By Vic Attardo ( ON THE OUTDOORS )

Up ahead is the scarred surface of Blue Mountain – a monument of man’s malfeasance to his environment and his pitiful attempts to reverse earlier wrongs – while out in front is a deep run of the Lehigh River where I have never failed, in many floats to hook a big trout.
I look forward to this water at Palmerton like a kid looks forward to a toy shop visit. Every time I’ve gone through, something exciting has happened. It’s here that I’ve landed and lost, more large Lehigh River trout than at any single spot along this tortured but terrific river.
On this day, I’m again floating with Paul Davidson, to my mind the most knowledgeable guide on the Lehigh. This is Davidson’s eighth year on the river and he never fails to produce a quality float, even when the fishing is tough.
Of course, Davidson knows how much I like this stretch of water below the now-defunct Palmerton dam.
When we embarked in his highpeaked driftboat at Bowmanstown, I made appoint of telling him, probably for the third or fourth time since we scheduled the trip, that I wanted to work this hole slowly and carefully. I didn’t really care how many fish I hooked above and below the deep run-though the positive numbers grew as the float progressed – I really wanted to concentrate on this Palmerton place.
Here is where I’d caught several browns 20 inches and larger, where rainbows had jumped seemingly as high as the mountain top, and also where I had fought, but never tamed, the powerful Kamloop salmon hybrids that a local hatchery once stocked. I’d even watched osprey steal fish as long as rolling pins when diving into this hole.
Now after ten minutes at the Palmerton hole, Davidson having carefully maneuvering us into a side eddy, I was monumentally disappointed that no trout had struck.
We had anchored and worked at least twenty-five yards of the run and I was throwing a five-inch stickbait – a hot producer of big trout – with nothing for my effort.
After a time Davidson raised the center anchor and we drifted another ten yards before he lowered the conical weight into the rocks for another tight hold. Without a strike, I was beginning to think of phrases such as “you can’t go home again,” and “I’ve lost my mojo,” when, nearly without hope, I felt a hard lash against the lure and I swept the rod to set the hook.
From the strength of the pull, I knew it was a good trout. The line spun off the reel and cut through the water with harsh speed, but in a few ticks of the clock the fish was gone.
My letdown was palpable.
We discussed the loss with the tone of a wake.
Though I went through the motions of continuing to cast and even tied on a gold spoon – another good lure for the Lehigh’s deep water – I had given up hope.
For a while I was more intent on moaning and watching Davidson use his spinning outfit when suddenly his rod arced and, almost immediately, so did mine.
Three good trout in a short distance at the same hole? Impossible but true.
Due to the heavy, ripping current of the run, Davidson unfortunately soon lost his fish but somehow my connection held. The fat, pink rainbow leapt high, straight rocket shots that had it spinning in their air like a cotton candy wheel gone berserk. Then, after interminable minutes of cautious reeling, Davidson netted the 15-inch fish. This place, this river, had produced again.
Bamboozled and bedraggled, the once coal-black Lehigh River fortunately continues to improve in water quality and as a fishery.
“In my eight years, the water quality has come a long way for the better,” Davidson told me as we enjoyed a shore lunch on “Dave’s Island” – named among friends for Dave Fry, a guide who no longer works the river.
“The river still has a long way to go and we really need to improve the summer flows, but it’s a good river now and deserves our help.”
There is news regarding the Lehigh River. An important meeting with conservationists and bigwigs is scheduled for May 29 and because its organizers want to show off the real Lehigh, the meeting is a float trip.

Comments are closed.