Navigating the off season

The rain has subsided and I can see some blue sky outside the window above my tying desk. It has been a day of chores: packing leaky waders, some unused tackle that will help fund tackle that will be used, and a holiday gift for a friend. Trips to take care of the mailing, etcetera, and then some time to relax at the tying desk.

I passed a personal milestone this afternoon, as my output of trout flies for the year passed 170 dozen, the previous high mark set last year. I have an entire month to go before the New Year so I expect to reach a lofty new plateau, perhaps I’ll even crack 200 dozen! That will depend in part upon December’s weather.

Since I was establishing a new high, there was no question that I had to tie dry flies. They make up more than 95% of the flies I tie. I felt it would be proper to tie my most productive fly for 2020 in that final batch, so most of today’s dozen were the two tone sulfurs that provided my most memorable days this season.

The pattern came about from observation as most do. I had captured some sulfur mayflies with a tinge of yellow in their pale dun wings, and tied a few imitations I thought might appeal to the trout. I paired two CDC puffs for the wing, light natural dun and pale yellow, formed the body with my blended silk dubbing, and added a sparse trailing shuck in a light reddish tan. Sulfurs proved to be a major hatch this spring, and the new pattern worked remarkably well.

I had hoped for a little fishing today, with a forecast high near sixty degrees, but rain and high winds made this a better day to take care of those chores. There are fewer reaches of river to fish tomorrow, as the season closes on several of our Catskill waters. I had a thought to fish a couple of spots I hadn’t fished this year, to make one brief visit to waters I had been forced to neglect in my preservation driven effort to avoid the crowds that increased the dangers of the Covid virus, but Mother Nature trounced my plan.

My tying desk still needs a cleanup, and there are certainly stores of materials that could be sorted. When you tie flies for thirty years you tend to accumulate a lot of feathers and fur. When you owned a fly shop as I did, you accumulate even more.

There’s some snow in the forecast for the middle of this week, and I can picture myself out on the river somewhere with the white flakes flying. It’s kind of fun. Thinking about it causes me to recall a morning on Falling Spring, many years ago. I was out fishing around eight o’clock, getting an hour or so on the stream before opening the fly shop for the day, and the wind was howling and the snow flying. A friend who lived nearby saw me on his way to work and stopped to ask me if there was any weather I wouldn’t fish in, laughing through his words. I told him I’d fish as long as the water wasn’t hard.

I have fished in some crazy weather, perhaps the worst of it on an early April trip to Elk Creek near Erie, Pennsylvania. I was fishing for steelhead, and the wind was gusting to 50 miles per hour. I was standing in a deep rocky chute that dumped into an unwadeable pool just a few yards downstream, when one of those 50 mph gusts hit me square in the chest. The wind pushed my torso back, back, right to the point of tipping backwards and possibly drowning. I hung there for what seemed like a very long time, and just as I started to lose my balance and topple backwards into the hole, the gust subsided. Close call. When I turned around and looked back toward Lake Erie, the sky was black. It was mid afternoon, but the storm headed my way was something I knew better than to mess with, so I reeled up and headed for the truck.

The water wasn’t hard that day, and if I remember correctly, the fishing was pretty good, but yea, it turned out there was weather that I wouldn’t fish in.

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