People have this image of fly-fishing for trout as an elegant, genteel sport pursued by people of grace and means.
Take Monroe Mizel. He arrived at the shallow, clear water of his favorite Pennsylvania trout stream by dark. The travel van slithers to a stop under the glitter of stars and moon.
Mizel uncorks a silver flask and takes a nip of fine cognac. He lights a Havana cigar, procedured through friends in Canada. He assembles his feather-light graphite rod and picks through an assortment of hand-tied files made of wool and deer hair and waterfowl feathers.
As the light of day breaks and frost athers on the grassy bank. Mizel cumbs into a pair of chest-high waders, slips on his fishing vest and makes for the stream.
He spies a large trout tailing in the fast water, picks through his collection of flies and decides that he will lure this fish to the creel with . . .
A wooly bugger? A cockroach? A Mickey Finn A cress bug A spider?
What are these wiggy things Mizel is pulling out of the fly box? Where are the Royal Coachmen, the stone flies and caddis imitations, the cahills and quill gordons and golden darters?
And what's this? Mizel is throwing out the stub of the fine Havana cigar and into his mouth he is pushing a massive plug of Red Fox chewing tobacco. He opens the puch and shoves it towards a colleague.
"Chew?" he blurts.
Is nothing sacred?
No much on the banks of the great limestone streams of central Pennsylvania these days. The local gentle folk have abandoned these fish-for-fun streams with the big brown and rainbow and brook trout in favor of the nearby fields.
"I love hunting season," said Mizel, a Kensington, lawyer. "The more guys out there chasing dogs and popping at pheasant the less there are on the streams."
The days bears him out. It's Saturday with a crisp autumn chill in the air and a perfect overcast to keep the fish biting most of the day. And Mizel is all but alone until noon; another Washingtonian arrives.
The newcomer has his wife and baby and mother-in-law along, and while he fishes they enjoy the lazy afternoon from the warmth of the car. He knows Mizel.
"Where's that big rainbow," the new man asks. "He was right here when I left last week."
"He's still there," says Mizel, "but he'll have a sore mouth. I caught him this morning."
These anglers leave what they catch for the next fellow. The Pennsylvania fish-for-fun streams have a 15-inch minimum for keeper trout and a creel limit of two fish per day. Mizel's caught a few that qualify this year, but he has not kept one. "I killed two last year," he says, "but only because a guy begged me for them. He was hungry."
Later that Saturday it grew more crowded. Alfredo and Gino and Rick Pasquale arrived, also fresh from the trip from Washington.
"All these Italians and still I live," said Mizel. "I'm the Meyer Lansky of trout fishing."
By evening it looked like a little Washington, with refugees from the capital lining the banks and tossing unconventional flies at the cagy Pennsylvania trout.
They even caught a few.
Pennsylvania fish-for-fun is an all-year proposition, and Mizel contends this is the best time of the year. There are no significant hatches of flies, but imitations of terrestrial bugs, spiders and beetles catch fish on the surface, and underwater nymphs, cress bugs and sculpins can do the job when the fish stay down. Waders are a must, as are warm clothes.
The Big Four among the great limestone streams: Big Springs near Newville; Falling Springs near Chambersburg: The Yellow Breeches near Carlisle and the Letort in Carlisle.
Great names, great streams, and a perfect place for a fall Saturday, regardless of the company.