It has been a strange year. To be honest, that comment comes to the tongue every year, testament to the incredible variety of Nature and the wonder and puzzlement of angling Catskill rivers.
Though the first hatches of spring were wonderful, with incredible variety and at times prodigious volume, insect production has seemed rather spare since then. Even back in May, I noted an unusual number of uncharacteristicly small flies on the water. I was caught short on my first solo float of the season when confronted with thousands of Shad Fly caddis in a diminutive size 20. Only field surgery saved the day!
Summer is traditionally small fly season on our rivers, featuring the littlest mayflies: sulfurs from size 18 down to 22, various olives in sizes 20 to 26, Summer Blue Quills in sizes 18 and 20 and eventually the tiny size 24 tricorythodes. I am thinking that downsizing terrestrials may be my best move as well.
My concentration this morning was to add some smaller Grizzly Beetles to my terrestrial box. While I fished tiny little beetles when necessary in the Cumberland Valley spring creeks, I have used larger, meatier versions quite often. Ed Shenk called the miniscule black beetles Willow Beetles as they habitually were found in the willow trees lining the streams. A size 20 tended to be a bit large for imitations on most days. I was amazed at the little spun deer hair flies the Master tied for these, clipped just so to provide the rounded profile of the natural. Closed cell foam became hugely popular for tying similar flies, but I never seemed to have the same results the Master did with his deer hair creations. Then again, I was the student and he the Master.
In truth, I have not spun any deer hair in decades, not since I dawdled at bass fishing with the fly rod. I may need to revisit the technique in deference to the looked for Shenk Tribute Rod, expected this summer. It would be only proper to set out with a small fly box of The Master’s patterns when I first introduce that rod to the rivers of my heart.
I fished along throughout June more or less expecting a late hatch of some of the spring flies I missed during May. When we finally got a real cold snap, plunging the rivers from the seventies back into the fifties over night, there was a day or two when some of those larger flies emerged. I saw Gray Fox, large sulfurs, as well a good numbers of “normal” sulfurs in sizes 16 and 18, the flies May forgot. I wish the cold snap had lasted – I never packed the sweatshirts and fleece away into storage. Oh it would have been heaven to enjoy a solid week of that fishing!
Now that July has come, summer seems destined to stay, so the Smalls will take care of the dry fly fishing for the duration. A light cane rod, a three or four weight line on a small classic reel, long leaders and 6X and 7X tippets will be the standard outfit for the next few months!