A cold snap, with hope

Yesterday’s sunshine has been forgotten, and our landscape clings to its snow and ice. Yet another cold snap will be ushered in today, with temperatures dropping through the twenties where they will stay for a few days. I had hoped to fish yesterday, when the afternoon sunshine raised the air to forty degrees. Instead I listened to the ballgame on the radio and watched the river gage to see if that sunlight would warm the water to a fishable temperature. I listened to the entire game. There is light snow flying about as I write.

The cold snap will continue through the weekend, but there is hope for the following week, and enough warmer air and sunshine to bring about fishable conditions.

I’ve busied myself with some reading, Hewitt’s rewritten version of “Telling on The Trout”, browsing cane rods and classic British reels and spending some time just thinking about spring. I plan to get back to filling a pill bottle for a friend today, though I want to bring my tying desk back to order first. A fly tyer’s station tends to acquire objects as flies are produced. Mine has scattered materials, notebooks, mail, a hat for when the sun appears and blinds me through the small window above the desk. I like to see the curly maple table, smiling underneath all of that clutter.

When I was getting this little house up to par before the full fledged move, I searched first for some sort of affordable antique desk. I learned something about antique dealers in the process: they don’t seem to keep regular hours. It took several trips to catch even those with published hours “in” so that I could browse. I found nothing, then decided to build my own fly tying desk. I found a local hardwood mill and drove up early one summer morning to see what they had available. That’s when the curly maple caught my eye. They glued and planed a large and beautiful top for me, leaving me to square it up by cutting the ends, build four hardwood legs, sand vigorously, and apply my antique maple stain and several coats of polyurethane. Curly maple has been my favorite wood since I first laid eyes on it!

Even when everything is in order, there’s more of that gorgeous maple covered up than I would like! Perhaps one day I’ll add another shelf that will hold more of the sundries that collect on the table top.

There are too many feathers and furs and hooks and hair stored around my desk, one of the problems of passing thirty years as a fly tyer. Of course there are still boxes of items left over from the fly shop, materials I carried but don’t regularly use in my own flies, particularly now that the majority of my creations are dry flies. I store them, give some away when I have the chance. I still find it hard to pass a fly shop without stopping in, browsing, and adding something to my store of materials. My walls are filled with pictures and shadowboxed flies, shelves with books and magazines, some with memories attached; the trappings of a life outdoors.

I came upon another old fishing log yesterday, perhaps the first I ever kept…

October 18, 1991 Gunpowder Falls: Beautiful day! 75 degrees F. Fished with Pap’s bamboo rod for the first time! Four brown trout on an Elk Hair Caddis #18. 4 to 5 inches, riffles and runs. One brook trout on a Blue Winged Olive #18 10″, riffles. One brown trout (the olive again) 12″, riffles. Reading the entry I am back there, feeling the sunshine on my face and the grin as that gorgeous wild brookie puts a good bend in that old H-I!

July 12, 1992 Letort Spring Run – Barnyard & Bonny Brook, 5 to 10 AM, Muggy & hot! Only one riser seen in a castable lie – he was taken. A few others were heard but not seen. Saw one 5-7 lbs. at old concrete @ Stone House in Barnyard. German brown trout, #16 Letort Cricket, 18″. Oh I remember that morning, my first big trout landed from the hallowed Letort! There used to be a big deadfall tree right in the middle of the Barnyard Pool, clustered with watercress and odd clumps of water weeds trapped among the snags, and I saw the rise, a tiny, brief little ring on the surface just at the edge where the current swirled and dove beneath the clustered weeds and branches. There was a tiny whirlpool there, and my fly danced slowly around it just long enough for the trout to take it! He was fully beneath the weeds and the tree, and my rod doubled over when I struck him! I was proud when I turned him in my net, dark and beautiful.

Back then I would travel from Maryland in darkness, timing my arrival in the meadows for first light. The huge, legendary Letort browns would still be out feeding as the sky gradually lightened in the southeast. How many times I was crouched in the tall grass, motionless and watching, when a big vee wake came streaking fifty feet downstream! On those days I’d get a glimpse of two or more feet of brown trout as they rushed past over top of the weeds, my heart pounding. Those were the trout The Master would catch, fifty years on the Letort telling him where they would be foraging before wicked daylight sent them fleeing for sanctuary. Where I fished with my eyes, he fished with knowledge and instincts.

I appreciate that even more now, as after nearly thirty years on these Catskill rivers I sometimes pull it off: knowing where a trout will rise, and knowing what he will take and when before he reveals himself.

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