A treasured creek

According to the odometer, it’s 137 miles from my driveway to the wide place along the gravel road where I typically park before plunging into the woods and bushwhacking the final quarter-mile to the stream.

Other vehicles I’ve driven there over the years reported their own differing opinions. Google Maps claims it is 131 miles.

Regardless, the trip took a bit over two-and-a-half hours. That counts the quick stop for a coffee refill at a convenience store south of Hillsboro.

One does not revisit their most prized creek under-caffeinated

Many years back, while on a solitary winter grouse hunt, I’d stumbled over a nearby ridge and half-slid down the steep, leaf-slick slope to the edge of a broad stone outcropping. Looking down, I was astonished to see a creek!

Not the typical rocky-boned seasonal rivulet, mind you, one merely overfilled with runoff so’s to be mistaken for a brook—but a bigger, genuine year-around creek.

The dark-mirrored ribbon of slow-moving water shimmered enticingly in the wane light. Full and flowing, showing obvious depth.

I had no idea such an intriguing stretch of water existed anywhere in the area—certainly not in this undulating chunk of Appalachian foothills.

I don’t know how long I stood transfixed and doubtless gaping. But I knew I’d found something special, a true jewel. Naturally, I resolved to fish it at the first opportunity come spring.

The stream is a tributary to a tributary of the Scioto River. Thrice removed from the mighty Ohio—a forgotten blue line on all but the best maps.

I’m not going to be any more specific regarding its exact location. Places such as this are hidden gifts—treasures. A lucky, wide-ranging angler might come across two or three similar prizes during a lifetime of piscatorial explorations.

This is one of my personal gems. Probably the best of my secret hot spots.

Frankly, you should never trust any writer who would divulge such information. Their kiss-and-tell willingness reveals a decided lack of integrity—and generally apt to be scribblers peddling drivel.

I’m not circumspect about a chronological perspective. During the five-plus decades of intervening outdoor rambles adventures since that accidental discovery morning, I’ve never revised my initial reaction of having lucked onto a unique and wonderful stretch of stream.

I don’t think there’s a single spot along the half-mile or so—all I usually fish—that’s wider than 20 feet; an average is more like 15.

There are places where I could probably take a run-and-go and jump from bank to bank. Well, I might manage such a feat if I were twenty-five years younger and could find sufficient space along the near-vertical banks to make that necessary running start.

This isn’t water you wade and fish. It’s a section you must work from above—walking along the rock overhangs, casting out and down. Kinda like fishing from a high dock or low bridge.

Yet what it lacks in width, it more than makes up for in depth—which often matches its span. An amazingly deep creek!

Cupped on either side by steep hills, the diminutive feeder along this portion is lined with cliffs, big rocks, and outcroppings and ledges. There’s almost no place where you can step into any shallows. Try it, and the next thing you know you’ll be underwater as your hat floats slowly downstream.

Countless underwater lairs provide wonderful hidy-holes for resident small mouth. The creek is shaded, cool, mysterious. Need I say the action is excellent?

By afternoon—even on a midsummer day—the high, cradling hills block direct sunlight from reaching the water. Shadows fill the hollow. In this dimness, the little creek can almost seem foreboding—a place where more than a trophy bronzeback might be lurking.

Back in the early-1970s, I sometimes stopped at a country grocery near Otway whenever I fished or hunted anywhere in this corner of the state. Their homemade ham-and-cheese sandwiches, plus an ice-cold Ale-8 soda made a terrific meal.

One day, I shared the porch bench with a delightful old-timer and fellow fisherman who said when he was a boy, before the first World War, the creek—especially “my” ledgy, deep section—held muskie. I hadn’t mentioned my secret, treasured creek—but he knew about it from his own angling days.

His info wasn’t surprising and I have no reason to doubt his assertion. Muskie were historically found in many Ohio tributary streams on both sides of the big river. They hung on, in ever-diminishing numbers, through the 1950s and ‘60s. Maybe longer. The first one I caught—one of the very few I’ve tangled with in these waters—came from Sunfish Creek.

If there’s any place where a muskie might still be finning in an Ohio stream, even today, my treasured creek would be a prime possibility.

Not that I ever go there harboring any such hopes. I visit because I need to—because there’s something almost magic about this place. It’s a true treasure—my treasure. A found gift. Personal—with mojo I can feel.

Much as I hate to admit, it’s getting to be kinda sketchy slip-sliding my way down the precipitous slope to the stream’s ledgy edge—or not falling off once I get there.

Advancing geezerhood is a reality. But you have to occasionally take chances. Sometimes you just need to know certain treasures remain—that not everything in the world has changed.

Reach the writer at [email protected]