Missing the Mornings

by | Jul 24, 2019 | 15 comments

Dawn to daylight. From the dim, sparkling haze of first light, to the breaking solar rays across tree tops. These are the magic hours.

It’s a clean slate, a fresh-faced river — new light and raw beginnings for forgetful fish. Recently out of the darkness, the trout’s guard is down. He trusts more. He worries less.

The new day is a blank canvas — an unwritten chapter of events and plans. Not your plans, but the river’s plans. Because such decisions are not for us to choose.

A steep canyon extends the effect of early morning. It hides direct rays hours longer than lesser mountains. And while wading a river under the canopy of a tree line, heavy mist springs from pocket water and fills your lungs in the cool early valleys.

Dense clouds extend the effect too, dampening the sun’s presence, delaying the onset of afternoon and stretching those cool breezes into the morning. But it’s a deception — a camouflage for what’s behind a white sky. Until finally, stronger rays take over, pushing back the extended morning, driving light through the clouds and staking claim to the skies, to the valleys, to the riverbed below.

Anglers know. Anglers notice.

We feel the shift from dawn to full daylight. Because stretched before the fisherman is a vast mirror, featuring the sky and forest, reflecting the truth from above into the eyes of every angler. Unclear and vague images of distortion, these details are lost in the harsh highlights of sun on water. And early in the morning, these same details are masked in blackwater, in a surface that absorbs everything and reflects nothing, hiding the secrets beneath. When blackwater does give way to the highlights of the sun, we know the morning is over. The shade is pulled back. And the river is laid wide open to whatever might accompany full daylight.

The birds sing at dawn, and they cease. They settle. And all is calm for the hours that follow.

Walk deep into the backcountry one morning, cut through the darkness before pre-dawn, and experience this. Arrive before the sun to a place untouched for some time. Feel the newness, the virginity of first light among the surrounding hills.

Photo by Josh Darling

These are the whimsical dreams of a man possessed by what lies beneath a river, of an angler willingly burdened and drawn by the water, day after day, with the river as companion — a featured friend and familiar partner. These are the comforts of flowing water, best experienced at morning.

The summer sounds soften. The crickets hush, drained from a night of noises.

The black bear hangs on a little longer, meandering riverside until he’s caught off guard under the hemlocks. And he wanders away.

The dripping ferns.

The soft summer ground, wet from dew that soaks into shady moss.

The rustle of dry, drifting leaves in the fall.

The crisp crunch of old snow, crusted, with overnight lows hardening the top and renewing the surface in a white-mirrored glaze. And then a new snow, fallen overnight. A bare canvas at dawn, open for adding your own art, yours as the first footsteps drawing lines into the river.

The spring dew on spiderwebs, drowning trapped mayflies from the overnight spinner fall.

The fog. The wonderful fog, thick enough to disguise your presence. But from what? From whom? No one is here? No one.

Ah yes, the solitude.

For centuries, anglers have known of the most consistent opportunities that arrive at dawn. And yet, fishers keep sleeping.

Stay there, casual angler, fair-weather friend. Lay your head on the pillow. Enjoy the extra snooze, for it is wonderful, no doubt. And what is missed here will remain a mystery, understood by only those who’ve experience it. Day after day. Dawn after dawn. Fog after fog. Bare canvas after bare canvas. Silence after silence.


Photo by Josh Darling


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 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

The Twenty Dollar Cast

The Twenty Dollar Cast

“Okay, Dad,” Joey bellowed over the whitewater. “Here’s the twenty dollar cast . . .”

His casting loop unfolded and kicked the nymph over with precision. And when the fly tucked into the darkest side of the limestone chunk, Joey kept the rod tip up, holding all extra line off the water. It was a gorgeous drift. And the air thickened with anticipation.

We watched together in silence as Joey milked that drift until the very end. And I think we were both a little surprised when nothing interrupted the long, deep ride of over thirty feet.

“Not this time, buddy,” I told him.

Joey flicked his wrist and repeated the same cast to the dark side of the rock. And because the world is a wonderful place, a no-doubter clobbered the stonefly nymph . . .

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody home means there’s no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true. Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

Does it matter? It sure does!

New Structure | Old Structure

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

. . .The flow of the fly line through the air is finesse and freedom. Contrasted with nymphing, streamer fishing, or any other method that adds weight to the system, casting the weightless dry fly with a fly line is poetry.

The cast is unaffected because the small soft hackle on a twelve-inch tether simply isn’t heavy enough to steal any provided slack from the dry. It’s an elegant addition that keeps the art of dry fly fishing intact . . .

We Wade

We Wade

We wade for contemplation, for strength and exhaustion, for the challenge and the risk. We wade for opportunity . . .

Eat a Trout Once in a While

Eat a Trout Once in a While

I stood next to him on the bank, and I watched my uncle kneel in the cold riffle. Water nearly crested the tops of his hip waders while he adjusted and settled next to the flat sandstone rock that lay between us. He pulled out the Case pocket knife again, as he’d done every other time that I’d watched this fascinating process as a young boy.

“Hand me the biggest one,” my uncle said, with his arm outstretched and his palm up.

So I looked deep into my thick canvas creel for the first trout I’d caught that morning. Five trout lay in the damp creel. I’d rapped each of them on the skull after beaching them on the bank, right between the eyes, just as I’d been taught — putting a clean end to a trout’s life. I handed the rainbow trout to my uncle and smiled with enthusiasm . . .

What do you think?

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


  1. Great post Dom. My favorite time of day. Everything around us, and in us, seems sharper. It’s as if we (nature and human being) all reset and calibrated at the same moment, before we begin our daily journey down separate paths, that will quickly become duller as the day breaks on. The best. I only hope that more people keep sleeping through it. I don’t like to share it 😉

  2. Beautifully captured, Dom. This really resonated with me and I’m feeling even more inspired to make the most of the early summer sunrises this coming weekend on the Farmington River. When’s the book coming out?

    • Hi Devin,

      The book is right here, buddy. I’ve chosen to self-publish everything, and it’s been a great model for me. Making my writing available here, on Troutbitten, for anyone to read is what I’ll continue doing. Eventually, after the online shop is established, and after video production starts, then I’ll begin working on the books. The books will (likely) be collections of the different series available here on Troutbitten. Night Fishing for Trout, for example, would make a good book. And when I bring all the articles together, adding this and taking away that, I think the books will be significantly different that just reading through all the articles in the series here.

      But, lots of other things to do first.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support, Devin.



    • You and I both, Devin. Meeting someone at 4am but Ill be out long before then! There is a lot less people on the Farmington then!

  3. What a beautiful read with my coffee this morning…stay with me thru the day my friend.

  4. To me it’s always been a bit depressing when that full daylight has arrived. I fought it off for as long as I could manage yesterday morning…but eventually I lost and daylight won. I can’t wait for the increase in overcast days that fall usually brings.

    • Nice. I love that.

  5. My favorite time of day. I fish the salt a lot and the only thing better than being on the river early on is being on the beach and watching the sun rise over the horizon. A special time and usually the best bite of a summer day.

    • Right on.

  6. yes, this is it.

    • Pretty much

  7. Great writing. Also good motivation for folks to get up early and make the drive when the river is not so close. Can’t catch fish if your not going fishing. Myself included. Thanks.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest