Awakenings

Honest warmth… and wind; but still delicious! The second week of March began with a 64 degree day on Sunday and an amazing 71 degrees of sunshine yesterday afternoon. My morning was trashed by a wasted errand, but I headed out to the Beaverkill around lunchtime. Yes the wind was bad, but I simply couldn’t not go out on the warmest day of the year.

In truth the wind was strong enough and constant enough that it prevented the full pleasure all that sunshine could provide. Out on the river it picked up the cold from the water and redistributed it to the wayward fisherman. But oh the sight of the river!

I stepped out to witness flies in the air, hundreds and hundreds of flies buzzing in the air, rising from the surface and glistening in the sunshine! They were midges, at least for the most part, though there looked to be a tiny mayfly too, now and then. I started scanning for the first rise immediately.

I found none, and reasoned that it was still early, and the sun needed more time to warm the water. I tied on a little bead head soft hackle and started to cast and swing it through the best holding water. Patience was thin, so it wasn’t too long until I cut that fly off and rebuilt the business end of my leader to make a change.

I had received a copy of Mike Valla’s new book last weekend at Flyfest, “The Classic Streamer Fly Box”. I started reading as soon as I got home and during the next few days picked a couple of patterns to tie. Sometimes even a dedicated dry fly fisherman has to face the facts of high cold water in the tail of winter. One of those was a classic Rube Cross bucktail called “Beaverkill”, so I am sure you can understand the necessity of fishing it.

I swung and twitched the bucktail through that lovely stretch of holding water, lengthening the line a bit with each cast. At more than 700 cfs the run was fast, but crystal clear, so I hoped that the shallow swimming fly might just awaken a brown trout still too cold to rise all the way to the surface for midges. On one swing over a pocket of boulders I twitched the fly gently and paused, and felt a single hard pull with a wiggle, my first actual strike of the winter!

I would love to be writing about the battle joined and the giddiness experienced as I brought a fine brownie to the net, but that will have to remain a dream. The hook didn’t catch hold.

I don’t know why this winter has been devoid of trout. It has been mild enough overall to provide little windows of warmer days, and I have fished diligently through the warmest parts of those days to no avail. Yesterday was the first time I found any sort of insect activity, so I have to believe it was some sort of awakening. The weather is supposed to stay mainly in the fifties this week until cooling down for the weekend, and there is rain coming. With warmer air about the rainfall will hopefully warm the rivers somewhat, easing us slowly into the cycle of spring. Barring another onslaught of winter storms, we just might see that early spring the groundhog promised back in February.

As much as I long for dry fly fishing, I don’t want to see Hendricksons on April Fools Day. A spring like that just messes up the hatches for the entire season. We had one of those a decade ago, with grannoms and Hendricksons hatching in March down in Central Pennsylvania. I remember fishing here in early April and never seeing a concentrated hatch all year, the bugs trickling off over a month or more instead of hatching heavily for a week. Some midge activity, and some of the early stoneflies, both bringing a handful of trout to the surface on the warmer days would be the perfect gift. Mid April has always been the perfect time for mayflies to herald an early spring in my estimation. I’d just like a taste over the course of the next month!

Early Black Stonefly

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