A Solitary Pursuit

Little J Morning

Social distancing: isn’t it just typical for someone to come up with a cutesy buzzword for something as basic as keeping to one’s self. Under threat of disease and even death, the simple, time honored act of keeping to one’s self has become a thing.

Angling has always been a solitary pursuit. Many of us enjoy gathering after fishing, sharing tales and a meal or libation, but the fishing itself is best accomplished in a solitary state. A man alone on a river can best commune with nature, his thoughts, and the power that guides him.

Let us hope that moments alone on favorite rivers shall help us weather the challenge of this swarming virus that we may gather again in health and celebration of the lovely wild trout and the bright waters which unite us.

It is the final day of winter and spring awaits. I have not quite decided which Catskill river I will walk today, but I will walk one of them. There is sunshine now and birds are singing outside the window above my fly tying desk. If the sun remains through afternoon the water should warm into the forties, and the early black stoneflies might just come out to play.

We are still two weeks from the opening of New York’s trout season, but the border waters of the West Branch and the great Delaware allow fishing all year, and there are No Kill reaches on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc open for fishing. The wonderland of the Catskills still provides choices even in winter, though winter is a long season of want for the dry fly fisher.

Perhaps today that long sleep will be broken.

My last dry fly day was a bright, breezy day in mid-October, after the rains early in the month had revived the freestones. I had found some fine fishing with ant imitations when the sun shone and autumn breezes swirled and shook the trees!

The river was still very low and clear, but cool and comfortable for both trout and angler after summer’s drought. I carried the flamed bamboo my friend Dennis Menscer had recently crafted: seven and one-half feet of perfection wrapped in his trademark burgundy silks! My classic Hardy LRH, held tightly by Dennis’ hand made nickel silver cap and ring, was spooled with a somber toned four weight line and a long, fine leader and tippet.

I stalked a favorite run, working down to a glassy little pool, intent upon finding a tiny surface ring in the shallows along the bank, masked by shadow and a touch of dappled sunlight. There! The lithe rod formed a tight but gentle loop and sent the fly to alight with a whisper, and the trout sipped my fraud like any other wind blown natural.

The cane, arched into a deep bow, and the staccato music of the reel left no doubt that this was no ordinary fish. He abandoned the shallows for the deeper current of the run and ran downstream in a rush. I checked him finally and reeled when he turned, maintaining pressure, though ever conscious of the limited capabilities of the fine 6X tippet.

After a few more runs in the current, the great trout tired, and the supple cane brought him to net; twenty inches of bronze and gold! Dennis’ masterpiece had been suitably christened.

More than five months have passed, and I have tied hundreds of dry flies remembering that day, and dreamed of my next opportunity to see a subtle ring on the surface, and my fly disappear!

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