Yesterday felt like the day, but the flies and the fish weren’t ready yet. Still to be along the rivers again, walking and noting the subtle changes winter’s high flows had wrought was enough to bring joy to my spirit. Sitting on the warm budding grass along the river bank is far more pleasant than in the padded leather chair before my tying desk.
The weather for the week seems to be improving as we go. Where the low sixties were a welcome promise just days ago, we now look forward to beautiful sunshine to drive the afternoons close to the seventies. Though the hatches are still in waiting, spring has certainly arrived, and I am all the better for it.
The anticipation is palpable now, and I find myself wandering around the yard casting rods and trying lines with visions in my head. A few new ideas at the vise have materialized, the product of nervous energy as I have more than enough flies and plenty of new patterns to test.
The Fox Squirrel, my own buggy Catskill Style dun has found time on my tippet in the opening hours of this new season. The fly offers a more traditional answer to the looks enough like a mayfly and its alive puzzle. My thought is that, since the trout aren’t tuned into specific hatches yet, a buggy tannish, grayish mayfly sized bug like the Fox Squirrel might just elicit a rise should I be lucky enough to put it over a neutral trout that’s enjoying the warming water and at least some stirrings to his metabolism. Fellow Guild member and Esopus Creek sage Ed Ostapczuk turned me on to the Dorato Hare’s Ear, a long lived Catskill pattern conceived along these lines, and even buggier when you take the time to blend your hare’s mask properly. The Dorato is one of his favorite flies.
It is a long standing tradition among fly fishers that buggy flies look like something to eat to a trout. My memory of the Cumberland Valley days brings a smile when I think about fun with buggy dries. My friend Jerry Armstrong was one of the leaders of Falling Spring Trout Unlimited, and I can recall his laughter when he told me about some of his fishing in the nearby mountains. He cajoled me into tying some big size 10 deer hair ants and then we took a drive to one of his favorite mountain creeks. “The more trout you catch on it, the better it gets”, he assured me, and after releasing my first brownie I could see how frizzy the ant had become with folded hair cut by the fish’s teeth. “Keep fishing it he cackled”, and I did as I was told. After two or three trout had mauled it, hairs stuck up everywhere, and any resemblance to an ant had vanished. All that was required was to cast this hairball to a likely lie and wait for a brown to blast it! We both caught a load of brownies that afternoon, none with subtle takes, as our laughter echoed off the neighboring ridges.
Springtime and fishing bring joy. The fishing can be spectacular, but it doesn’t have to be to be enjoyed.