The Curtain Falls

Time passes swiftly and Nature’s glowing light recedes: summer is well past and November is on the doorstep

I sat on the porch Saturday afternoon luxuriating in the last of the day’s seventy degree sunshine; apparently the last of the year’s seventy degree sunshine. Twenty-four hours later I sat there once more, huddled in a hoody and a Primaloft jacket, tending the grill with a pair of Porterhouse steaks nestled in the flames. Twenty degrees colder in twenty-four hours, with the addition of a chilling wind just to drive the point home: summer, and the last sweet kiss of autumn is behind us.

I always mourn the loss of dry fly season, and a full Catskill season is a cherished thing, so I feel the loss here most of all. Yes, I will still hold out a bit of stubborn hope, I will continue to spend time upon the rivers of my heart, looking and hoping for a glimpse of wings upon the surface, a subtle movement at odds with the current; a little something that says life!

My friend called me the other evening to tell me that rain had come to the Erie tributaries, and that he was gathering his steelhead gear for an assault. He asked me to join him. My heart leapt at the thought of fresh run chrome and a chance to swing some flies with the old Orvis bamboo rod I have kept for that purpose. It has been a number of years since I last had the opportunity to chase steelhead.

Sadly I declined his generous offer, knowing there would be a rush of anglers to this first good run of the season, and crowds are not good places for me to be with Covid still hovering in the air. Mike assumed that I would take that safer road, but he wanted to give me the first chance anyway. I hope he hits the run just right and battles some of those big, beautiful bright fish into the net; and most of all I hope he stays safe and well.

It is hard to turn down a chance at steelhead fishing, for they are the most electric trout of all!

My best, a wild 21 pound double red-banded buck steelhead from Michigan’s Muskegon River
(Photo courtesy Matthew Supinski)

Though I have no expectations of landing a fish larger than my Michigan buck, I do have a strong desire to fish with and catch steelhead on classic tackle. I have a vintage Orvis bamboo rod once owned by Dr. Livingston Parsons, author of Salmon Camp: The Boland Brook Story. At eight and one half feet, the rod casts an eight weight line with authority. My steelhead tackle bag contains a suitable companion, a vintage Hardy Zenith reel with a spring and pawl drag up to the task of fighting salmon and steelhead. The next step in my quest for chrome involves swinging an appropriate spey fly to entice a significant steelhead, so that I might battle him one on one as fly fishers battled them during the Golden Age. That goal still lies before me, un-assailed, but not forgotten. Perhaps next year…

It is well past time for the mountains to draw more of my attention. I have wandered only twice in search of grouse, instead feeding my burning desire to find the rising fish that seemingly deserted me on October first. I simply refused to accept the end of my dry fly season at the turn of the calendar. Thankfully my perseverance was rewarded, though it took two weeks of trying to find that first lovely ring upon the surface. Now however, I feel I must begin to accept the inevitable.

The warmest weather to come in the next ten days advertises a high of fifty-two degrees, and the first flirtation with snow may occur on Friday morning. I began my dry fly season on the heels of snowfall, and it may well be that I am forced to end it the same way.

I have missed walking in the woods during the glorious peak of autumn colors, though I have taken plenty of time to stare from river’s edge. It is time to return to the forest, to see the last moments with the mountainsides ablaze in the sunlight, smell the smells of autumn, and walk the ridges and the hollows where all bright waters are born.

October Along The Delaware

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