Three days isn’t a lot of time to recapture an entire season. In our changed and unsettled world, I am thankful for the chance to enjoy the full measure of those days. You see, I have finally been able to fish with my best friend for the first time in more than a year.
We have passed twenty-five years of friendship and are still going strong. This was supposed to be the year we opted for fishing nirvanna. Finally, with both of us retired, we had the time to fish a lot and to hit the high spots of the season; to enjoy all the best that angling entails. A wraith called Corona kept us apart.
Autumn is the end of the dry fly season on the rivers of my heart; it is the most difficult and challenging time of the entire year. The trout are at their wariest, having been pursued by an army of anglers since April’s dawn; the rivers are at their lowest and clearest. The hatches of flies are sparse, and most of those flies are tiny, difficult to imitate effectively and drift naturally as we practice to deceive. We have developed our skills over thirty years or more, refined our tackle, and increased our knowledge. On some days, that is enough to meet the challenge.
Things came together on our first day, though only through patience and determination. Our surroundings were quiet and captivating, and Nature’s gifts came in varying doses as reward for our patience and skills.
The morning surprised us with a few tricorythodes spinners in the air, blown hither and yon by the gusting winds. We talked as we waited, sharing a bit of the best of life while the winds became gentle, and the spinners brought a trout or two to the mirror of the river’s surface.
Sometimes wishful thinking deceives my judgement. With a trico in my hand I convinced myself that a size 22 fly would be a perfect match. It wasn’t. Finally taking precious moments to rebuild my leader, extending it out to a gossamer 7X tippet and knotting a dainty size 24 fly, the good fish I wanted so badly accepted it on the first cast. He thrashed against the subtle power of the fine tip of the old bamboo rod, sharing his energy with me through the medium of the living culm that had been split, tapered and glued seventy years ago. A nineteen inch wild brown trout is a treasure, my best on a minute trico imitation, and I was blessed to share the moment with my friend.
The afternoon grew long, and we both worked to an occasional riser as the hours passed, working to solve the puzzle with each trout. As the sun threatened to disappear behind the ridge above us I was fortunate to solve the puzzle of another fine brown. Mike had worked intently on a large fish that had vexed both of us at various times during the day. I walked upstream slowly, cut the tiny size 22 olive comparadun from my tippet and placed it in his hand. Perhaps…
Not long after that final fly change I caught movement as Mike raised his long rod into a deepening arc, the strain evidence of the worth of his persistence in a duel with the most difficult trout of the day. It was a long fight, that big trout using every bit of depth and current the diminished river offered as a boon to its own strength and spirit. At last Mike led him toward my waiting net.
The Delaware rainbow is a warrior, and life is a battle to survive as he must champion high flows and low, a long summer of temperatures lethal to most trout, and an ever growing gauntlet of fishermen. Most don’t live more than four or five years, and thus a twenty inch Delaware bow is a rare gift. On such a day, with friendship reunited, it was the perfect gift for long hours of patient and skillful angling: the best of the day.