I stood looking upstream at the old covered bridge, pondering how many memories it had cast a shadow upon over the years. This was water I knew well having fished it so many times as a youth, and I took some time to watch as the sun began to dip below the tree line which would soon bring cooler air to the summer day. I had just fished downstream for a short while in an effort to catch an evening hatch, while my youngest son swam with his cousins in the upstream riffles. And as expected the water had given up a handful of trout in which I was able to bring to hand. How many times had I spent a summer evening cooling off in those same waters as a child? It was countless in number. Yet I watched as another generation took my place. The covered bridge was a landmark in the area, and being a short jump over the mountain from home, it was often a way to beat the heat for the locals. There was no park area then. No playground for the kids. It was a gravel beach near a large pool, an old cast iron charcoal grill on a cemented pipe and a couple wooden picnic tables. But for us, it was better than any resort imagined. I recalled swimming just as my son was while my Dad would fish below the bridge. Often, he would bring back a few trout for the grill before the day ended. We would cook them in aluminum foil and sit in the chilling air, picking the meat off the bones with a damp towel draped over our shoulders for warmth, as our wet cut-off jeans puddled on the wooden bench.
Soon after however, I was fishing alongside my dad during those outings with the family. The trout waters got their hooks in me at an early age. No doubt much earlier than my Dad probably had wished for however, since my presence often curtailed much of his fishing as well. His days on the water quickly became tutoring and watching over me as I plodded along, knotting lines and losing rigs, yet I don’t recall him ever showing any frustration with me on the water. What I do recall are memories of watching a mallard hen leading 10 ducklings along the bank then around my hip-boots like I never even existed, as I stood there with rod in hand, wide-eyed in amazement. I remember watching my Dad hook and land the largest brook trout I have seen caught to date beneath that covered bridge. And I can still smell the aroma of venison burgers grilling over briquettes. Such a welcome smell of smoke as the day drew to a close and my Dad and I walked back together to the family picnic site. Where like always, my brother and sister could be found drying off from their swim above the bridge.
Little did I know what those memories along that rural Pennsylvania creek held in store for me as time moved on. The seeds in which my Dad had planted would not only grow into a lifelong love of waters, but it would also show me what those waters have to say…if you listen close.
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