The Glory of a Catskill Mountain Morning

One of the truths of nature, of rivers, is that they are always in transition. My morning forays have been beautiful and productive, but they are changing. Rivers are warming again, and there seems little hope in sight for another lovely rainy day.

Thunderstorms are hit and miss; that is why we find them in our daily forecasts throughout the summer. Some are so brief that their moisture evaporates before it even enters the soil. I can tell by the brown grass in my yard after two or three of them. A big one will certainly wet the landscape, but in the mountain forests that envelop our rivers so much of that rainfall becomes runoff when the rainfall intensity is high and the slopes are steep.

I have enjoyed my walks with the eagles, my visits from the deer, and the electricity felt through the throbbing arch of bamboo when one of our trophy wild trout has sampled my fly to make it a truly special morning. Yet changes are inevitable.

The sparse hatches have dwindled of late, and there has been little surface food to interest the trout, even in the coolest flows of the day. I have taken trout on terrestrials, but they seem not yet to be looking for them.

My fishing had quieted enough that I threw caution to the wind and travelled to the West Branch to celebrate an old tradition: fishing the summer sulfur hatch on the first of July. Many summers found me at West Branch Angler, haunting the frigid flows of the upper river by midday. The fishing has paled in recent years, with more pressure and fewer rising trout to play the game. With the flows near 500 cfs one would think the drift boats would be parked as mine is, yet many still insist on adding to the disarray on a few short miles of a heavily crowded river.

When I waded in on Wednesday there were three anglers in sight, none of them within 100 yards. I was pleasantly surprised. My mood changed when a boat drifted down to anchor a cast’s length above me. A “guide” certainly, as I recognized the Baxter House decal on his bow. Gone are the days when the river guides were known for the utmost courtesy.

By the time the hatch had brought a few sporadic rises, the water around me began to fill with wading anglers too, each intruding into my shrinking casting range, oblivious to the continuing threat of the virus, and certainly oblivious to the concept of sportsmanship that once formed a code among fly fishers. One even asked if his intrusion was “too close”, then stepped away a full stride when I told him that yes it most certainly was.

I stayed, but I fished with too much intensity to reap the benefits of solace and peace I look for on the river. I caught a few trout, nature seeming to provide a bit of justice, as plenty of trout rose directly in front of me and not it seems in front of those who crowded me from both sides, or the enterprising fool who waded in directly behind me and began to cast toward my boots.

I knew better than to go, even during mid week, for the crowds are worse this year than ever before, but I felt nostalgic for an old tradition. It only took a couple of hours before the pressure of being surrounded by the possibly infected got to me. The chap behind me looked perturbed when I turned to exit.

Transitions. Folks seem to have adopted the attitude that, since they are tired of the virus and the various governments have “re-opened”, they will simply pretend like nothing is wrong and do what they will. Too much of society finds no use for things like common sense and concern for our fellow man, particularly when they don’t align with their wants and desires. I pray more will learn the folly of their thinking without even greater tragedy than we have already endured.

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