Missing A Bullet

The summit of Point Mountain wears a coat of fresh snow on April 16th, 2020. We will not have a repeat this morning, though it will not be warm and pleasant today either. The weather forecasters are squawking about as much as fifteen inches of snow for “Upstate New York” – thankfully much further upstate than the Catskills!

Funny but the forecast high for Hancock today is a damp, breezy forty-six degrees, the identical conditions I encountered Monday afternoon when I finally found and caught my first rising trout of the season. I guess I need to go fishing today rather than on more of those sunny, warm and glorious days the last several weeks have provided.

I did find a nice hatch the following day, when conditions were far more perfect in terms of delightful spring weather; plenty of sunshine and temperatures a full twenty degrees warmer. I watched various Hendrickson mayflies flying around and bouncing down the current, all of which failed to entice even a single trout to rise. The next day was markedly different, somewhat inhospitible in fact, but there was little activity to fascinate the angler. Spring in the Catskills: Nature offers a different stage each day.

There have been dozens of fine fishing stories crafted around the, the worse the weather the better the fishing theme, absolute classics. It does happen that way sometimes too, though I have spent a lot of miserable days shiverring in trout rivers watching and waiting for hatches that never appeared, and trout that never rose. Not that any day spent along bright water is truly miserable. There are certainly wide ranging outcomes possible in regards to creature comforts. Chances are I’ll be out there again today.

A friend down in Maryland braved high water to fish the Grannom hatch on Pennsylvania’s Little Juniata River yesterday. He reported several trout landed, though he qualified his report with the revelation that he simply couldn’t get to a lot of them. I’ve done the same, and I know there is a special satisfaction when we fish in chancy conditions and come out on top. The little bit of risk is exhilarating, though we’re careful not to do anything stupid.

As we get older, I think we crave that little bit of exhilaration, but we have to temper those desires with common sense and safety. Fishing is far too beautiful a lifestyle to let it end prematurely.

I have passed up on casts to some real brutes, feeding ravenously on early season mayflies, because I realized that the one or two more steps I needed to get close enough to make a perfect presentation were two steps too far. As galactic hero Jean Luc Picard once said, “I have become increasingly aware that there are fewer days ahead then there are behind”. No point in shifting the balance on that scale in the wrong direction.

At the time, those good decisions were agonizing. We never know when the fish we see rising is the trout, that mythical fish of a lifetime that lurks in each angler’s subconcious, and that makes it very, very hard to turn away. I try to reflect upon the pure fact that my greatest trophies did not require risking my life to capture. Rather they required stealth, patience and skill, often in low water conditions; and that is more satisfying than that little thrill from some risky wading.

There is going to be a lot of cold water around for the next few weeks, and cold water is the enemy of careless fishermen. We have to dress for the colder water even on the sunny days, something that is very easy to do in this age of hi-tech gear, and make sure we stay on our feet at all costs. Dunkings in forty something degree water are not conducive to enjoying many long years of fly fishing retirement!

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