It looks like summer may finally arrive, not that terribly hot, dry, humid unfriendly thing that seems to have hung around here for the past couple of months, no, I mean Catskill Summer: highs rising into the seventies after a chilly dawn, pleasant sunshine and gentle breezes, and a nice flow in the cool rivers. We have all been waiting for it, wondering if perhaps it was in quarantine too.
It is 59 degrees here in Crooked Eddy this morning, and there is a nice flow of cool water in the rivers, and things are going to get better next week. A few cooler days and nights and who knows, we just might see a few bugs on the water once again. Olives, Hebe’s, some of the summer’s ubiquitous tan caddis…I am sure the trout would appreciate their appearance as much as we trout fishers would.
Flying ants, oh how I would love to wander around a bend in the river and witness a fall of flying ants! It was several years ago when that last occurred and the memory is bittersweet. I was fishing down on the Mainstem on one of those beautiful Catskill Summer days, but I wasn’t finding any rising trout. It was around four in the afternoon when I walked into the tail of Junction Pool to find the water literally alive with the rings of rising fish!
I waded into the tail of the pool excitedly, scanning the surface as I stealthily approached a pod of good trout sucking down something from the surface. I squinted enough until I finally saw them: ants! They were tiny, a size 22 black winged ant, and there were thousands upon thousands of them stuck in the surface film. I confidently dug out my terrestrial box and came up with a perfect little black size…twenty. It was close, but not close enough!
I remember standing chest deep in the main flow line of the tailout with a fine fish rising regularly a rod length upstream, casting nothing but leader and watching him glide up and pick off naturals all around my not quite right dry fly. He finally got close to it once and I thought he took it, but he wasn’t hooked when I raised my rod.
The action lasted more than an hour until the supply of ants ceased and I waded out and walked back to the truck for a break. It was quarter to seven when I noticed rings again, and grabbed my gear and headed back to the tailout. There was a second flight of ants on the water, size 22 of course, and the trout were just as selective, ignoring my size 20 once again. I waited this time when the rises ceased, waited until they started again in the lowering light of evening. I salvaged my confidence just a little when I took a fine nineteen inch brown trout on a small rusty spinner as the sun retreated below the Pennsylvania mountains.
There is a fly box somewhere in here that has size 22 winged ants, and size 20’s and eighteens, and sixteens, in back, black and red, cinnamon, brown… well one doesn’t want to relive the bittersweet portion of that memory. I had better dig out that box and put it in my vest while I’m thinking of it!