It is the twenty-fifth of June and forty-eight degrees here in Crooked Eddy. It is actually warmer this morning than it has been the past two, when we shivered at sunrise at forty-four. The cold nights and cooler days have been welcome, bringing some new life to the rivers: two days of mayflies and a few rising trout!
Wind has accompanied the spring temperatures, and I guess that is fitting, at least for the windiest spring in my Catskill memory. Forecast 5 to 10, never mind, Mother Nature cranked it up to 25, and I believe some of those gusts must have hit 30. Challenging conditions for fly fishing. The additional tension caused by the wind and fretting over my compromised presentation cost me dearly. I broke off a special fish, and that got my nerves further on edge, so I remained too quick and too firm on the draw. As the afternoon lengthened, I redeemed myself with a fine twenty inch brown cruising and picking off sulfurs, though my encounters with another haunt me.
Yesterday I was ready for the sulfur parade, large ones and small ones, though none of the big Gray Fox that surprised me on Wednesday. There was some hope and a plan that caused me to tie those special 100-Year Duns in a size 14 with blended yellow silk and wings from the Catskill Legend Dave Brandt’s cache of wood duck flank feathers. That hope was rewarded, when I saw the first taller winged sulfurs bobbing upon the wind waves.
I covered a rise while the wind blew steadily upstream, and the lovely old fly brought a take. That brownie was a just short of a foot, but he fought with everything he had. The gusts redoubled their efforts for a while, and there were no more rises, yet the sparse hatch of flies continued.
Wonder of wonders, a calm spell materialized without warning, and within two minutes time a rise appeared. The glint under the surface betrayed the old boy, no matter how dainty the disturbance. I cast the Dun above him, allowing just the right amount of slack to float it perfectly; how easy without a howling wind. He took solidly, seduced by the bobbing, canted wing and that provocative slouch, and I gave him the steel!
He tested my 5X tippet, and the flex of “old blue”, cavorting all over the river in search of a sharp edged boulder with which to undo our frail connection. In the end, he was mine, dedicated to that passed master, a friend that might have been, all twenty-one inches of him writhing in the net as I retrieved my fly. Back in the cold, clear embrace of bright water he posed.
Each time the winds rushed back, the fishing ceased, but the welcome calmer spells fed my need. A foot long brownie found the Dun to his liking, wishing he was big as he battled to hand. Like all the lovely, miraculous things in Nature, the un-seasonal hatch came to a close. This day there were more quiet moments, but the little sulfurs did not appear in numbers for the finale.
Toward mid-afternoon the howl increased, and I marveled at the caprices of the mountains. Two days with winds diametrically opposed, yet the gale blew upstream each day with a vengeance! This was the stormfront, sans dark clouds or rain, and it brought down leaves and branches and all manner of things scattered from the forest! The rises had been quieted for an hour or more, then there was one little plop.
The Grizzly Beetle was flipped to that spot, having replaced the Dun when the hatch demurred and the gale appeared, and the response was immediate. The big brown dug for the safety of the jagged bottom, and I held him at standoff for tense moments. At last he decided flight was a more lucrative choice. But I am no junior player either my finny friend! I turned him at each obstruction, gave him free rein as he ran from one toward another, leading him ever to the mesh. Four trout, two better than the twenty inch benchmark, under comically impossible conditions. Ah the magic of the Catskills!