The sun hasn’t risen yet here in the Catskills and I already have nearly half a day under my belt. Wide awake at three o’clock, and nowhere to go. One weather outlet claims it is 7 degrees outside, but I haven’t ventured out onto the porch to check my own thermometer. I think you will understand why I defer.
Restlessness is a frequent companion at this time of year, and sometimes it intrudes upon sleep. I need to get out, despite the cold and the snow squalls, just out!
I should wander over and visit my friend Dennis Menscer. I have had some wonderful talks with Dennis, as he is a wealth knowledge regarding life in these mountains, the rivers and the people who helped make up the lore of Catskill flyfishing. I especially enjoy his stories about the classic bamboo fly rods and their makers.
I feel a little guilty about stopping by just to visit, for Dennis makes some of the finest bamboo flyrods in the world. Invariably he will be working when I stop by; either building new rods or working his magic in restoring one of those classics so they might again do battle with Catskill trout. Please understand these are not five minute conversations I am talking about, they easily span four or five hours, yet I always leave wanting for more: friends and shared passions!
I can’t help but feel that I am depriving someone of time on the water with a new Menscer flyrod when I take Dennis away from his work simply to enjoy his company. I hold a certain reverence for the rod makers I know.
Yesterday I started tying boat flies for that longed for spectre of spring. If the past three seasons are any indication, there will be plenty of high water to deal with, but this time I will be ready. Boat flies are a little different from the usual contents of my vest. I tie and fish a lot of CDC patterns for selective trout on flat water, but they can be frustrating to fish from the boat. Drift boat fishing involves almost constant long casts downstream and extended floats which require stripping the fly upstream over and over, drowning even the best CDC feathers.
I tie a pattern I call the “poster” that is ideally suited for drift boat fishing. Posters have a single upright wing post tied with Antron yarn, and they are hackled like a typical Catskill dry fly. They float well on choppy water, they are easier to see on the water at distance, and they catch fish. Find a picky riser in a quiet pocket that demands a low floating imitation? One snip of the scissors and the poster rises to the challenge.
I tie other patterns a little differently when I tie them for the boat box. My drift boat parachutes have 4 or 5 turns of hackle rather then the customary two, and the CDC flies will have extra full and fluffy feathers that can stand up a little better to the repeated dunking. The sparseness I prefer takes a back seat to durability.
Filling that fly box helps me get a little closer to springtime.
It is easy to sit back and daydream, to walk the rivers of my memory…
It was a gorgeous May afternoon, perfection after a day of cold, howling winds that made it unfit for even the most ravenous fly fisher. That first day of my spring trip to the Catskills had been more punishing than the entire winter, but the second day was blissful!
I wandered the banks of the Neversink completely alone, and I reclined on the grass to revel in the luxury of sunshine and solitude. The I watched the pool for a while, fingering the old Granger on my lap, and waited for a rise.
There was a large flat topped boulder near the middle of the river that drew my attention, and it was there that I saw the first Blue Quills bouncing on the roll of bright current where the far edge of the boulder met the flow. As the minutes passed, the flies became more numerous and at last a gentle ring appeared along that rippling edge. I knotted a Blue Quill to my tippet and eased into the river, working slowly within casting range for the 60 year old rod in my hand.
The Granger offered the little dry fly gently, but the trout wasn’t yet feeding in earnest. He sampled only a pair of the naturals during the twenty minutes I waited in the cold water, showing no interest in my fly.
Larger flies began to show, Hendricksons that promised more enticement for the object of my desire, and the promise was fulfilled. The rises came again, still soft, but with a telltale bulge in the surface that quickened my heartbeat. My first offering was a classic Catskill tie, fitting for the tackle and the river, but ignored by my quarry.
There are probably more different patterns of fly in my Hendrickson box than any reasonable man would carry, but I love this hatch and anticipate it like no other. I selected a half and half style CDC emerger that rides with its’ wing awash in the film, tested the knot an extra time or two, and lifted the line into the air behind me.
The first cast alighted, drifted and was ignored; the second was taken with that soft bulge and dimple, and spring arrived with a splash and a surge for deep water. The Granger arched deeply as the Perfect sung its welcoming verse, and I stepped down and across stream to angle the fish away from the protection of the boulder. He ran freely then, heading for the rocky bank across the river, but the pull of the rod turned him, bringing him to midstream well below the rock he had chosen for his table.
The clear water revealed a gorgeous brown as I drew him closer, but he was no where near ready to succumb. I tensed each time he pulled that deep arc in the old cane rod, fearing some unknown fault might allow the heavy fish to escape, but the old classic proved more than equal to the task.
In the net I marveled at his color, then gently laid him along the long net handle on the grass. He reached the twenty inch mark and a bit more, so I hurried to snap a photo of my old Granger’s first Catskill brown.
A memorable moment, a day so cherished and beautiful it was a fit reward for enduring the long, brutal winter, and the perfect way to open a new season on the rivers of my heart.
Yes, it is so easy to sit back and daydream…