a simple question: what is a "good day" of fishing? While an answer might seem simple, the process of deciding often requires deliberation and reflection.
When I depart a river, my mood is usually dependent on my rate of success. That is, how many fish did I catch? how many did I miss? what did the weather do? did I injure myself somehow? These questions, though, need to be put in the context of specific streams. For example, catching three wild brown trout, losing three of them, getting rained on, and getting sunburned constitutes a GREAT day on central Pennsylvania's Penns Creek; however, catching three wild brown trout, losing three of them, getting rained on, and getting sunburned is a BAD day on northeast Pennsylvania's Marshalls Creek.
For me, it's all about perspective, specificity, and relativity. Each river maintains its own set of unique problems and obstacles, so a good day on River X, then, is not necessarily a good day on River Y. I've long held this opinion, but I recently had a fly fishing experience that put the question of the "good day" back into focus.
Over the weekend, my wife and I traveled to the Pittsburgh area for a wedding. On the way back, we stopped in Carlisle, and I fly fished Letort Spring Run, a renowned wild trout fishery. Indeed, the Letort has a storied history. It was the home water of famous fly fisherman Charlie Fox, and many other fly fishing greats have fished it over the years. A flat, swampy, crystal-clear limestoner, Letort challenges anglers in every way. It is, in my opinion, the most difficult - and most rewarding - wild trout stream in Pennsylvania (and perhaps in the East).
My wife had never been to the Letort, and she was struck by its singularity. In fact, the river maintains a peculiar and enticing aesthetic: the water is crystalline, and it reflects an incredible array of surrounding greenery - willows, watercress, poplars, reeds, grasses -, while sinewy micro-currents twist across the stream's surface, and wild mint, dame's rocket, and a multitude of flowering trees perfume the air. Nothing looks (or even smells) quite like the Letort, but my wife mentioned its similarity to streams she's seen in the United Kingdom.
I struggled for nearly two hours on the Letort, before a driving rainstorm forced me back into the car. During that time, I hooked into two wild brown trout, losing both of them. I was frustrated and angry; my wife hadn't seen me exert that much fly fishing-related frustration since our college days in central Pennsylvania. There I was, at the famous Letort, a fly fishing destination for the best in the world, testing my skill at the highest level. And I overcame the challenges to fool two fish...that I proceeded to lose due to poor fight-technique. I was mad.
As I warmed up in the car after the rain, though, I began to feel my frustration fade; in its stead came satisfaction. I realized that the Letort, while challenging, is still conquerable. My two lost fish were a testament to that fact, and I therefore decided that my day on Letort Spring Run was certainly a good one.
Image #1 - Letort Spring Run
Image #2 - Sneaking up on those skittish Letort brown trout
Image #3 - A typical Letort setting