I am used to enjoying a span of Indian Summer weather sometime during October, after the first cold winds and frosty nights have convinced that summer has fully passed and autumn rules the land. What began as a short string of November afternoons in the low sixties has become a full on week of sunshine and near record temperatures. It is lovely, but it is late; and I fear too late.
I have fished each day of this interlude, seen mayflies upon the water, but there have been no rises, no real hope of the last kiss of dry fly fishing that I equate with Indian Summer. The rains of late October called our brown trout to the spawning grounds, and it seems very few have returned to my chosen reaches of river. River temperatures were near forty degrees when this unseasonable burst of warmth began, but they have risen grudgingly. Three more days of seventy degree sunshine are in our future, the last chance for shirtsleeve fishing; the last chance for a Catskill brown to come to a surface fly.
I walked the river banks yesterday, waiting and watching, certain that the warming water would bring some action. I enjoyed the time to reflect, to appreciate all that the rivers have given me this year. As the afternoon was drawing toward its close I resigned myself to swinging a little soft hackle wet through the bright water, prospecting to see if there were any trout willing to feed at all.
Half way down the rod tip bounced and the lithe bamboo transmitted the throb of life to my hands: a good fish, dancing with the old brown Orvis, and bringing sweet notes from the St. George. Corralling him in the shallows I slipped the fly free, snapped a quick photo with rod and reel; a remembrance, an honorarium for all that the river has shared.
Today I will take advantage of the warm sunshine to park the drift boat in the yard, to cover it and make it ready for snow and ice and the long months of winter. There it will rest until spring and high water. Catskill weather can change rapidly, and today’s record high could well be the prelude to next weekend’s snowfall. It makes sense to continue my year end ritual.
If the brown trout are busy with procreation and recovery, I will let them be, and stalk the haunts of the Delaware rainbows. It is time to bid farewell to the great river. Somewhere, at some bend in the river, at just the right time of day a handful of trout will rise to the last mayflies of the season. It will be a brief encounter I am sure, but one I hope to witness. One last gift to share before winter, before my feet take me to higher ground, and the walnut of a gunstock replaces the walnut of a reel seat and flamed bamboo in my hands.
I have lingered along the rivers too late into autumn, left the grouse to their own for a month. I have traded the joy of walking the ridgelines at the peak of autumn fire for watching the afternoon sun light the trees over the lovely mirror of bright water. Time to accept the change of seasons, a difficult task in seventy degree sunshine.