The Far Valley

by | Oct 20, 2019 | 18 comments

Thirty minutes following the morning alarm, an hour-and-fifteen on the winding roads, ten under the hatch of the 4-Runner, and twenty more minutes hiking through a dawn drizzle that taps on the hood of your raincoat, the atmosphere feels soft here — and still. It’s cold for a fall morning. As you climb the hill through a stand of oaks, headed for the far valley, puffs of warm air escape your lungs and billow forward. You outpace your own breath. Even as progress slows with the steepening hill ahead, your breath trails behind. And you push forward through the dissipating fog of your own carbon dioxide.

“Keep walking, keep moving up the hill. Make it there before the sun crests,” you whisper to yourself. There’s no point in getting up at 4:30 if you can’t get in an hour of fishing before sunlight changes the game. At the top of the mountain, you pause, seemingly for the first time since the alarm clock — not to catch your breath but as a reminder that all of this is not a race. It’s an adventure. And a good wanderer stops to look around once in a while.

The ferns are dying. They are half brown and withered. Here on the rocky ridge, the exposed limestone grows moss — green still, but faded from the summer’s peak saturation. Oaks and maples have dropped their colors on the forest floor to mingle with moss and ferns. It happens suddenly each season, when greens are no longer the vivid, winning colors to the eye. Through its process of death, autumn brings a new life to the forest. You think about all of this, standing there still, and now surrounded by the cloud of your own breath. You lower your hood when you notice that the rain has stopped. Trapped steam escapes and radiates skyward, and you look up into the half light.

In this crisp morning there is a stillness. It’s why you walked the extra mile. No one else will venture to this place today. You’d bet on it. And at the bottom of the far valley, the wild trout are waking up too, stirred again into a daylight rhythm. You imagine them, holding in a foot-wide seam against a broken tree, lined up nose to tail and feeding on drifting nymphs that have yet to settle back to the riverbed. Like you, the trout are opportunistic and efficient. They know the habits of a river by instinct and experience. You know the water through intuition, through long river hours and knowledge grown from an obsession, because the trout take you to places like this over and over, into early mornings and directly into moments like this one.

Climbing onto the mossy limestone, and now perched atop the narrow ridge, you peer down through a growing light toward your destination. Enough leaves have fallen to reveal the valley. And through the glowing grays of daybreak you can just barely make out the broken tree. It’s still there, as it has been for ten years and more. It was there the first time you walked this course a decade earlier. And it will remain, until a great flood finally lifts the sodden wood and floats it downstream.

Photo by Bill Dell

Today, you will catch wild trout in the seam next to the tree. You’re as sure of it as anything. And this will be another day to remember, another day and another journey that motivates and urges you on for the next trip, for the next alarm, the next walk in.

At the top of the ridge, standing on the limestone, you absorb one last panoramic view through the forest and across the valley. You listen to the silence again, because the sound of roaring water in the narrow valley is unrelenting once you are there. Because this moment, still twenty minutes from your first cast, is the one you will carry forever, the one that will never fade. This perspective from above is a preface, a look forward upon the chapters to follow. This is the moment that rushes in and shakes you to an awakening — a pure flash of presence. No matter how many trout come to hand, no matter the size or the stats of the fishing at the end of the day, it’s these seconds, alone among the wild woods, that make the deepest imprint.

Then, climbing down from the limestone ridge, you descend swiftly and sink into the far valley.

 

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

 

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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.

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18 Comments

  1. Great read Domenick. Reminds us that getting to our destination is half the fun & makes our time on the water that much more enjoyable.

    Reply
  2. Beautiful Dom, just beautiful!

    Reply
  3. Perfect Dom and for those of us living on the west coast; you are describing the move from 3 weights for redsides rising to BWOs to double handed long rods for a fish that makes this time of the year magic and is most likely to only take a fly on the skate or under the surface before the sun hits the water or after it has left it. It will always be more about the adventure and less about the take for me as well. Thanks for sharing this in such a beautiful way.

    Reply
  4. Your writing is outstanding, capturing the experience so vividly. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. This is a great story and another reason why I love this blog. You not only have great info, you connect with the river in the same way I do and I’d bet a great many others. AND you can communicate it so well. Thanks.

    Reply
  6. Thank you ,D.S. ,that’s good writing ,it reminds me of Harry Middleton “on the spine of time ” ,great read ,and your short story was very good ,thank you, Glenn H C

    Reply
  7. The view from the ridge is the opposite of the dogged concentration on your fly or sighter. But we need both. Good work, Dom.

    Reply
  8. “All of this is not a race”.
    We can all learn a lesson from that line. Especially as fathers. Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Ahh … there’s joy in that journey, being alone, on the way to fishing. Dom you captured it elegantly.

    Reply

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