The first wild trout of the season came to a size 20 blue-winged olive at 3:45 PM on the Delaware River. With the rainy day forecast being revised this morning, I returned to the same reach of the river I angled yesterday. I had seen five rises yesterday afternoon, those one time only affairs that leave you breathless after a long winter, but never provide the solace they promise. They were out of reach for the most part, though one got me up and bucking the crosswind for an hour or more in vain.
While the West Branch and Beaverkill had dropped 5 degrees over night, the Mainstem held at 43 degrees, a single degree below its afternoon peak. With a second day of full sunshine, I hoped that the water temperature might inch a little closer to that magic 50 degree mark, and urge a trout or two to actually feed on the surface.
It was after 2 pm when I dangled my stream thermometer in two feet of water and read 57 degrees. There had been a few sporadic rises, put off for a while when the same drift boat that squeezed past me yesterday, came through on top of me again. There were a pair of occupants today, three yesterday, obviously none of them aware just what “solitary outdoor recreation” entails.
Once the run settled down, my fish rose again. He wasn’t what you would call a feeder, rising once perhaps on the half hour at best, but it gave me a bit of sport to try the flies I had tied this morning.
There were some early stoneflies about yesterday, and a couple of little black caddis had landed on my hand, so I had spun up a few of each this morning with some Trigger Point fibers and CDC. My persnickety riser wouldn’t touch them. Every once in awhile he would sip something I couldn’t see 50 feet away, staying in his back eddy along the far bank while the wind driven current pulled my fly through his lie after a short but seemingly adequate looking float.
It must have been close to half past three when I could suddenly see something on the surface that looked like wings. At this time of year it pretty much had to be little olives, since the stoneflies and caddis had drawn a solid blank. I tried a size 18 CDC emerger with no response, then grudgingly cut back my 5X tippet and knotted three feet of 6X to the end.
I dug around in the olive box for a size 20 sparkle dun, one with a Trigger Point fiber wing that I could see at a distance. I tried a few downstream casts, throwing my backcasts low and away, straight into the wind, and then something wonderful happened. Calm. But not just calm, calm with a rise upstream, right where I could spy those intermittent little groups of dark wings on the surface!
I turned and laid the fly right in that line of drift, and I’ll be damned if that trout didn’t rise up and take it. I hadn’t cast a dry fly to a rising trout since mid-October, and I finally got to feel the old, familiar throbbing in the rod grip. My friend put up a good scrap, even taking off a couple of times downstream and making my old CFO sing.
I let myself enjoy his struggles until it was time for the net, then scooped the foot long brownie and slipped the tiny fly from his lip. I offered my thanks as I let him dart away over the bright gravel.
Its a good omen when the first trout of the season takes a dry fly, coming at a time when a good omen is very much needed and cherished.
I didn’t see any more of those little dark wings bouncing on the current, so I took a seat on a grassy hump on the bank and waited. I said a little prayer for my loved ones and our group of friends, and for all of us, asking that there be many more bright days like this one and for an end to these difficult and dangerous times.