Seven Days

by | Jul 8, 2020 | 28 comments

I’m not a tourist. I’m not a passenger or a passerby to these waters. On this river, I’m more than local and more than occasional. I’m here so often that the water stays with me.

My wading boots haven’t dried out for five months, and they get one day off a week, at most. Sometimes none. The rubber mid-soles are spongy now. I keep a usage tally for boots and waders, and it’s been one-hundred-and-seven days on the water for these wading boots. A while back, the welded support seams began to surrender to osmosis. I like wearing down good gear.

As a full time guide, the rivers are my home. Some call it an office, but it’s more personal than that. I’m part of these rivers. I limit my guided trips to a hundred days each year, and I do them in two seasons: mid March into July and late September to Christmas. So during guide season, I’m on the water every weekday. And on the weekends, I get up and go fishing by myself or with one of my sons.

I thrive on the routine. I’m in the habit of fishing, and skipping a day seems odd. Like missing the morning coffee, a day without water around my legs feels deficient. It’s empty. Going too long without the wash of whitewater feels exhausting. Busy voices and thoughts clutter and collect in my head. I need the rush of a river to clean the slate. I long for the reset, for the rest once again.

READ: Troutbitten | All the Things

To know a river deeply is a special privilege that most never experience. The lucky few who find time combined with the motivation to get out there pursue a boundless knowledge of their waters. The extra creek-time gives rise to both fresh puzzles and an innate awareness of the complex systems that tie together a river and its surroundings.

Photo by Bill Dell

We know where the water flows deepest because we’ve seen it wind, bend and change course, season after season. We understand the bare-banked undercut because we remember the tree that built it. Now fallen and washed a half-mile downstream, the massive sycamore trunk dams the right channel of an island, enough to waterlog the interior, until it’s poised to give up a chunk of land upon the next major flood. It’ll happen.

We’ve seen the river suffer through droughts, and we’ve walked the marshy floodplains after weeks of unrelenting rains, locating trout around the swirls of wet roots meant to be dry.

We watch the colors change from the stark browns and whites of winter, staring across wide expanses of black water into the wooded bank — far enough until grey limbs form a wall. That wide perimeter narrows in the spring, as the leaves come on. And then, at mid-summer, the grass and streamside vegetation are so tall that the margins tighten. The river spaces are private.

I flushed a fawn yesterday. It was in the grass again, bedded near the same log where it slept on a foggy morning earlier in the week. I forgot, or I would have gone around. The bald eagle expects me now, and it accepts my presence, hunting instead of watching my every move. I’ve seen it feed twice. Even the mink and herons seem to linger a while, perhaps considering my presence a part of their environment. And that’s how I feel — not like an intruder or a visitor, but regular enough to blend in, with my own fixed place in this natural, watery world.

Photo by Bill Dell

For those who fish daily, the routine resonates. We are part of the pattern, not mere observers of the design.

We bond with the river. And the lifeblood exists after we walk away. We sense this. Ever-present in mind, the water is part of our territory. Like a wolf, pacing a perimeter and returning to all parts of its range, this is the habit of a daily angler.

We have time to learn and grow, to breathe deep and sigh with satisfaction. We’ve the time to stand tall, to rise from the constant crouch and the intensity of a fisherman, to take in the surroundings, not once in awhile, but regularly. It’s the ferns, the sun and the rain, the trout in the water and the birds on the wind. It’s everything.

We’re more than visitors now. We’re part of the river.

 

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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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28 Comments

  1. Awesome thoughts and writing Dom. When you put together your book of compilations of your articles, this will be a favorite.

    Reply
  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your article and generally all you write.

    Reply
    • I have to say after a friend of mine shared your site with me , I am always reading your entries! Outstanding writing full of imagery and familiarity! I just wanted to reach out and thank you for the stories and passages you write! As a passionate fly angler from Rhode Island the tales of the wild Browns intrigue me. My brother lives in East Stroudsburg and I’ve fished Broadhead briefly, but did not scratch the surface. Any spots you’d recommend around there? Visiting doesn’t always allow for tons of time to learn the spots.

      Reply
  3. We should be so lucky….

    Reply
  4. You’re a lucky man!

    Reply
  5. Hey Dom, excellent material as usual. Writing as well as design and your buddy Phil’s photography. This is enriching stuff. You are able to take green fishermen like me and grow us in the sport. I am now teaching someone who thinks he’d like to learn and that experience has taught me how far I’ve come- mostly due to your generous sharing of information and ability to get us a broad experience with others. I refer any one who has the slightest interest in the sport to you and your website.
    PS thought this resonated some of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek.

    Reply
  6. Dom: You lead a privileged existence! Always enjoy reading your thoughts and comments. See you soon.

    Reply
  7. You hit the nail on the head here Dom. Beautifully written and touches home to me.

    Reply
  8. I envy you. I love how you write and illustrate your articles. Wish I could be on the water for wild trout everyday but I’m to old and to tired now. Your writings bring me as close to those rivers as I’ll get now. Thank you for that!

    Reply
  9. Dom,
    Just sitting on my lake listening and watching the sun set. Read this offering and thought about my favorite streams in the Smokies. You write truth, and allow all of us to slow down and enjoy why we fish.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • As always, a beautifully written piece. Brings to mind some of my favorite stretches of river here in Colorado that I have visited often enough to consider home waters. Thanks Don!

      Reply
  10. As always Excellent read!! Could not agree more and always suggest your articles to anyone looking for good info

    Reply
  11. I could of written,wrote,damn it ,you know what I mean. Fish same section or river 365,know every trout by name,yet on a day like today,when caught 4 fish all over 18,on fly never had luck with,in areas never caught fish on,makes every day an adventure,can’t get over how much a 20″ rainbow can fight,thought 2 of these might be my 30 incher,so tough!!! Keep them coming,bro!!

    Reply
  12. I’m with Mark Utter……….gonna be a helluva book!

    Reply
  13. So well said. I can feel the surroundings and relate to the deep connection to all of nature by the river.

    Reply
  14. Yes, and yes…

    Reply
  15. That speaks to my soul! I do have a weekly job now, but I fish every chance that I get. In literally any water I can find.. and throughout the week it amounts to fishing a small public lake in the morning for 20-30 min, and a man made city pond at lunch. (I’m a little ate up..) Largely fishing for bluegill and bass, but occasionally channel cats too when the water is right. All on a fly rod with the Mono Rig 99% of the time.

    My home trout waters are about 35 min away from my house in the opposite direction from where I work, so a quick stop is out of the question during workdays. And I long to stand in the current trying to fool trout. So I use the short sessions as “practice” and fly testing as much as anything. I practice all (or as much of) the fundamentals that I can, and just like with anything, my skill level and understanding of leader building has naturally grown with each day I’m out there whippin the water.

    Naturally I hope to catch a fish, but for me its more about growing with a fly rod, and the rest couldn’t be better put : “And that’s how I feel — not like an intruder or a visitor, but regular enough to blend in, with my own fixed place in this natural, watery world.”

    Reply

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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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