Reunion

This week joyfully brought a reunion of a friendship that has lasted twenty years. Andy and I met when he joined me on Pennsylvania’s Yellow Creek two decades ago. At the time, that little limestoner was my favorite dry fly stream, and one not too long a drive from home. We had some luck and enjoyed each other’s company. We both looked forward to a lasting friendship, and many memorable fishing trips, though life doesn’t allow for every wish.

While I had reached an age where life was stable and I had a manageable work schedule that allowed ample time for my hunting and fishing, Andy was in the thick of the blossoming of an active life. College, medical school, residency in a few different cities, marriage and children followed and, most recently, ownership of a lovely country house on my old favorite reach of the Falling Spring Branch. I am happy that my friend has built a full and rewarding life. He is the kind of guy that deserves it.

We still got together on the water, though not with the regularity we had hoped. Each opportunity was a celebration, with some fine trout battled and remembered. I had invited him to travel to the Catskill Rivers many times, something he wished to do, but this week marked the first time the stars aligned so I could share the rivers of my heart.

The weather was gorgeous each day, and the rivers had receded to wadeable levels. We fished in the evening that first day, catching the last minutes of a Delaware spinner fall. The old man hung too long in another location, hoping the chance for a trophy would materialize for my friend as it had earlier that day for me, and as such we missed what might have been the most active rise of trout of the week. Andy was excited nevertheless, and his excitement for the rivers was contagious to me.

The Old Man and the Sea: Piloting the drift boat as we begin our Delaware River float trip. (Courtesy Andy Boryan)

I was looking forward to our float trip as much as my guest, hoping the Delaware would open its arms and show my friend one of it’s best days. The promise of March Browns, and casting big dry flies to interesting runs with explosive consequences proved empty. The day provided a full spectacle of natural beauty and companionship, though little in the way of insect activity and rising trout. The big river is the moody champion of the Catskills, testing anglers like no other.

Our last day was a wading day, with an early start, and the hope I could find a hatch to treat us to some fast fishing. Alas the paucity of bugs and rises continued, and I made a last ditch effort to find some action. Another reach of familiar water was quiet, until later in the afternoon when a few soft rises appeared. Trout cruising, ghosting through wide, flat water and sipping here and there. I watched Andy working the wide expanse of the river, noting the perfection of his presentations with his vintage Granger cane rod. I was walking a hundred yards upriver, searching for the hatch I still expected, when I heard my name shouted. Turning, I saw Andy’s rod high in the air, with a full arch in the caramel colored cane.

Knowing he had left his landing net in Chambersburg, I walked as fast as the river would allow, finally netting a fine, big spotted brown of eighteen inches. He handed me his phone and I managed a single snapshot with the unfamiliar device: a moment of pure joy to share.

A hard won wild brownie, a gift from the river acknowledging a true heart, a love for angling and reverence for bright water.

We savored the moment together, as the aches in my bones prompted my slow retreat. On that slow mosey down river, a few risers burst to the surface, and we both cast at distance for a chance at feeling the life of the river once again. I was tired, feeling my age on this final day of keeping pace with an excited young angler half my age. On one cast I sighed and looked away, weary, though sad that our time together was coming to a close. In that moment, the reverie was broken by Andy’s shout “he’s got it”, and I turned to see a ring where my fly used to be. I was too late to hook the trout of course, caught in a moment of rest and reflection instead of the concentration that catching trout requires.

I hope it will not be too many years that pass until we may haunt bright water together once again. The Catskills have captured my young friend as they captured me some three decades ago. I can feel it.

(Photo Courtesy Andy Boryan)

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