The Winds of Autumn


It is thirty degrees in Crooked Eddy, with a coating of frost befitting mid-October. There is snow north in Vermont the Weather Channel tells me, and more of the same coming for Montana. The Catskills though appear to be looking toward a warming trend, and highs in the seventies by mid-week. Precious rain is in that forecast as well, and these mountains are as anxious for that as for the promised gentle sunshine.

I lost most of yesterday, whiling away the time at the tying bench, caught between tying a few soft hackles, re-sorting the flies in my chest pack, and reading the just launched first issue of Hallowed Waters Journal ( I knew Matt and Laurie Supinski would produce a wonderful online magazine, and I was thrilled with the result of their efforts and creativity! Imagine reading an artfully written article, enjoying the beautiful photos, all without the distractions of ads placed on every page. Fine content presented as it should be, as the center of attention. Bravo my friends!

The warming trend promised to us brings new hope for a handful of precious days of dry fly fishing! Yes, I tied those soft hackles and placed them in my fly box expecting a continuation of the dearth of surface feeding October has provided. I was convinced that Thursday’s magic was the end of my season, that the tiny mayflies and terrestrials had offered their final gift. The four weight cane rod was wiped down and put away, and the reel rigged for the seven weight Kiley, my off season rod, was retrieved and its leader inspected; ready to go.

Of course I still stubbornly packed that re-organized daily fly box with little olives, Grizzly Beetles, ants, Hebes and Isonychia. It is very hard to give up what we love. Friday’s damp chill had once again turned my thoughts to winter, but this morning’s forecast appeared like a warm beam of sunlight cutting through the rain and clouds that threatened my spirit.

I feel the urge to tie more flies, dry flies, though more than one hundred and fifty dozen have spun from my vise this year. If I’m caught unprepared for a hatch, its through forgetting just which box holds the matching patterns; Lord knows I have tied them.

Breakfast seems the best idea right now, a real breakfast for a bright Sunday morning. I cannot enjoy them too often.

Memories of Dry Fly Afternoons

Thoughts of winter’s approach provoke my melancholy, though in truth it is the cold months of winter that make the dry fly season more precious. It is a long wait, six months before that wonderful day: high water, biting winds, cracked freezing hands and shivering legs not yet ready for slippery stones and current; and those first fluttering wings upon the leaden surface of a river still half in spate. The rise is startling after so many long months of waiting, dreaming: Quill Gordon or Hendrickson? The quill, yes, yes, there’s one! Was that take on top? Lord please let him be taking on top!

The frozen fingers struggle with the knot, but is it just the cold, or anticipation? Finally the cast can be made, short at first to check the drift, make any adjustments to the tippet, then on to the rise. The fly doesn’t settle as perfectly as it did last autumn, the muscle memory must be reawakened. After a few tries the leader turns over with the familiar delicacy and the fly settles gently and bobs downstream. I have lived to play the grand game once again!

There is nothing so sublime as dry fly season in the Catskills!

Truly winter is necessary, a chance for the life of the river to replenish itself, as the snows and ice slowly replenish the aquifers that feed the mountain seeps, the rills and brooks that feed the creeks and the rivers themselves, all of the cherished bright water that we love so deeply. It is also a time for those of us blessed by bright water to replenish, to give thanks for the season past, to tend to all of those things that would have kept us from the rivers had we let them.

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