The rain flirts with us, and disaster, at least for my hopes for an afternoon on the river. Any significant rainfall will bring rapid snowmelt and flooding. If we can get through the day we will avoid the floods for now, with freezing temperatures predicted by sunset, along with an overnight low of eleven degrees. Imagine me, praying for a hard freeze.
There are thirty days to endure before the Opening Day of trout season, New York’s last Opening Day it seems. New regulations will take effect creating a year round season, something many of us are not all that happy about. I would like to do some fishing during these next thirty days, for it has been far too long since I walked along a river.
My dry fly season began on March 27th last year. I was out on the Mainstem doing my winter thing, and the sun warmed the air and water just enough to awaken a handful of blue winged olive mayflies. I saw a couple of pop up rises in open water, one here, one there, and then a trout actually began rising where the still frigid current roiled over and around a fallen tree. I watched the little olives dancing down on the roll of current as I built my leader out to dry fly capabilities, and every once in awhile one of them disappeared in a bubble. After several casts, a few just to get back the feel of the right subtle check to the rod that puts some slack in the tippet, my size 20 CDC sparkle dun disappeared in one of those bubbles too. There was never another foot long brown trout so appreciated and so lauded with praise as that one: a rising trout taken on a dry fly a good three weeks before I had any right to expect it!
I was so jonesed I started fishing seriously the following week: April 5th, 45 degree water and a few flies but no rises; April 6th the magic 50 degrees, what looked to be Quill Gordons, and no rises; April 7th sunny and 67 with the water at 50, a few little olives and caddis and…no rises! The next day I dropped the boat in and floated solo on a cloudy windy day, finally finding a couple of fish rising half heartedly at the last stop, after four o’clock. I got one hookup, but the fly pulled free. Once again an early spring simply teased me until the rising and catching phase of fishing started in the third week of April.
Over all the years I fished the Catskills as a visitor there seemed to be a pretty regular pattern. Finding mayflies and rising trout in the third week of April is what I have come to know as a normal spring. An early season hatch or a late one deviates from that norm by roughly one week. My two retirement years have followed the pattern, with the good fishing starting during that third week, even though I was free to get out there earlier and did.
I guess the point of this is that the thirty day wait is truly, honestly something like fifty days long for the dry fly fisherman. Then again, most of us just want to get out on the river and go fishing; particularly during a long, cold winter like this one. That is why I hope the snow melts slowly and recharges the mountain springs and fills the reservoirs; what’s good for the trout is good for the angler in the long run.
Let’s face the fact that high, cold, muddy water isn’t conducive to any kind of fly fishing. If I have to sit inside for another couple of weeks and knaw on an old cork rod grip, so be it.
I have talked recently with one of my good friends, and we are very hopeful that he will get a chance to come up and fish this year. Memory fails me a bit, but I don’t believe we have fished together for more than four years. Of course the pandemic still dictates the majority of both our lives, so we’ll need more than some fair winds to make that happen. I have started a pill bottle for him to promote a little good mojo in that direction. Old guys have a lot of empty pill bottles lying around and they make perfect “fly boxes”. I filled a few of them up for friends last year, even though we didn’t exactly get a chance to fish together. There were at least a couple of chances to fish apart.