Musings On A Catskill Afternoon

There was some sunshine today as I took my river walk, and I appreciate the bit of cheer it encouraged. Returning I sat down with a fine old book: William Shaldach’s The Wind On Your Cheek. Though this first edition was published in 1972, the stories therein were written during the thirties, forties and early fifties, during and passing through the Golden Age of American angling and gunning. Shaldach’s tales and sketches put me in a delightful frame of mind.

The sun, shining from the west reflected vibrantly from a block wall on the neighboring property, and I ducked down in my chair and held the book high to shade my eyes, as Shaldach’s tales of the Golden Age took me away. Finishing the book, I closed it with a smile and sat up to see all trace of that sunlight had vanished, and snow was falling as if it meant it. Laughing at Catskill mountain weather, I made a cup of coffee, then turned to see the snow still falling and the sun once again lighting up the landscape.

Half a day’s drive south of here, my friend Mike is tying cicada patterns in the hope of finding some of the crazy fishing their emergence can bring come June. I recall seeing something about one of the Pennsylvania broods emerging this year, in Southeastern PA I believe.

It would take some research to pinpoint the year that we fished the emergence of one of the Central Pennsylvania broods. We had searched for them on Western Maryland waters, the Savage River perhaps, and though we heard the droning of them in the surrounding forest, there was no sign of them getting to the water that day. The trout were not interested in the imitations.

It must have been the following weekend that we trekked to the Little Juniata River, and found a use for those ungainly black and orange monstrosities of deer hair and foam. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had defeated a particularly hateful individual’s attempt to privatize much of the best trout water there for his wealthy clients when the Court declared the river as navigable water, so Mike and I decided to visit the previously closed reach of the river flowing through the Espy Farm below the village of Spruce Creek. The excitement of new water and huge dry flies was palpable as we waded downstream from the village.

Even with six weight rods and 3X leaders, cicada patterns take concentration to cast and present properly, particularly in the low water we encountered that June. The flies are bulky enough that they will splat upon landing, and you don’t want any extra energy from the cast to drive them down harder. We found that sticking near mid river and making long casts to the shady banks allowed us to present the flies naturally without spooking the big browns laying in wait in those shallows.

We caught some great fish that day, nice brown trout from eighteen to twenty inches long, though there were plenty of explosions to those flies that didn’t result in hookups. Its hard to wait that extra second before reacting to a splash reminiscent of a concrete block being thrown on top of your fly, and that is what you have to do to get a secure hookup. Being trout, there would be one every once in awhile that sucked the fly in so gently it took a moment to notice that it wasn’t floating anymore. The best one I caught was one of those stealthy takers.

Mike sent me a text today, asking if I had ever seen cicadas in the Catskills, and I told him I had not. Doing a little quick research shows that Brood II (the six 13 year and 17 year species of periodic cicadas are divided into broods indicated by Roman numerals which are known to inhabit various geographical regions) is the only one that may emerge in a portion of the Catskill region. The maps I found are very large scale and inaccurate. If I had to guess I’d say there’s a chance they might emerge in the forests around the Neversink tailwater, though Brood II will not emerge again until 2030.

I don’t know if I’ll still be haunting the Catskill rivers in 2030, at least not in the living, breathing physical sense, though I hope so. It would be neat to dig out my box of Hoover’s Cicadas, string up a six weight cane rod and go hunting for them, and the big, explosive rises they coax from our otherwise careful brown trout.

I looked up the Pennsylvania Court case, and the decision was announced in late January 2007. Our cicada trip would have been either that season or the following one. That was a 17 year cicada species emerging, so it can be expected to emerge again in either 2024 or 2025. There’s a better chance that we will both be around for that one, so Mike should be able to use those flies, even if he doesn’t run into an opportunity this year. I wouldn’t mind driving down to spend a couple of days on the Little J just to watch the spray flying when we plopped our cicadas in the shade.

Summer On The Neversink (Courtesy Matt Supinski)

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