Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Urban fish

By Mark Taylor

Scenic and peaceful, this place was not.

We were walking on the shoulder of a busy highway in Eastern Pennsylvania, Joe Baylog leading the way.

We were in the area working on a film project on TU’s work with the state’s Unassessed Waters Initiative. Baylog, president the Forks of the Delaware chapter, was among the locals helping us out.

Dusk had arrived, so shooting was done for the day. It was time to fish, and timing was pretty good.

The peak of the sulphur hatch was probably still a couple weeks away, but there were enough of the bugs around to make things interesting post-sunset.

This spot in the Delaware River basin was not popular, special regulations water. But it wasn’t secret either.

“These are urban fish and they are tough,” Baylog said. “But it can be good.”

Then he grinned.

“If you lived here I probably wouldn’t show you this spot,” he said.

He stopped on the shoulder, pointed down to a run with his rod, and said, “Someone should go in there.”

Cars whizzed by.

A few hundred yards up the road we dropped off the highway into the creek.

A good number of sulphur spinners danced above the water.

No fish were rising yet.

“You can nymph this run, or you can wait,” Baylog said.

“I’m fine waiting,” I said.

Old eyes make changing flies quickly harder than it once was and the sulphur window can be narrow. I wanted to be ready.

Cars continued to blast past on the road above, their headlights washing along the streamside trees. I couldn’t help but be aware, but I didn’t mind.

I actually enjoy fishing places like this. Not all the time, of course. Peace and quiet is nice, too. But it’s fun to know that wild trout, under the right circumstances, can live and sometimes even thrive in urban settings.

In fact this place reminded me of a fun little stream back home in Virginia that runs within spitting distance of an interstate highway.

We watched the water.

“There!” Baylog finally said. “Did you see it?”

I hadn’t.

“Right by that rock, at the tail of the pool,” he said, pointing downstream. “He just came up again.”

I did see it that time.

I gingerly stepped into the water and started pulling line off the reel.

I’m certain cars were still roaring past, but I didn’t notice.

Mark Taylor is Trout Unlimited’s eastern communications director. He eventually hooked—but did not land—that fish in the tail of the pool.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.