Hunting at Daylight

Another beautiful Catskill summer morning.

The heat wave remains in full swing, and our afternoons and evenings are certainly less than pleasant. It was 90 degrees in our bedroom at midnight last night. The mornings are my release, cooler air and cool water draws me to the hunt.

There are promises of relief, tales of glorious rainfall and temperatures in the seventies, but the rainfall percentages seem to be dropping day by day. Oh how I would love a gentle, cool rain to last all day and all night!

Hunting has been lean as always, for the season of plenty has passed into this angler’s history. Fly life is sparse to say the least. Some days, the opportunities simply don’t materialize.

Morning light filters through the trees and ignites the mist.

On Monday I fooled the first trout I encountered, a spirited fellow who set to spinning my reel immediately. A nice brown, not a big one, but he put a smile on my face; as if the cool, quiet beauty of the morning wasn’t enough. There were no other opportunities, though I stalked a few with hopeful eyes; cruising fish sampling the few tiny tidbits the surface held. I noticed more than one rusty spinner, not enough to constitute a fall, but I made a note to tie some and stock the box in my summer chest pack. The heat has led me to release the vest from it’s daily duty.

On Tuesday I somehow felt cooler, my body perhaps adjusting to the summer swelter. I stalked with an old friend, the 8040 Granger and yes, one of those freshly tied size 20 rusty spinners. We managed to creep up on the first trout of the morning without sending him to the other side of the river, a challenge in itself. It’s a waiting game, this fishing. The waiting begins when a rise is spotted, typically a distant rise, as the long, painfully slow approach unfolds. Often the trout disappears, off to sample other quarters, while I remain stalking the location of his initial rise. Once a casting position has been reached, waiting turns on the vagaries of the drift. It all worked out for this first opportunity, as I stood with line ready and the tiny fly in my hand. The subtle rise and the smile came simultaneously.

The first cast drew no interest, and experience has forced me to accept the fact that presentations must be limited to a single cast following each rise. Some of these trout are relentlessly cruising, and even the homebodies are casting about for any morsel in their area. These are not the classic rising trout on feeding lies. At last he rose again, two feet to the left of his previous excursion, and I squeezed the cork lightly to drop that spinner as delicately as I could. The rises are unique, little swirls in the film, sometimes followed by a dorsal fin, rather than the classic expanding ring. I freeze momentarily, watching that little swirl and waiting, the last of it in this case, and then a steady lift until the trout erupts at the sting.

This fellow objected strenuously to my intrusion, hurtling skyward with energy that belied the delicacy of his feeding. The Hardy wailed briefly, and he was out again, spraying droplets everywhere like sparks in the morning light. Another brief run, a third jump, then a long searing run as the Bougle` played it’s chorus. It took some time to land this one, and I enjoyed every minute. At nineteen inches, this acrobatic brownie was on the cusp between nice and big, as if mere dimensions could accent or diminish his beauty and his wildness.

Catching one ruined my composure somewhat, and multiple casts spoiled what might have been when the second sipping cruiser was approached. Did I mention that the rules of this fishing demand one cast per rise? That cast has to be on him quickly too! The assumption being that the trout is moving, taking, then moving along. A late cast, a second or third may put him down with a leader dropped too close, or other sins.

An hour further on, one more stayed in the same locale long enough for me to approach and prepare a cast. I had seen two or three half drowned sulfurs by then, little ones, and had changed to a 20 cripple pattern. While watching, my trout began to move left, sipping a sulfur or two along his path. He stopped in midriver, hovering near a group of boulders, and rose confidently. My cast was on target, but he did not come, then rose again after I retrieved the line. Despite a perfect drift, I thought he disdained that presentation as well, and glanced upstream at another swirl. Breaking concentration like that is a cardinal sin, as his take came as soon as I looked away. Sometimes providence smiles, and my rod hand came up before I even switched my gaze. Got him!

Hooked in deeper water, this twin did not take to the air, running instead for the far side of the river, while the check of the Bougle` shattered the morning stillness once again. Another hard fight, ending in the meshes of my net. The sun was high now, yet the breeze and cool water kept me very comfortable. I fooled one more after stalking a couple of unapproachables in the sheerest water. He was straight downstream of my rod hand, close enough and shallow enough that movement was out of the question. He ignored my spinner initially, as well as a tiny sulfur and an even smaller ant. The rises said spinner, so I lengthened my 6X tippet and knotted the same little rusty to my freshened leader. This time he accepted it on a perfect drift, and I paused at the take to account for the smallness of the fly and downstream drift, but the hook caught hold for only a second before releasing him. A good fish, but one who sidestepped his opportunity to dance with the Granger.

Not much to tempt a trout, but enough!

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