There is something spectacular about a winter’s morning. The sunlight belies the ten degree temperature, so that even with ice along the river’s edge there is a promise of fishing. The day may blossom or, like today, that gorgeous sunshine may not defeat the rush of artic air, keeping that ice secure.
It is a good day to spend time at the bench. The soft hackle box has been filling this past week, as has the box of tiny streamers. Swinging flies: wet fly hooks, silks and game bird feathers. I wander back and forth between classic patterns: Partridge and Orange, Grouse and Green, and my own. My Red Squirrel Sparkle dubbing traces back to my fly shop days, and an article penned for Fly Fisherman some two decades ago. A slender dubbed body with a bit of copper wire and a brown partridge feather makes for an enticing little fly I know will wake the interest of a cold water brown.
Invariably the streamers feature marabou, the quest for movement within the fly burned into my psyche by my friend Ed Shenk, Master of the Letort. Even the simple Wooly Bugger is tied spey; a shorter hook and a wide, webby palmered saddle hackle, at times collared with a large game bird feather. In the cold water of winter’s Delaware, each fly must convince the trout it is a living thing.
Last year I stalked the margins of the bank full river with an old Steve Kiley bamboo. Reported to be a modified Dickerson taper, its maker marked it for a DT6 or WF7 line, with which it works fully when I extend the line. Being bamboo though the tip retains that life, that delicacy that can gently flick a size 20 olive to some imagined ring on the leaden surface. You never know when a bit of magic might develop after all.
There is a new madness on my horizon, born of that spring obsession with distance casting. My wrist and hand paid the price for too many of those 100 foot casts, and now I wait for tests and conversations with doctors.
Spey casting seems to offer the opportunity to swing those lovely old soft hackles without the wear and tear on my infirmed hand and wrist, so I am preparing to embark on the whimsy of “trout spey”, something I once joked about. The local fly shop has a line on order for me, one I hope will arrive before the short weekend warmup the weathermen are touting.
Just now I cannot help but linger here by the window, entranced by the blaze of sunlight across the snow and the shock of blue sky framing the northern mountain.