A Terrestrial Morning

Cool Summer Morning

I was tired yesterday and slept too late. I guess I really needed the extra sleep, as even Ray the cat let me roll over and nap once or twice. Consequently I was a little slower than normal getting going and got to the river later than I planned. By the time I waded in and checked my watch, I figured I had three hours to fish.

The morning was beautiful, the sunlight cutting through the pockets of mist clinging to the mountainsides, with that lovely coolness to the air. One last day in the mid-eighties and then the weather is supposed to get better. There should be many more such mornings ahead.

As has generally been the case this summer, there was no insect activity, though I did spot a couple of single rises in the distance. There is always something on the surface of a Catskill trout river somewhere.

I carried my Dream Catcher four weight rigged with a Bougle reel and a long, long leader built out to 6X. My fishing has been fine and far off by necessity, even now that the rivers have received a little relief from the pitiful flows of this dry summer. I was prepared to fish very carefully and methodically. I admit that the push of the extra current felt good against my legs as I stalked the pool, and I hoped it had invigorated the fish, though my trips during the week had not shown much promise.

My style of Catskill terrestrial fishing is concentrated on particular areas, the various micro-habitats where there is a higher probability of finding a receptive trout that might just rise to sample some earthy looking bug. At the same time, I watch my surroundings to look for certain types of rises elsewhere. This summer, most of those have been little fish eager to smack a stray midge, ant or mayfly, so “other rises” have been drawing less of my attention.

I spent a lot of my brief fishing time working one of those micro-habitats to no avail. I was thorough, probing the edges and then easing my casts deeper into the tight spots, but there seemed to be no active fish that were interested in breakfast.

In the distance I had spotted another angler, and I sort of kept tabs on his downstream progress to adjust my own pace. When you suddenly have less water to fish than planned, you make the best use of the areas you do have. Slowing down to concentrate on half the areas I had expected to fish, instinct made me look favorably on a couple of small spots where I had never risen a trout.

If some piece of cover or shade, or a little lag in the current looks good to me, I expect it looks good to a trout as well. If I haven’t had any responses in my previous fishing there, I understand that my judgement might be wrong, or that its right and a big fish commands that spot. Big, wild old brown trout don’t rise at everything that floats nearby, and they are not always in the mood to take something, not even a live mayfly fluttering on the surface right above them. While guys may fish these kinds of places hard, trying a bunch of casts with different flies, in truth you usually only really get one cast. Make the right cast at the right time with a fly that’s likely to appeal to a big old brownie and you might get a rise out of him.

This one particular spot seemed like that kind of cover, so rather than deciding that no trout held there, I expected that a large trout did, and I worked into position very slowly and carefully to make that one cast for the current and conditions.

My fly had drifted about a foot before a very subtle ring appeared on the surface, and though I couldn’t clearly see the fly hunkered down there awash in the film, I knew he had taken it. I paused ever so slightly and tightened slowly but steadily into a good fish: bamboo bent into a full arch, big smile on face!

Mr. Brownie gave a good account of himself, flashing that big, long, buttery gold side of his in the morning sunshine as he tried to rub the offending bug from his jaw. You have to love the flex in a good bamboo rod when you have a trout like that on 6X tippet and he’s trying to snag every rock and stick on the bottom of the river to be free.

My grin was as wide as the sky when I measured him in the net. Twenty-two inches of gorgeous wild fish flesh, writhing as I dipped the net to keep him in the water while I twisted the fly free. As soon as I rolled him out of the mesh and into my hand he rocketed away.

Fishing has been slow of late, the oppressive heat and low flows don’t exactly prompt many fly hatches. The heavy rainfall we received from the tropical storm and recent thunderstorms certainly did the rivers a lot of good. Continued periodic rain fall and cooler temperatures should begin to work their magic if the forecasts prove correct, and we might just start to see a few flies.

If not, I guess I’ll have to spend more of my time fishing those spots that look good but never produce, trying to make that one perfect cast.

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