The Groundhog Speaks

Delaware River February 3rd, 50 degrees and sunny

So old Phil says it will be an early spring and then the next day looks and feels like he’s speaking the truth. Sure the morning was cold with heavy clouds as I tramped through the slush around town, but that sun burned those clouds away and started melting the slush and snow and I just had to get out on the river!

This was my first day on the mainstem this winter. The water temperature was steady at 36 overnight down at Lordville and a degree or two warmer at Hale Eddy on the West Branch, so I figured that that gorgeous sunshine might just warm up the Junction Pool enough to wake up a fish or two. I guessed right but geared wrong.

I carried the trout spey rod, rigged with a 7′ fast sinking leader butt and a weighted fly, a brand new offspring of the old reliable wooly bugger and the beautiful hen pheasant skin my friend John gave me over the weekend. I figured swinging something that would really pulse and wiggle in the soft currents, slowly presented, just might entice an old brownie to mouth it.

The fly looked wonderful in the water, but I had to enjoy another winter afternoon without the benefit of a fish.

Swinging the fly slowly downstream I saw a little blip of water along the far bank, the shallow, sunny bank where that sun had been doing its work for a couple of hours. There it was again, something stirring in the flat water! Had to be a fish!

It was gone before I could even think about re-rigging, so of course I swung my fly through the area repeatedly, to no applause. That did get my blood pumping faster for a moment.

Later, as the afternoon temperature reached its apex, I switched to an intermediate leader butt and an unweighted soft hackle Pheasant Tail. I swung that fly carefully through the tailout of the Junction Pool. Absorbing the sunshine and the energy of the flowing river I heard a call somewhere overhead and realized I was not alone. I hadn’t seen the bald eagle as he was circling directly overhead. He knows that tailout is a good fishing spot too.

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