The East Branch
A bridge spans the East Branch of the W Creek where it tumbles down a sleep incline under the junction of H and C Roads.
Today its banks are encrusted with fresh snow, glazed with icy rain. The stream whispers past in a gossipy group of 20's flappers, naked under their ermine robes. Pines and spruces rise up along the banks like a private army, engaged by the putative owners of the riparian rights.
I follow the trail of posted signs up C Road and stop at each house with a car in the driveway. I get out and mount the steps of a double wide, praying that it is not occupied by Branch Davidians. I ring the bell and knock a few times. No answer. I try an A-frame, a ranch, a large farm house and finally a new log house with a 3 car garage and a workshop. Loud rock is playing inside the shop, lights are on and smoke is coming from the chimney but not response. I try the front door. There are 3 cars in the circular driveway. No answer.
My quest for permission to fish the East Branch has once again come to naught. I would offer to pay. To give them a trout, in season, though I release mine. I would get my teenager to do chores. It is hard to negotiate with silence. I have run an ad on Craigslist. They are probably afraid of being sued if there is an accident. They are afraid of strangers, and I must look strange to these inbred of ancient German stock. They have hugged these barren hills for centuries and want no new blood to stir them from torpor.
I don't even bother with P Creek, which flows, as if through a bank vault, on the lands of the P Club. If it were the Pickwick Club it would be of another kidney, but...The Club is reputed to have been founded by fly fishing Quakers when William Penn first came to the Commonwealth in the 17th century. You have to have descended from one the families of his faithful to belong. I pass sign after sign: “Posted. No hunting, fishing, tresspassing, dog training, camping or hiking. This land is patrolled.” The bellicose tone of these signs belies the pacifist tradition of the Society of Friends. I am tempted to knock on a few forbidding doors to ask anyway but hesitate. They may be peaceful but could employ men unfettered by principle and armed with conviction.
I arrive at P State Park. The East Branch emerges here like a Goddess from her secret counsels. Her banks are encrusted with pearls and diamonds, her guardians green and mighty, bow their heads and entwine their branches in fealty as she glides past. I follow the bank, studying each rock, eying the rapids, dreaming of the denizens of its dark pools. It is my Shangri La. I will be forever young on these banks, dapping the surface with my supplicant nymphs. I am overjoyed by my discovery. For a few hours I am warmed as if by mulled wine on a winter night.
“Oh, the stretch by parking lot 3,” asks a friend? “During trout season, the locals are on it steady during the week. They leave it for the tourists on the weekends.”
At first I am disappointed. Then I think, it is still magnificent. A place where I can walk the banks, read the library of rocks and lose myself alone in its pools. As long as the snow holds out, it is mine.