The Secret

by | Nov 16, 2016 | 29 comments

I made my way through the dense brush, shed my pack and dropped it in the clearing. In a yellow patch of sunlight, I knelt to catch my breath and watch the wind detach leaves from their parent branches, merging into a wild collage across the morning sky. The mix of maple and sycamore foliage traveled downwind to find a place of rest for the coming winter.

This place is rugged. And it’s the kind of spot that doesn’t get much traffic from anyone — home to the squirrels and birds, mostly. Finding a deer trail is the best method for navigating through the thick stuff, and I did that. But when I crested the hillside and started my descent, the path closed in with newly fallen trees, so I was forced to make my way through a maze of dead branches and briers which had quickly sprouted to take advantage of a new sun when the tree had fallen. I moved forward slowly, but the branches grabbed my coat to hold me back, as if protecting the river below.

There are two kinds of secret places: one’s that are truly tucked away somewhere unknown, and ones that lie right underneath a fisherman’s nose. This place harbors a little of both.

The remote and unknown places — well, there aren’t many of those left. Maybe it’s just population growth. Maybe it’s the rise of a sport that prides itself on discovery. And maybe it’s just that fishermen are a friendly lot that drinks too much and likes to brag about a good catch now and then.

Nothing that’s written down in magazines and placed on a list for “destination fishing” can fairly be called a secret. And yet, within these rivers, a deeper realm exists than the traveling angler cannot find. A good river requires your friendship before it reveals its best. You get to know it first. So even blue ribbon water has its guarded locations. There are secret spots that lie open, in plain view, often walked through or passed by for the next deep gut or undercut bank. They are the best-kept secrets of a popular river and worth protecting, just as much as the off-the-grid freestoner that holds a nice population of wild trout, and no one else seems to know about.

READ: Troutbitten | Coffee and Secrets
READ: Troutbitten | Respect the Spots, Man! A fisherman’s thoughts on friendship and spot burning

chris-kehres-creek-4

Photo by Chris Kehres

The wind died, and the leaves settled, enough that I heard the call of the river below — the murmuring rush of rapids at a distance.

. . . My spot.

I climbed over another fallen maple and found the deer trail again. It led down a steep and mossy ravine that dripped water from rocks protruding from the ground. These trickles are the lifeblood for any river. For the trout, and for me.

The skinny path wound like a staircase between impassable barriers of limestone and crashed timber, until finally I arrived at the water’s edge. Into the river, I was followed by the drip and trickle of the lifeblood.

. . . I fished.

I don’t know what this spot was like a century ago, but I can make some guesses. In Pennsylvania, you never seem to get away from signs of the industrial revolution. Even the deepest forests are crossed with ancient tram roads. And all my favorite streams have been pushed and cajoled to follow a path dictated by roads or railroads at some point. This place is no different. The forest is a mix of new growth and old iron or stone relics slipping slowly behind leaves and encroaching plants.

I’ve lived long enough to tell you stories about the way things used to be. And I can say that in the last two decades, my favorite river is moving onto the radar. So it’s no real secret, and maybe it never was. That’s the thing about secrets — there’s an endless procession through time of people discovering the same thing and calling it their own. In my spot I’ve yet to see another fisherman, but I’ve seen signs that a few others make the trek and pay the visit. I wonder what those guys are like.

I’ve thought of bringing others here on occasion, but I don’t. It’s one of the few places I’ve never shared with anyone. And I won’t.

chris-kehres-creek-3

Photo by Chris Kehres

Fish hard, friends.

 

** Donate ** If you enjoy this article, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 1000+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

This Is Real Silence

This Is Real Silence

. . . It can be dead silent on that mountain, quiet enough to remember a place in time with no interruptions, a day that started in a bustling, wide valley and finished in stillness on top of a mountain.

. . . . . . The guitar amp, the voices, the conversations, the laughing and arguing, the engine noise and the truck’s rattles, the NPR opinion and the crackly speakers — it’s all gone. And it’ll stay gone for as long as I’m here on the mountaintop. This is real silence.

Dry or Die?

Dry or Die?

. . . There’s a segment of fly anglers who will never see streamers, nymphs or wet flies as a legitimate offering. That’s fine. Keep it to yourself.

There’s another segment of fly fishers who believe trophy hunting for big browns with big streamers is the only way to live out there. And everything else might as well be tweed hats and waxed catgut. That’s fine too. Keep it to yourself.

The majority of us are fishermen, just having fun, trying to catch a fish and then catch another one . . .

Life On the Water

Life On the Water

Accomplished and skilled fly fishing requires that you give part of your life to the river. That’s evident in the first few trips, and I think the depth of all this surprises would-be anglers. It intimidates some, and it captivates others . . .

Patagonia Nymphing

Patagonia Nymphing

I don’t know another time when I approached a slot with so much confidence. Better. Slower. This was it. At the end of the fishless drift, my certainly wasn’t questioned, it was simply re-informed. “Need more weight,” I said. It was an unforgettable, prove-it kind of moment . . .

Forgiving Flies

Forgiving Flies

This is one of the most amazing times to be on the water. Fishing through a snowstorm rekindles memories, ingrained from the novelty of tracking flies and fly line through the optical mystery of falling snow.

. . . This morning, I’m leaning on my favorite set of forgiving flies — just a handful of patterns I’ve noticed that our notoriously picky trout are more willing to move for and eat. These are patterns that draw attention and perhaps curiosity, but also don’t cause many refusals.

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

29 Comments

  1. Great pics. Enjoyed this post.

    Reply
  2. I love it. I don’t trout fish with anyone, and I never want to. People ask to go with me, and I quickly and politely tell them No. I fish alone. I wish I had done that from the beginning with my flats boat. Now, I can’t get away without guilt feelings about why I didn’t mention I was going, and do they want to come too? More than half my enjoyment fishing is my secret to be alone. I love to be alone anymore, captured with my own thoughts. I do talk, but only to the wind, and my own ears. I’m not looking for an answer, I’ve found it. It’s being alone, and fishing.

    Reply
    • Just over a year ago, I started fly-fishing with two friends. Every weekend I tried to get my friends with me. I didn’t want to go alone, but after a while I didn’t have a choice and had to go by myself or else stay home ….
      Nowadays I’m also enjoying fly-fishing by myself. In fact, I try to go to quiet rivers and hate it when other people are around. I get focused and absorbed by the fishing and nature.
      I’m now ready to take the next step and I plan a week long fishing trip alone to Slovenia next year.

      Reply
  3. I suspect that this resonates with a lot of people. Thanks Domenick.

    Reply
  4. As I reflect on last week’s blue line fishing, I went alone to fish but was never alone. What I’m saying is that always in the back of my head, my sons and other fishing buds are always there. How would Tom fish that riffle, how would Dave fish that undercut. Hey dad, let’s stop here and have a snack. And always thanking God for letting me have just one more day to enjoy his stream. You see what I mean?

    Reply
    • Are you saying I should take Tom, Dave and Dad fishing?

      🙂

      Reply
      • That’s up to you! But I’m sure you have your own people that are “always” there with you. Tight lines my friend.

        Reply
  5. There are two kinds of secret places, I suppose: one that’s truly tucked away somewhere unknown, and one that lies right underneath the fishermen’s noses.

    Or behind their backs. Shhhhhhhhhh

    Reply
  6. Great article. I used to go fishing by myself every Thursday, forty weeks a year, to the same place, pretty much. A destination trout stream an hour from a huge metro area, in the days before “The Movie”, when it was virtually empty from November to April. And not all that populated May-October. I remember exploring “new” water alone all over New Mexico and Colorado. And in June of this year, I “discovered” a half-mile of crazy trout-infested habitat with every possible combination of water one could hope for – pocket water, runs, huge pools, and riffly drops. And the biggest salmonid I have seen in years! In the Catalonian Pyrenees, after ten days of meager, disappointing treks just hoping for one “real” day. Of course, it was the last day of the trip. I took photos, marked maps, committed landmarks to memory. Glorious. Fishing is glorious.

    Reply
  7. Well, Dom, you’re getting more like Annie Dillard every day. I have never been much of a deer hunter (followed my dad around when I was very young for a bit). But, I’ve marveled at the deer paths that appear on the banks of streams. I now take comfort in seeing only deer tracks and not those imposed by the wading boots of our fellow Homo sapiens when creekside.

    Reply
  8. Thank you for such a well written article Dom. Traveling the paths to those special places and learning their secrets is as enjoyable as fishing them.

    Reply
  9. Very nice story. I think all serious fly fishermen have a secret spot…and not just the place we physically fish. I visit my spot when the everyday doldrums block my creative piece of mind and at night when I am trying to digest what occurred during my hectic day…the good and bad. My spot has many memories of successful fishing and learning new facets of this great sport we participate in. Thanks..

    Reply
  10. Yes, yes, yes!

    Reply
  11. Domenick,
    Judging by the dates on comments above this wonderful story was written a little while back. I am glad I was able to read it today.
    I call “The Secret” my (Happy Place). I have only shared this spot with five loved ones. They all have Four legs and tails that wag… They aren’t telling nobody!
    Thank You

    Reply
  12. I always enjoy going fishing with you. These pieces are a great way to get away when I can’t. Beautiful photos too.

    Reply
  13. So beautiful and well written. My favorite place as well…..

    Reply
  14. Thanks for the article. I too search for those places that invigorate the senses while clearing the mind. Those special places of both beauty and solitude. Even on the most popular streams, I go down that steep embankment or brushy draw hoping for the peace brought by isolation. Yes, I prefer to fish alone…unless my son can go.

    Reply
  15. Thank you Dom, such a vivid image, really enjoy this reading my man.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest