Memorial Day

What A Difference A Week Makes

What a difference indeed. A week ago the mountainsides were brown, save the evergreens, and a few days of actual warmth and sunshine have transformed the Catskills. I love that “new leaf green” we get only in the first full blush of springtime, at times nearly chartreuse in the sunshine!

It simply doesn’t seem like it can be Memorial Day Weekend. There have been far too few days that looked or felt like spring. It was gorgeous all week and, even now the sun is trying to burn through the cloud cover as I sit here and listen to the morning rain on the metal roof, but Memorial Day? No that is still far off. It must be!

Memorial Day is the peak of the season, the hatches having all built to a crescendo, and then…the Drakes! I admit it, I am a card carrying member of The Cult of The Green Drake; but this year I am at a loss.

Caught! Not fully emerged…

Last season Memorial day came and went, and there were no Drakes. Memory flashed to 2018’s sustained high water and the fear that the hatch might be lost for the season. I was mired in the work of entering retirement and finding a home here in the Catskills, and I never had the chance to come and try to find the hatch in 2018. The fear rose again in my throat in 2019 but for naught, as the hatch did come, a good one, though weeks late. What might transpire this year?

The Green Drake is an unusual mayfly, in that it takes two years to complete its growth from egg to emerging dun. The timing of hatches seems to be governed by the degree day theory, that it takes a certain number of days at a certain minimum water temperature for a mayfly nymph to progress through its various instars to reach maturity and hatch into a mayfly dun. If this theory is correct then, the conditions during the past two years will set the timing for this season’s hatch. What might the puzzle of these past two unsettled years reveal?

My expectation is that the Drakes will arrive late. Witness that the crescendo is not yet upon us. We seem to be mired in the May lull between the Hendricksons and the March Browns, without the caddisflies to rescue those addicted to the dry fly. It is indeed a very strange spring.

I first fished Hendricksons on the 19th of April, the day after a 2 1/2 inch snowfall, with the river high and warming barely to the mid-forties. In my experience, that amounts to “an early spring”; a normal spring bringing the hatch during the fourth week of April. But then the rivers stayed in the forties for 5 weeks. The shad fly caddis typically overlap the Hendricksons a bit, yet I have seen only token representatives of the species. Are we early or late? I wish I knew.

My vest carries more than its normal load for the season. There are still Hendricksons and a few quills, black caddis, March Browns, spinners and shad flies, various sulfurs and a Gray Fox or two, always olives, and yes, even drakes. I still feel unprepared, like I am missing something. Ah yes, that other caddis box, the ones with Grannoms and some other obscure caddis I encounter once in a while. I must find another pocket for that box!

A day to relax, to avoid the crowded rivers and tie a few flies, adjust those fly boxes and fill a transition box to stay ready for whatever oddities Mother Nature may send bobbing down the current. It is a fine thing to have such a day indeed.

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