June 22, 2019

Birthday in the Valley

Earlier this month K.C., Lilly, & I spent a long weekend back "home" in the Philadelphia area. The timing was right, the airfare was cheap, and it just kind of came together in a spur-of-the-moment fashion.

It also happened to be my birthday over that weekend, so given the opportunity there was no way I wasn't going to pay a visit to good old Valley Creek.

But first, some history.

In all the years I lived in southeastern Pennsylvania, and with the frequency that I fished Valley Creek, I never really stopped to do the historical stuff one finds in this gem of a National Historical Park.

You know, Valley Forge, the place where Washington and the Continental army wintered over 1777 and early 1778 while the British held Philadelphia? There's a ton of cool stuff to see, so on Saturday, the day before my birthday, the family & I decided to finally take in some of the sights...

George Washington slept here. For real.
The famous Broadway rapper Alexander Hamilton did too!

All of which was incredibly fun and enriching to experience. The history in the area runs very deep, and every nook and cranny of the park oozes red, white, and blue. I'm actually ashamed that I've walked past Washington's headquarters at least a half dozen times in the past, but this is the first time I had ever ventured inside.

Now while all of that is extremely timely and relevant, let's not forget the reason why we're actually here... the next morning of fishing!

And if you've been to this blog anytime between 2009 & 2014, you've definitely seen photos of this covered bridge before...

On Sunday morning the water was a little high, the fish not totally cooperative, and even though I got a little head start, by 9:00 am, fellow anglers seemed to be dropping in every 50-100 yards. Each bend in the stream I navigated yielded another waving fly rod and waders. So not ideal conditions, but still cold water, wild trout, and the feeling of being back where I belong.

Despite my whining, the fishing was good enough that I got into a few using my tenkara rod and white hackle kebari. The ability of tenkara to provide delicate landings while keeping one's line completely off the water can be particularly effective at Valley since the resident brown trout can be spooky and will definitely notice a "line heavy" presentation.

This particular fish had been through some battles in its life, (or at least was possibly caught before), as it was missing that little flap of skin right along its upper jaw on the one side. I've always thought fish like this kind of look like an old man without his dentures...

Either way, let 'em go for another day...

I didn't take many photos, as I probably didn't spend as much time fishing as I would have preferred due to the wader traffic. So you'll just have to take my word that the weather was beautiful, the fish were pretty as ever, and it's amazing how much a stream's features can change over a few short years.

On the hike back out to the car an observant gentleman (who probably noticed the collapsed rod in my hand) did stop me and ask, "fishing tenkara?"

After I replied in the affirmative, he then went on to say he was part of the leadership team with Valley Forge Trout Unlimited (possibly an officer or member of the board, I don't exactly recall) and he wished me luck on the stream. He was not fishing, just hiking a trail with a companion I assume was his wife, seemingly reveling in being near the stream and those that enjoy it.

Before passing, I thanked him for all he and his group do to keep this public (and historically abused) resource an oasis in otherwise what is a very urban and overdeveloped area of Pennsylvania.

And that sentiment was not just polite small talk. I always loved the escape from the hustle and bustle Valley Creek provided, even if you may run into too many other anglers, or unaware dog walkers prompting Fido to take a splash in the fishy looking pool just upstream, or these days, people posing for creek-side selfies in a quest to become Insta-famous.

Despite all of those minor inconveniences, Valley Creek remains special. The riparian buffer provides refuge and the cool of shade on a warm late spring afternoon, the water remains cold and surprisingly clear, the brown trout are abundant, naturally reproducing and wild, and all the hard work Valley Forge Trout Unlimited does keeps it that way.

So on that particular day, little did that gentleman know that he and his VFTU friends were more than partly responsible for the best birthday present this trout angler could ask for. And for that, I'd again like to pass along a heartfelt "thank you."


  1. Mike, Love the park section of Valley as well. The photos are familiar waters. Good to hear you were able to make a visit on your trip. I also agree, a tour for the historical side is a good memory as well.

    1. Thanks, it was really nice to see that creek again. Even though mother nature certainly did her fair share of re-arranging over the past few years!

  2. Mike
    I really enjoyed the read, especially the section dealing with our colonial heritage. What a birthday gift to get to back and fish some of your familiar waters. Beautiful images of Valley Creek; the covered bridge image is worth framing! Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Bill. Looking back, especially considering the history buff I am, can't believe I didn't do any of that stuff sooner. Guess I just took it for granted while I lived there. Oh the shame.

  3. Mike thank you for the history lesson. Great photos to compliment.
    I can remember you talking about Valley Creek when we were on the smallstreams forum many years ago.

    1. Thanks Alan. When I used to live in Pennsylvania, Valley was a 15 minute drive from my house and quickly became my "home water." In retrospect, I was definitely spoiled.

  4. Lots of fisherpersons (we must be politically correct), but not combat fishing by any means. Also a belated "Happy Birthday".

    1. Yes, definitely not combat fishing. Fortunately, that doesn't happen in PA except opening day, and never at Valley (it's C&R only). Thanks for the b-day wishes, appreciate them!