Closed Season

October’s afternoon light beckons you downstream unto the mountain’s breast: depart for now, until spring!

Living and fly fishing in Maryland, Pennsylvania and now New York I have never really had to face the wall of a closed season. There were always trout waters open to fishing, winter, spring summer and fall. The opposite side of that coin reads that I have not experienced Opening Day with a flyrod in my hand.

I fished familiar water yesterday, on the final day of open season on that lovely reach of river. New York still closes much of its Catskill trout waters to protect spawning trout, though sadly those regulations may be due to change next year. I like the idea of giving the trout a rest, allowing them the sanctity of reproduction without dodging anglers.

I arrived later than when I fished this reach in summer, hoping to enjoy the day with no real expectations for rising trout. The wind was up, stronger than I expected from the forecast, but I knew that my relaxed mood would be right for the patience required to angle on bright, blustery days. I walked upriver watching leaves blowing in the wind and sailing onto the gentle current, bidding goodbye for another season.

A Season Slips Downstream…

Little did I know that I would make a new friend on this day, and enjoy the dry fly fishing that had eluded me for more than a week.

I saw a gentle sip as I neared my destination, then another. I had decided to tie my Grizzly Beetle to my leader upon my first step into the river, knowing that such a blustery day ought to deposit plenty of terrestrials on the surface, and that trout weaned on a summer of sparse hatches of tiny flies ought to be more than willing to partake. I stalked the first good riser I saw, waited for a lull in the wind, and made my pitch, the long 6X tippet wafting my fly off target as even the lessened breeze played its aerial games. A pause, then another cast corrected the drift, and I was pleased to see a good trout tip up and inhale the beetle gently.

He struggled with the steady pulls of a low water autumn, no longer streaking into the backing as his brethren did in the highly oxygenated flows of springtime. Nevertheless I enjoyed the pulses of the old Granger bamboo as he rolled and changed direction repeatedly. Netted, I slipped the beetle from his mouth, noted his length and color, and slipped him back home; until next year my friend!

I had begun working a second riser when I heard a splash upstream, and saw an angler crossing to my side of the river, then slowly walking my way. Trout number two proved beetle shy, and while looking between the thousands of drifting leaves I spied a tiny spinner on the surface. Tricos. I reached for them and raised my dripping hand to my eye to be sure, and yes, despite several frosts and the late date, these were trico spinners. Upstream, the lone angler continued his approach.

I wasn’t willing to enjoy the frustration of 7X tippet and a size 24 spinner in the rush of autumn wind and leaves. No sir, any trout that wanted to dance with my Granger was going to eat beetle or go hungry.

I was still casting to that same beetle shy trout when the angler stopped along the bank behind me and asked my name. I was taken aback, having done all I could do to avoid contact with people under threat of China’s dreaded virus, and here was a stranger willing to slowly walk a hundred yards of river to say hello. My response was cryptic, until he smiled and said “its Chuck”. Chuck Coronato is the editor of the Catskill Fly Tiers Guild’s Gazette, a man I had never met, but one who had honored me by inviting me to contribute a column to the newsletter. That recognition caused me to relax, and we enjoyed an afternoon of conversation and angling, hooking trout and leaves under the brilliant October sun.

Chuck Coronato stalks a rise during a rare moment of calm winds.

I was glad that serendipity had brought us together on this pool of bright water, each thinking it a good spot to breathe the autumn air and bid farewell to the season. Correspondence through email had been our only contact, but I had sensed a kindred spirit when I learned of Chuck’s fascination with trout flies and bamboo. Covid has cancelled all of the Guild’s functions since February, and I had no idea when I would get a chance to meet the man who had so graciously invited me to share my thoughts with several hundred Guild members. I look forward to our next opportunity to wet a line together, and a simple handshake, in a world where such gestures are no longer dangerous.

Several trout continued to rise, and I landed a trio of fine browns. Chuck was kind enough to take some photos as I played the largest of the day, a darkly spotted brownie pushing nineteen inches. As we parted later in the afternoon, we wished each other well, both saying farewell to a quiet reach of river until next season brings us back to stalk trout that sip dry flies in the cold, crystalline water.

Farewell Bright Water (Courtesy Chuck Coronato)

Walking downstream, I paused for a lone rise until the wind returned in full force. Looking back, there was no sign of my friend, and I wished that his last stalk had been rewarded. His email this morning brought a smile, as it shared the brilliant colors of the autumn brown he had taken on that last cast.

Season’s Last Cast (Courtesy Chuck Coronato)

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