Snow falling…

Crooked Eddy in December: alas it looks much the same for February’s premiere.

Snow is falling at Crooked Eddy, and the river pulses unseen below the ice. I have been trading emails with kindred souls I wish could join me for a drink and conversation. I have no doubt we could talk for hours of trout, flies and bamboo.

I dream of a forty degree day, a bit of sunshine, just enough relative warmth to keep the rod guides from freezing solid with the line. I have not walked a river bank for a month and a half, a terrible spell for one used to regular fishing, even in winter. My Kiley eight footer sits beside me in the rod rack, ready to feel the reel snugged into its seat and send the seven weight line out to prospect with a Hen and Hare’s Ear. That fly seduced my last trout of 2020, a Beaverkill brownie tucked behind the boulders in the Cemetery Pool, and begs to bring the first of twenty-one to hand.

Hen and Hares’ Ear, Size 12

I have tried a sink tip line with bamboo, a safer solution than using any weight in the fly, but I hated losing so much of the feel of the cast. Too I harbor an inner fear that, so armed and restricted to a sunken presentation, I will finally round the bend and confront the impossible dream: a rising trout in the midst of a Catskill winter. The ubiquitous bead is my compromise.

I tie dozens of smaller flies for swinging in winter, tiny tungsten beads ahead of a partridge and something, a squirrel and grouse. One day, while working with one of those beautiful pheasant skins a good friend so graciously provides, I took a fancy to the small gray aftershaft feathers, leaving a tuft for a tail and winding it along the hook shank for a fly body. A partridge hackle finished it: movement personified. Swung down a popular West Branch riffle two winters past, it led to a deep bend in that Kiley rod, and a nineteen inch brown that gave me faith to endure; until spring came once again.

It is a strange emotion for me, this longing for December. It wasn’t the abode of the warm sunshine that delights, but I was fishing! I feel exhausted facing another long run of days below freezing, with snow to begin the week, and more to finish it.

A sunny December afternoon on the Beaverkill

My vise sits empty and idle, for when I leafed through the fly boxes I found them stuffed. I have tied more flies these past two years than ever before. The luxury of time is mine, and the fishing has been well, life itself. My concentration slips now between books and vintage tackle lists, and I seem unable to direct it to my store of materials and tools. Ice and snow intrudes into each waking moment…

Clear thinking is required, a page by page search through the past year of thoughts and impressions from days on the water, my goal to mold the fragments of ideas, colors and impressions into a living, breathing trout fly. My brain needs the balm of fresh air, the music of bright water to once again open my conscious thought to those vaults that contain the past season.

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