potter countyFrom Guest Blogger: Mary Kuss

June 9 to 14 found me back in Potter County, Pennsylvania, just about my favorite place to go fly fishing.  Circumstances had kept me away for several years, so it was a very joyous homecoming.  I stayed at Kettle Creek Lodge, in the little village of Oleona.  My friends, Stephen and Laura Benna, have owned and operated the Lodge for a number of years, and now their daughters Olivia and Alison are old enough to lend a hand.  The Lodge is rustic, yet clean and comfortable.  A hearty, family-style breakfast is included with your stay, and dinners can be arranged for a modest additional fee if desired.

This area has a great deal to offer the angler or anyone who loves being in an unspoiled natural environment.  Opportunities for hiking, birding, or botanizing abound.  The last time I visited Potter County I was horrified by the changes that had been wrought by the Marcellus Shale play.  Huge tanker trucks barreled down the mountain roads.  Helicopters buzzed overhead, disrupting the normal peace and quiet, and survey crews created blockages of some roads in the course of their work.  My friend Rabbit Jensen, who had finally achieved her lifelong dream of retiring to Potter County, arrived just in time to land in the middle of all this.

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I left my home near Philadelphia for the five-hour drive to Potter County.  As I drove up Route 44 through the Pine Creek Valley, I was sad to see that a number of the local businesses that I remembered from years past were either closed or gone without a trace.  Once I passed Waterville, however, and started up over the mountain, I was relieved to see that the worst of the fracking activity seemed to have died down.  I don’t think I saw even one of those cursed tanker trucks.  Of course, that made me wonder where all of that used fracking fluid was going.  Perhaps it’s best not to think about it.

What brings me to Potter County is the promise of wild trout—stream-bred brown trout but especially the native Brook Trout.  I can catch stocked trout at home in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Water levels were low—surprising considering the good snow pack this past winter and a cool, wet spring.  I had to work a little harder for the Brookies I caught, but each one is a little gem, a defiant testimony to the resilience of nature in the face of human abuse.

The highlight of my trip was having Rabbit guide me to the home of “Mr. Brown,” one of her so-called pet trout.  Rabbit had been trying for this fish for a while, and estimated his length at 14 inches.  I had timed my trip to coincide with the Slate Drake hatch, a personal favorite.  Although no hatch was in progress as we approached Mr. Brown’s lair, I knew that he had been seeing them.  Rabbit said she would like to watch for a while.  I carefully positioned myself to cover the deep slot at the head of the pool, and waited a few minutes for things to quiet down.  I made a few test casts to the shallows to measure my distance.  Then I began drifting my Slate Drake parachute through the slot.  On the third cast Mr. Brown savaged the fly and was on.  I was glad for my 4X tippet, as I applied side pressure to hold him away from the maze of underwater boulders where he lived.  Finally I was able to play him up to my feet.  We did not bring a net, so I grabbed the leader.  Almost immediately he shook out the hook, but we both got a good look at him.  If anything, Rabbit was conservative with her estimate of his size.  He was deep in the body and broad across the back, his flanks speckled generously with red spots.  I watched him drift slowly back into the depths of his pool.  That’s an image that will stay with me for a very long time.

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