The unequivocal reluctance of Spring

Warmth in March and early April can make us believe spring is in full bloom. But things can turn in an instant!

I was enjoying a gorgeous day yesterday, the brilliant sunshine clearing away Monday’s damp chill. The glory of springtime in the Catskill Mountains was all about me, the mountainsides carrying a warm reddish glow from budding trees, and the grasses greening and sprouting more each day.

My test for that ephemeral early spring was passed at last, with mayflies fluttering on the warm air as I prepared for some spectacular fishing! It has been more than five months since the last dry fly angling for 2020 passed into memory, and I am more than ready, standing in the edge of the river with an old cane rod at my side.

The hatch came forth earlier in the afternoon than expected, and I changed flies a couple of times in anticipation, guessing at the identities of those winging skyward before me. Alas no patterns I carried would produce a rise this day, for every trout in the river patently ignored all of those fluttering naturals.

Anglers ponder the reasons for such days. The river’s flow was nearly perfect, its waters clear, and the temperature was right there in the good range. I counted at least three different mayflies, capturing a Red Quill and a Light Hendrickson in size 14, and seeing larger tannish flies on the water as the hatch progressed. No trout would rise under these seemingly perfect conditions, not one.

The old line is often uttered in excuse: well the trout just don’t recognize those mayflies when the hatch first begins. Hogwash! Trout have been found to have eaten bits of sticks and leaves, discarded cigarrette butts, seeds and all manner of detritus. They are quite willing to sample things that might be food. Their instincts do not simply disappear in the absence of regular mayfly hatches. Hundreds of wriggling, ascending, emerging and drifting insects all around them and not one trout feels compelled to sample a taste?

The other patent excuse, well they must have been feeding upon the nymphs, may seem to hold water, though I have seen dedicated nymph fishermen go fishless on similar days while I stood by with dry fly at the ready, watching. Late in the hatch I took that excuse to task, swinging a weighted soft hackle nymph down through the water without a touch. If there had been fish feeding upon nymphs I should have at least encountered one of them momentarily. No sale on that excuse either.

Anglers hate to admit that they don’t know. We love to talk endlessly of our thoughts and theories, but the truth is such events are as much a part of the magic of fly fishing as the days when every rise intercepts our fly. May those discussions continue, even though we will never figure it out; and secretly, don’t want to.

What’s he thinking?

Our beautiful, balmy early spring makes ready to demonstrate her reluctance with but two days out of ten expected to reach sixty degrees, more rain clouds than sunshine, and snow showers peeking back into the forecast on Friday. Seems like a perfect Catskill spring to me. Time to reach out and touch that magic!

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