As a western fly fisherman who has never wet a line east of Colorado, I was drawn into Walt Franklin’s account of fishing a variety of rivers and streams near his home along the Pennsylvania/New York border. The watersheds of three rivers – the Genesee, the Allegheny, and Pine Creek – can be traced to a single source, the triple watershed divide on a rise near Gold, Pennsylvania. Franklin explores the rivers and tributaries he describes as his favorite trout streams as a streamwalker who could “peer into the eyes of…the living spirit of these river systems”.
Franklin shares a mix of imagery, both real and imagined, as he ventures into woods and gorges, following the bluelines of topographic maps to seek new pools while taking note of new side streams for future forays. His journeys, like many of our own, occur “with a fly rod close at hand and remain a work in progress.”
He does a nice job of describing encounters with fish and fowl and wild animals that in this region have historically competed with the pressures of commercial-scale agriculture, lumber and mining operations, and more recently with hydro-fracking operations, a source of much angst on his part. I could identify with his notion that the “residues” of society can begin “dissolving in the clear deep holes and boulder-studded pools” of rivers we visit.
As a Colorado guy who believes my home river is comparatively small as western rivers go, what a surprise it was to read of highly productive fishing in tiny plunge pools and streams only four feet wide! Plus, when Franklin meanders briefly into an encounter in the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico where he met a fisherman who turned him on to the Rio Grande King pattern, one that he then used successfully on his rivers back east, I chuckled aloud. Go figure.
Reflective if at times repetitive (this guy catches a lot of fish!), Franklin shares an active engagement with and love of his home waters. Interspersed with moments of humor—to wit, the porcupine that became an angler—descriptive vignettes and a commitment to conservation, Streamwalker’s Journey is a respectable series of stories that reminds the reader that no matter what waters we fish, we always have something in common.
— Dave Ammons