Serendipity on Cayuta Creek

I’m a believer in serendipity, which I quote, as follows, from Wikipedia:

Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. The word has been voted one of the ten English words hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company.

Just so happens I found it along Cayuta Creek, a favorite trout fishery of mine and one that has been profiled here before. I had stopped by on a recent Friday evening for a bit of after-work fly fishing and as usual, the “little gem” did not disappoint…

One of many Cayuta browns that couldn't resist a picket pin streamer...

Fishing one particular stretch that evening, I quickly got into quite a few brown trout – a mix of stocked fish and holdovers. My peaceful 2 hour interlude was interrupted only once by a spin fisherman whose pick-up came to an abrupt stop, with a roar of its exhaust, near where I was fishing. He climbed out of his burly red truck, rappelled down the creek bank, simply outfitted with spinning rod, sunglasses and cigarette, and briefly stopped to ask how I’d done. He then walked downstream, casting his spinner from the bank in rapid-fire fashion. After just a half-dozen casts, he dashed upstream and out of sight.

I found the trout willing to dance with a Picket Pin streamer that had been sent a few weeks earlier, gratis, courtesy of Dave Pelachik of JJ’s Jigs. All it took to produce that magical buttery brown flash of a trout from the greenish depths of the pool was a cast across and upstream followed by a mend to get the fly deep and a few short strips on the swing. There were more short takes than I could count, but for a good while, this tactic produced a number of stockies along with several nice fish. Later, clouds of midges or tiny olives – I’m not sure which –  started hatching, with a few caddis interspersed, and the game changed. On went a Picket Pin wet and Godfather (pheasant tail) emerger. One out of every three or four casts was followed by classic staccato grabs on the swing that every wet fly fisherman dreams of in the depths of winter.

The fishing that evening was so enjoyable, I couldn’t resist another shot the following day. With my wife up in Rochester tending to my collegiate daughter, I figure I’d enjoy another day of the relative solitude that pre-opener fishing brings. I drove west from my home that Saturday and then north in the mid-morning overcast, belly full with the contents of the oh-so-good / oh-so-unhealthy Sausage Egg McMuffin I’d picked up along the way. It was another cool and damp day with spritzes of rain thrown in for good measure.

Driving along the length of Cayuta Creek, I saw only a few cars parked bank-side. But once I reached the special regs section above Van Etten, I noticed a somewhat familiar car in the exact spot I had parked the evening before. The tall gangly figure walking upstream along the road quickly confirmed my suspicions; it was none other than my long-lost fishing pal and former coworker, Dan…

I caught up to him in my car, practically squeezed him off the road, and extended a hearty hello. After parking, Dan patiently waited while I strung up – something I pointed out to him with emphasis since most times he’d be thigh deep in the creek before I’d barely donned my waders.

We fished the same run I’d fished the night before, then walked upstream to a favorite riffle below the bridge pool and fished the creek back down to where we parked, all the while catching up on goings on, re-telling old war stories, and enjoying the willing participation of the creek’s enthusiastic browns. I asked Dan why he hadn’t sent more flies to me, good tyer that he is, and he countered back about not getting him a ticket to the Al Hazzard TU banquet. Through it all, we both seemed at a loss to pinpoint exactly how long it had been since we last shared a day on the water.

Looking downstream on the "Little Gem".

I came that day not looking for anything but some quiet time fly fishing a special little creek, but as happens every once in a while in life, I found something else. As we worked one particularly deep hole, Dan mentioned the sudden passing of some former coworkers, and I could tell it was really bothering him. Interestingly, I too had just gotten word of a colleague from my past who had died at a still relatively young age. We talked about it and continued to fish, but maybe in the silence of each cast, we pondered our own tentative place on this good earth. Our banter picked up after that, as did the sharing of more good memories and the promise of more time on the water in each others company.

We fished every part of the creek on our way to where we parked. After climbing out of the creek and breaking down my gear at the car, all I could think of was a passage from T.S. Elliot’s poem, Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It’s one thing to call up a friend and arrange a day of fly fishing, but quite another to arrive at the same place and pick up as if it had been thoroughly planned in advance. Serendipity is a good friend, indeed, and one I will cherish as long as I can wade a beautiful piece of water and cast a fly…

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6 Responses to “Serendipity on Cayuta Creek”

  1. Thanks for the mention! Great blog post! Nice to hear Cayuta was good to you. I’ve been hitting the Owego with much gusto and nary a trout has nibbled any of my offerings.

  2. Bob,
    I’ve always interpreted those 4 lines by Elliot as rather pessimistic…driven by a desire to explore, we forge ahead blindly on the river or the road, then finally come to our senses when it’s rather too late. What’s your take? Maybe I should read the poem again. It’s been years.

  3. Nice read. I like the little zen poem you throw at us in the end.

  4. chris longwell Says:

    I fly fish and tie flies… love it! But with all the Zen and serendipity why such a condescending description of the spin fisherman. You make it sound as if he is some interloper. I think that appreciation of the stream environment is not dependent on tackle. Hemingway expressed the beauty of fishing without needing to put a hierarchy on process I think fly-fishermen should as well.

    • stflyfisher Says:

      Chris – thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment. I re-read the description of the spin fisherman. Perhaps I should have chosen a better word than “interrupted”. The angler seemed like a nice fellow and I’ve never had an issue sharing water with any fisherman. I grew up as a spin fisherman, and still do spin-fish on occasion. It was just too bad he was in such a rush. There was plenty of room and had he stayed a little longer, he might have caught some trout.

  5. I used to spin and still do. Catty fishin with chicken liver after midnight is fun to. The long rod takes most of my time now, but getting back to my roots brings back memories of when I was affraid of the dark. See ya downriver.

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