Sunlight always raises my spirits, even the frigid sunlight of a winter morn. Staying inside and looking out, it appears welcoming. Even as that sun cheerily lights the snow covered landscape the wind howls. I donned my thickest goose down jacket for my river walk this morning, reading sixteen degrees as I pulled my woolen hat down and my hood up on the porch. It is unquestionably winter in the Catskills.
The river has been cold but flowing this week, save for a fringe of ice along the mountainside bank where it slows at Crooked Eddy. I was curious what I might find this morning, and a bit surprised when I discovered the river halted in place by the icy tentacles of winter. A great trout river paused in mid flow, posing for my photo.
Each week I look to the long range forecast, hopeful for a bright day or two in the forties or, dare I to hope, fifty degrees. On a sixteen degree morning it seems an impossible goal: the chance to walk the rivers and cast a fly, to break the spell of indoor seclusion.
I decided that today I should begin the task of sorting fly boxes. There are new patterns waiting in storage boxes for their turn in the thin compartment boxes to be carried in my vest. Like most fly tiers, I tend to carry far more flies than needed on the river. The pockets of my old vest once protruded so badly I was constantly hitting them with the butt of my rod. I found the solution several seasons ago in the stacks of Wheatley fly boxes displayed at Catskill Flies.
At three quarters of an inch in depth, I can carry half a dozen of these in my vest pockets without getting in my own way. A single box carries more than enough patterns to fish a hatch, even the most trying ones, for several days before flies need to be added. Once a year I sit down and go through my assortment, some dedicated for specific emergences and marked as such, others having their contents revised as the season progresses.
For the long awaited premier of springtime I’ll have dedicated boxes for Quill Gordons & Blue Quills, Hendricksons, Blue Winged Olives and a multitude of rusty spinners. By the beginning of May I’ll add a box of Shad Fly (caddis) patterns, with a few small black caddis tucked into one or two compartments for eventualities. Often there’s an assorted caddis box holding Grannoms, the little blacks, and a few patterns that match less often seen down wings.
As the month progresses the Quill Gordon box will be replaced with a March Brown box and another with Gray Fox and larger sulfurs. By mid-May a couple of Green Drakes will be nestled into a compartment of the March Brown box, just in case. If I keep to my system, I’m generally never caught unprepared.
I’ve used this system for a number of seasons now and it works well, though my vest is still heavier than my neck and shoulders would prefer. Like I said, a malady common to fly tiers.
Last spring I threatened to carry a separate box for new designs, but instead I crammed some new creations into the appropriate hatch box and made do. There is an advantage to the new design box, in that it saves time looking through other full boxes when I feel like experimenting a bit. There are times I simply tuck a pill bottle in a wader pocket with a few new patterns, but trying to get a particular fly out of the bottle on a windswept river tends to be an exercise in frustration, and waste.
I know that I need to get the annual sorting taken care of before I can really get myself into the right frame of mind to tie. I finished up last year’s feathery efforts in December with 185 dozen flies tied in 2020. Since then, I’ve only tied a fly here and there, knowing I don’t really need anything. Going through the sorting procedure will uncover some flies I have forgotten I ran low on last year, so I’ll have a goal to sit down at the vise. Anything to get rid of that fidgety feeling cabin fever spawns.
If I can keep myself busy, I figure that I can bounce through a couple more weeks of winter, maybe get a couple of those warmer, sunny days out on the river, then get back to work to pass the next cold snap. If you can get into a rhythm like that, the three months between now and the first hatch of the season can melt away without loosing your mind.