I like to sit here at my tying desk and experience the quiet of the morning. Its even better out there, along the river, waders soaked from the dew in the tall grass. I have not been there often enough, and that is something I need to rectify.
When I travelled to fish the Catskills I would usually angle late at this point in the season, rush to the Troutskellar well after nine, arriving just before the kitchen closed to put in my dinner order. Dinner and a McCallan at ten thirty isn’t conducive to early morning fishing, except perhaps for the very young. There were times though, when the weather trounced my late evening fishing, when I had that unfulfilled urge that caused me to rise before daylight, shower quickly and haunt the river bank at first light.
There was a trout of my acquaintance that inhabited a certain run. Grown wise from the ways of anglers, particularly this one, he shunned all larger flies and savored minutia. His lie was a marvelously devilish mix of currents that defied my ability to repeat the perfect drift with a size 20 or 22 dry fly, unless I tied it to a long section of 6X tippet. I believe I could feel that old fish grinning every time I cut back the 5X and pulled a few feet of 6X from its spool.
Suffice to say that the trout had broken 6X more than once. Upon feeling the prick of my tiny hook he would twist his head at the moment I was tight and snap it. Other times he would charge from his lie full force, pull the tippet across his favorite rock and win his freedom that way. The old boy was good!
One morning I crept into the water and into casting position as the sun was rising. The Catskill mist hid its rays, enveloping land and water in moisture the color of smoke. I stood and waited, savoring the quiet of the morning, and the anticipation of an engagement with my old adversary. No size 22 adorned my leader, not at this hour; a size ten mahogany spinner was secured to my 5X tippet.
After a quarter of an hour a tiny ring appeared amid the swirling currents of the lie, dissipating almost immediately as if it was never there. Sampling the drift at dawn, eh? I smiled and made ready to cast. Memory fails to recall the exact number of drifts that spinner completed before it was replaced by one of those tiny, disappearing rings upon the surface. It wasn’t more than three.
I lifted, the pocket boiled, the head twist failed, and Mr. Brown charged out into the full force of the run and dug for that favorite rock. He came up just a hair short, thanks to the additional pressure brought to bear by my long rod and 5X tippet. He could have cut that too, had he reached his rock.
Another dawn, another river, waders again soaked with the morning dew. I had not been able to get near this favorite reach of water, besieged both day and evening, but solitude beckoned at dawn. Another size ten spinner knotted to my leader, but with no pre-arranged meeting this time. I walked, and stalked, hoping for an adversary.
I found one far upriver, sipping in a smallish pool of dark water to the side of the main current, ghosting about among the weeds and finding what morsels remained trapped from the night before. The fish was moving, as the water was nearly still, and I timed each cast to set my fly in front of him when he established a line of travel. A long cast, low light, but the twinkle of my big spinner helped me see when the ring replaced it on the dark surface. What a boil erupted in that quiet backwater when I arched the rod!
We battled in the weeds, his domain, and fortune prevailed as I led him through the fronds of water weeds and into the current at last! There he ran long and hard, finally surrendering to the pull of the rod: a fat, golden 22 inch brown, indignant to find his breakfast was a biting fraud.
Summer approaches, and rain is scarce. The rivers will warm this week with two days near ninety. So too will the crowds encumber many favored pools. Perhaps I’ll arise early, wash the sleep from my eyes and pull on waders, run the line through the guides of a cherished rapier of bamboo, and stalk the river banks at first light; waders drenched by the morning dew on the tall grass.