My thoughts on everything from albacore tuna to zebras
| It was a chilly morning. A heavy frost hung on the switchgrass and caused my breath to form small puffs of moisture. It was the kind of cold that spoke of winter but whispered of spring. In the distance two crows carried on a lively conversation interrupted occasionally by the song of a returning redwing blackbird. The smell of late winter hung in the air. Here and there, small patches of snow faded in and out of view as an early morning fog swirled above the water. Across the open water and the several marshy islands the first glimmer of morning started to appear as the sun slowly peeked over the far ridge.
I sat on my metal five gallon bucket, shivering, and took it all in. The steaming thermos of hot tea was my only defense against the invading cold. The coldest part of the day is always the hour before sunrise. Impatiently, I watched as the sun advanced across the marsh, wishing it would hurry to bathe me in its warmth.
Seelyville dam wasn't much to look at. It was an old millrace dam located in the upper reaches of the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River. The mill had long ago ceased to exist, but the dam remained. It had silted in quite a bit over the years and the silt had formed large marshy areas in the upper reaches of the dam. A lone dead tree, which served as a perch for the crows, marked the boundary between dry ground and the dam.
There were fish in Seelyville Dam. At least that's what I was always told. Big trout, swimming around, just waiting to be caught. I never caught any. Still, I sat there on the cold metal bucket and intently watched the line at the end of my fishing pole. My dad had cut a Y shaped stick and put it in the soft ground at the waters edge. After I cast the worm laden line into the murky depths I reeled in the slack and placed the rod in the Y with the butt resting on the ground. Another smaller piece of wood was hung from the line to act as a bobber of sorts signaling when I had a bite. It very seldom moved and when it did it was usually the wind.
If I grew restless I would wander along the shore seeing what I could see, glancing back occasionally to make sure my fishing rod was still there, making sure some monster fish hadn’t hauled it into the deep. It hadn’t.
There were always sandwiches, Lebanon bologna and swiss cheese with horseradish mustard. There were cookies, sometimes fig newtons, sometimes chocolate chip. And when the sun finally got around to our solitary encampment there was warmth and a tendency to snooze. But there were no fish. Every year we would make the pilgrimage to Seelyville dam and every year the results were the same. Even later, when I was older, I made the pilgrimage on my own. Mostly just to smell the early spring smell and see the redwing blackbirds and to watch the occasional duck that had gotten confused and landed on this forsaken piece of water instead of the larger Prompton Dam a few miles to the north.
I never caught a single solitary fish from Seelyville Dam and I probably never will, yet, it is one of my favorite fishing memories.
It was not a particularly scenic place. It had no special meaning. It was just a place to spend an early spring/late winter morning drowning some worms, waiting for the sun to grace you with its warmth. And that, I believe is exactly why. There were no expectations, no anticipation, no disappointment when at the end of the day you came home fishless. That was understood. It was a given. There were plenty of places I could have gone to catch fish. I went to Seelyville Dam not to catch fish.
And you know what?
I was darn good at it.
The Falls at Seelyville Dam