The Dry Fly Season

A Falling Spring wild brown trout from a winter long past

The first dry fly trout of the year was a foot long brown that took a size 20 blue winged olive on March 27th near Junction Pool on the Delaware River; the last may be the fifteen inch brown that took my size 22 Olive T.P. Dun on October 26th. It is raining now, and snow remains in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Beyond that, the nighttime lows will head down into the thirties, then the twenties, those lows and the cold rain and snowfall causing river temperatures to drop drastically.

A seven month span of dry fly fishing is a wonderful thing, a remarkable gift given freely by nature, and cherished by seasoned anglers devoted to the dry fly. I am grateful for another year of pursuing the lovely wild trout of these Catskill Mountains by the means I most enjoy; casting dry flies born on my vise, with bamboo rods both old and new.

Fishing is not over for the year, as some of us simply cannot stay away from bright water for five to six months of the year. Though the wet fly will see the lion’s share of drifts, there will always be a few small dry flies among our gear. Hope springs eternal they say, and for the dry fly fisher that is a well kept truth.

As winter brings it’s freezing winds, it’s snow and ice, I will recall balmy days on the rivers of my heart. Flies will be tied with an eye toward spring, and the first glimpse of the early mayflies: Quill Gordon, Blue Quill and Hendrickson. My dreams will be of bright gravel nurturing the next generation of trout and the hatches that sustain them, and pools filled with fluttering wings and dimples in the film!

I am hoping for an epic hatch of Hendricksons next year, as it has been some time since I witnessed one. Fifteen years ago it seemed an annual occurrence, and I travelled here each spring to take part. Millions of tan bodied flies filled the surface, and the trout feasted. They were never easy to catch with so heavy a larder, but the challenge spawned new fly patterns and long hours upon favorite pools waiting for a chance to play the game on nature’s grandest stage.

A Hendrickson hatch from spring 2005: the duns were this numerous as far as one could see both upstream and down; some upright like little sailboats and classic Catskill dries, others prone in the film or struggling to free themselves from their nymphal shucks. Three hours of this to thrill and humble even the best dry fly man and fly tier !

I am likewise longing for a good Green Drake hatch, the epitome of the hatch matcher’s season. The huge duns are hard to imitate, and the ultimate challenge to both fly tier and angler. I found no honest hatch this season, witnessing merely a handful of duns on the water for a day or two, then nothing. My favorite hatch, and I have missed it two out of the last three years.

A fully emerged Green Drake dun, Ephemera guttulata poses on the cork of a Winston fly rod.
My answer to the magic of the drakes!

It has been a trying year for mankind, and I am particularly thankful to be standing, contemplating my love of angling, and looking forward to another season upon bright water. My family and friends are well, all are safe, at least as safe as any of us can be amid this challenging time.

The rain refreshes the rivers, and there may still be a window should a warm front fly through to replace the cold. Who knows? If it is meant to be, it shall be. If not, then I will wait until spring to feel my heart jump at the year’s first vision of the ring of the rise.

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