Firsts

This seventeen inch Delaware brown became the first dry fly trout of the new season on an unlikely April afternoon.

I took a break from fishing to begin the new week yesterday. The rain they predicted came later in the morning, a downpour at first, though it soon evened out into just the kind of spring rain the rivers and their anglers welcome. The rivers rose a little, but nothing drastic, and the on and off showers through early afternoon today were more off than on. The warmth I enjoyed throughout last week had vanished.

The forecast called for steady rain throughout the afternoon, and that wasn’t happening as it got close to two o’clock, so I decided to take the short ride down to the Delaware and fish a bit. I changed my cotton pants for a pair of warm polyester sweats and layered my Nano Puff vest beneath a thick sherpa fleece jacket. With my waders on I pulled my heavy duty rain jacket over everything and proclaimed myself ready for the river on a wet, forty-six degree afternoon. The half-mile walk got me warm and cozy.

There were no bugs on the water, and the current in the bend was slower than I like it, but I started swinging a Hen & Hare’s Ear, letting it sink deep where the exposed rocks lined the channel. Eventually I had a pull, tightened up and pulled in about two pounds of chub. Yep, the river had dropped enough that the trout had moved out of the bend, leaving old rubber lips in their former domain. Time to walk out I reasoned.

I took a while walking along the pool, noting the birds buzzing the surface and expecting some sort of hatch might come off. I don’t know what had them excited, but I never saw a sign of an insect. I did cut the weighted soft hackle off and replaced it with a size 16 olive that was just sitting there in the vest, a remnant from last season. I walked further upstream, still seeing birds darting low over the water, and wondering just what they thought they were going to eat. The rain would fall steady for a few moments, then slack up, and nearly stop. Every time it stopped I would strain my eyes for some glimpse of mayfly wings. Nothing.

I had passed the head of the pool and come upon the transition zone where the light riffled water began to diffuse as the depth increased, walking a few steps, and then stopping to search for something, any sign of life. I was on the bank now, hoping that the elevation might let me see what those birds found so interesting. I never solved that puzzle, for I spotted a little ring just ahead and froze in my tracks.

The line was pulled from the old St. George and out through the eight foot Orvis’ tiptop and dropped off the bank into the water. I pulled a few more feet of line out, lifted the rod into a high backcast to avoid the stalks of dead knotweed, and made the cast. I couldn’t see my olive, but I knew where it was. When the second little ring appeared, this time with more oomph, I raised the rod and hooked my first dry fly trout of the season.

That trout was as surprised to find himself tethered to an old stick of bamboo as I was to have found him and had him eat my fly on the first cast. We did our little dance, and I realized pretty quickly that he was a nice fish, not an over eager tiddler lazing where the water slowed below a jutting point of land. I worked my way down the bank and found a spot to get in. He charged for the middle of the river a couple of times, but the relentless big bend of the Orvis turned him around and coaxed him into a jump or two. Scooping him in the net my grin was a mile wide.

That seventeen inch brownie amounted to a gift from the river, as I never did see anything on the surface that might have triggered that initial rise. I never saw another rise out there either, and I looked, believe me. One rising trout on a cold, rainy day, the most unlikely day of the month so far. Firsts. My first dry fly trout of the year, taken on my first cast, after spotting his first rise. He was also the first trout I have taken on a dry fly with that venerable old Orvis Battenkill.

This 8 foot 4 3/8 ounce Orvis Battenkill first wandered the Catskill rivers with me in November, too late for last season’s dry fly activity. The classic impregnated Orvis cane rods be fished without worry in wet, cold weather.

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