Mike Saylor scans the river in search of a rise

It is Saturday morning, the 19th of September. Three days remain of the summer of 2020 and it is 32 degrees in Crooked Eddy, with frost on the roof of my car. Yes, frost. I fired up the furnace last night with frost warnings across the region despite the predicted low of 36 degrees. It was the right move, as home feels a bit more homey this morning.

The wind howled all day yesterday, and my wrist was aching from three days of throwing a long line on the Delaware, so I tended to other matters. The final coat of Tru Oil had dried on my old landing net, so I decided to restring it and install the new ghost net bag that has been lying around for several years. I sat down to tie some autumn flies as well, for my best friend is finally coming up to fish for a few days.

I first met Mike Saylor when he wandered into my fly shop in the early nineties. He was fairly new to fly tying and had some questions. When he told me he was a surgeon, I replied that he should find fly tying rather easy to master given the dexterity required for surgery. History has proven my assessment was correct. We started fishing together back then and have continued to this day. It was Mike that introduced me to Capt. Patrick Schuler and got me out in a Delaware River drift boat for the first time; the first of many trips.

Mike retired at the end of last year, and I was looking forward to him coming up frequently this season, and fishing when conditions were just right. One thing surgeons don’t have is the ability to jump in the car and head to the Catskills when their favorite mayfly hatch starts, and we were both looking to retirement to change that dynamic. Of course, we all know what came to pass with the Coronavirus pandemic, shutdowns and travel restrictions, and learning to adjust to a world that could easily kill you in a seemingly innocent moment.

We are a long way from being free of that threat, though thankfully mankind has adjusted their behavior out of necessity so that we can be somewhat safer.

So my buddy and I will finally get to do a little fishing. We will be fishing apart as I have termed it this year, but we will be close enough to talk a bit while we’re casting or waiting for that rise. We won’t be able to enjoy the conversations on the drive to and from the river like we used to, and we won’t be sitting together at breakfast planning the day, but we will get out on the river.

What will we find on the river, is the pertinent question. Autumn seems to have arrived early (that frost outside is a dead giveaway), but the seventies are forecast to return mid week. There still isn’t a drop of rain in the forecast, and all of the rivers that have had improved flows are dropping. Reservoirs releases have been reduced too, so the water is getting pretty thin in some places. The good news is that water temperatures are perfect and all the rivers are easily wadeable.

Yea, remember Spring 2020? Are we surprised to have frost in the final days of summer?

It has been a strange year. Late snow and cold, cold water well into the beginning of the fishing season, followed by an early and very hot dry stretch of summer. The heat and the drought didn’t take a break until the middle of August, and now autumn is literally kicking summer out the door early. I am going to bank on those prime water temperatures and just roll with the changes when it comes to daytime weather. Fishing ought to be pretty good once we adapt the the conditions.

I have seen a little bit of insect activity this week, as the temperature starts to stimulate the aquatics. The trout seem ready to partake when a few bugs start hatching, but patience is going to be required. The rainbows I caught early this week got my batteries charged and I tried to make it happen over the next two afternoons. It didn’t, and now the wrist of my casting hand is hurting. Three days off should help that, and I will keep the tackle selection down to bamboo rods eight feet and under like I did all summer. Having my Granger back is a comfort, as that rod does a nice job of reaching out with a light presentation.

Of course bamboo is a bit heavier than graphite, but balancing the rod with the right reel makes them less tiring than the longer, lighter graphite rods. Bamboo fly rods bend. All fly rods are supposed to, but the graphite rod makers seem to have forgotten that. Stiffer, faster action rods are powerful, but they transmit too much of that power and vibration to my wrist. Bamboo flexes fully and smoothly without all that excess energy in the casting stroke and is much gentler on my anatomy.

I’ll be sure to tell Mike to bring his light line rods, and even try to get him to fish his own bamboo rod for a change. For all I know we might be dealing with those size 28 flying ants again next week!

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