Messing About in Creeks
"There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much
worth doing as simply messing about in boats." – Kenneth
Grahame, The Wind In the Willows
Or even better; messing about in creeks. I spent my younger
and more formative years in Lawrence, Kansas. My father was
finishing his formal education, which would eventually land
him in Central Pennsylvania; I was just starting mine. I
was in Lawrence three years; kindergarten through second grade.
By Dave Pearson, PA
At the end of the street where we lived was a small park
and through the park ran a creek. It wasn't very wide or
deep – five or six feet on average, and about thigh deep
on my five-year-old self. It was filled with minnows (dace,
as I recall), crayfish (or "crawfish" as we said in Lawrence
in those days; we also said "sack" for "bag" as in "on this
school trip you will need to pack a "sack lunch"), and snails
– lots of little black snails.
I recall being fascinated by the moving water and its
inhabitants. I built dams and islands and castles on
the islands, caught the minnows and crayfish, splashed
about, and had a great deal of fun messing about in the
Third grade saw me in Central Pennsylvania with farms, mountains
(none of those in Kansas), and quite a few more creeks. Some
were like the water I left in Kansas, save for the snails,
some were bigger, and more than a few were filled with trout.
I soon learned trout are not as easily corralled as minnows.
For a while I thought they were a myth until I saw an angler
catch one. Dams and sticks just weren't going to do. I needed
a rod and reel. I ended up with a fly outfit from S&H Green
Stamps. The rod was white with maroon wraps, about eight feet
long. The reel may have been an actual Pfleuger, but in
retrospect, it may have been a knockoff. Probably was, I ended
up gluing the screws that held the frame together in place.
The reel held genuine level line (no backing) which was far
too light for the rod. To the end of the line I attached a
length of four pound mono and a size 8 hook. In those days
I fished with worms.
No one in my family fished, but they were generally supportive
of this endeavor. To this end they got me a subscription to
Field and Stream. There was quite a bit of information
in there, most of it incomprehensible to me at the time, but
I managed to glean a few tidbits and pick up enough jargon to
query Max, the proprietor of the local sporting goods store,
on the how, whys, and wherefores, of local trout. I remember
Max as a man of few words, but those he did utter proved of
value. He wanted to sell me a Fenwick, and I would have been
happy to buy one from him, but he wouldn't take Green Stamps
So I learned to fish bait (later, a muskrat nymph) by way
of Max's curt over the counter tutelage. I taught myself
the gentle art of fly casting with a worm at the end of my
leader. If my loops tightened in the least, my worm flew off
the hook and into the weeds. But, eventually, I got the line,
leader, hook, and worm into the water. And later...Trout!
And now, after half a lifetime elsewhere, middle age finds
me back in my old hometown, renewing my acquaintance with
the streams of my youth and discovering new waters. I range
farther in my car than I did on my bike. I'm quite amazed
that the fascination still holds. Moving water still compels
me. A walk on a country road or mountain path is pleasant.
A walk along a stream or river is an adventure.
My interest now is a bit more refined. My "messing about"
isn't confined to rocks, water, fish, crayfish, and snails.
It includes insects, plants, birds and mammals that live in,
on, and about the stream. My Green Stamps rod has long been
replaced with split bamboo and modern graphite rods, my level
line replaced with lines which have precisely engineered tapers.
The worms have been replaced by hand-tied flies of fur, feather
and steel. Well, mostly...perhaps some antron, nylon, and crystal
You mess about in creeks long enough and you can't help but
see the interrelatedness of things. Everything affects
everything else. Rain affects the water which affects the
bugs which affects the fish and on and on. Nothing exists
in isolation. This should be obvious, but it's not. It's
something that needs to be learned. And best learned, I
think, not in lectures or programs or classrooms or books
(though all these things are of great assistance) but by
messing around in creeks. If you know any children, tell
them. Tell them to go outside and get wet and muddy. Tell
them to mess about in a creek. ~ Dave - (black gnat)
Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his
loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo.
His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar
for a living. You may contact Dave at: