An eager anticipation set a positive mood as Tom and I sat on my truck's tailgate, pulling on our waders. Twenty or so yards below us a stream, running full from recent rain, tumbled through a rocky ravine before disappearing as its course wandered off into the woods.
My friend's face took on a reflective note, during which he declared, "1972, maybe '73."
"What about 1972?" I asked.
"That's the last time I was here; the last time I caught native brookies from this stream," he replied.
I reminded him that we were in high school then and that a lot of water had passed in 40-some years. But it didn't check our enthusiasm.
Tom had mentioned this stream a month or so earlier, when the subject of the moment was wild trout. It's a tributary to a larger creek stocked with adult trout by the state fish commission. And while native brook trout are common in some parts of Pennsylvania, not so much in the locale we were fishing. So that was the reason for this trip: to determine if stream-bred native brookies still exist in this unlikely place. And while I hadn't known it had been four decades since Tom chanced into these fish, it wouldn't have mattered.
In the second pool I fished, a 4-inch fish chased my Rooster Tail spinner. As much as I wanted it to be a trout, it sure looked like a creek chub. I reported the action to Tom, who was drifting a small streamer in a nearby pool. Attempting to invoke the power of positive thinking, we rationalized that a creek chub probably wouldn't have chased a spinner.
A couple spots later one of the chasers nipped a bit too close, and a fat creek chub was derricked out of the water. We continued to work our way down the charming stream, catching fish on both the spinner and streamer, though they were all chubs and not brook trout.
So the trip was a failure? Not at all! The stream flows through a public hunting land, one where a much younger Tom spent many autumn days with family. He showed me where he took his first deer, as well as his first grouse. We heard the drumming of grouse, the deep, thump that the sound of tumbling water couldn't drown out. So while the native brookies might not be there, the grouse still are. And we'll call on them this fall.