Soft Evenings

A taste of perfect Catskill Summer weather: misty mornings in the fifties, afternoons in the seventies, and soft evenings to put the last kiss on the day…

At last, a break from the constant onslaught of storms! The past two days have offered the kind of Catskill summer I most enjoy. It was a pleasure to wade some freestone rivers and feel their full, cold flows against my legs once again!

I would like to think this weather will last, as we are indeed amidst high summer, with August on the doorstep. I want to get back to stalking trout in cool summer flows and reveling in the beauty of each day, each evening. The high flows have cooled the rivers, and that is a gift to be thankful for, but we would all prefer cool nights, moderate days and more regular, gentle evening rainfall to keep them cool, inviting and productive.

I waded the past two days, forgoing the boat as the West Branch was hammered again by Tuesday night’s storm. The flow had more than doubled by morning, and remained higher as the reservoir began to spill. I reasoned that these events would not improve the fishing, with respect to the quiet solo float I enjoyed on Tuesday.

It was refreshing to work my legs against the Beaverkill’s strong current. Running clear and cold at springtime water levels, I almost expected to see a Quill Gordon take wing. The scene took me back to April, getting my winter legs in shape with the toil of wading frigid water.

I did find some mayfly activity, but the trout seemed far more interested in chasing the emerging nymphs beneath the surface, a few splashing heavily as they caught them just below with a rush. I coaxed one up to my Cahill emerger Thursday evening, as I lingered to enjoy the river and the weather.

I returned yesterday afternoon, finding the reach deserted and a bit more tame current wise. I prospected a bit, waiting. Once again the splashes signaled the coming of the cream colored mays, and once again the trout were to focused on their subsurface chase to pay heed to a dry fly. There was one though…

He rose just two or three times, inches from the far bank, across all that rushing water. I worked my way carefully down river, until the bottom fanned into smaller cobble, and a more negotiable flow. Staff in hand, I picked my way across, knowing that one slip of a boot could take me away. Reaching a suitable casting position, I called upon the crisp three weight to take my fly the final sixty feet or so.

Light line rods are made for touch, adding reach makes them a perfect tool for summer rivers; even at springtime flows. The first cast laid the fly gently a foot and a half from the bank, from whence it drifted perfectly, though un-assailed. Cast number two floated along a foot out, gliding peacefully and likewise unmolested. Another foot of line pulled from the reel, half to close the distance just a bit more, and half to add additional slack to account for the infinitesimal slowing of the current so close to the shore. Perfect; and yes, ignored.

I felt confident that the Cahill emerger was the right fly, so I fluffed the CDC wing with a brush of Frog’s Fanny and blew the excess into the breeze. I’ll give him a moment, I told myself. He had not risen during my final approach, though I figured he remained in whatever little dip or slot he favored in the rocky bottom. I had not seen a natural drift through either.

Finally I made another pitch, right in there, half a foot from the waterline, gliding, gliding, and taken! The light rod throbbed when I raised it,. and the trout bulled into a deeper slot nearby, searching for a snag. He found one no doubt, for with my line pulling hard down toward the bottom, he rocketed out half a dozen feet upstream from the spot where my taught fly line disappeared. The jump managed to pull the line free, and I made the most of the direct connection to pressure him away from the bank and those hidden snags. He wasn’t content to come easily, fighting with everything he had to get back to the snags.

Tense moments, and nearly a standstill, each pulling hard as I wondered about my compromised tippet. If the snag had frayed it…

He showed me his flank and I increased the pressure, working him away from the bank inches at a time. He must have a tree limb down there, as rock would have cut the leader, and he wasn’t giving it up easily. Eventually, I began to win the tug of war, working him far enough from his sanctuary where I could see the bottom. Pulling with everything he had, my first glimpse of his length got me thinking he might be larger than the net would reveal. Strong trout will do that. As it was I admired a full bodied wild brown eighteen inches long, as I twisted the fly free and sent him back to his hideaway. A lovely soft evening indeed.

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