Rainy Day Wonderment

What will the rain clouds bring to the Catskills? Too soon to know.

It has been raining all day, a gentle rain, not the heavy downpours I feared; a quiet contemplative rain. The rivers in the Delaware system have just begun to rise, none of them sharply, so I do my best to remain guardedly optimistic. With more than fourteen inches of rainfall in July and August, the Catskills are fairly saturated. Would that we could send our excess to the other coast, where a drink is sorely needed.

For now it appears as if the heavy rains have circumnavigated our western end of the Catskills, though I noted a sharp rise in the Neversink over on the eastern side. It may be that the remains of Hurricane Ida have passed more easterly than the television maps foretold. Tonight will tell the tale, as Hancock remains under a flash flood watch until eleven tomorrow morning.

It has been a fly tying day, and my production soared beyond my typical output. Three dozen dries are sitting in the drying racks and tucked into plastic cups, everything from the size 24 midges my friend Dennis mentioned he’d like to have to my 100-Year Duns crafted to imitate the September Isonychia. I saw one the other day, doubling my sightings of that mayfly for the season. I have taken a few trout on them, but I certainly haven’t encountered any kind of hatch. Another local resident told me they were all over his exterior walls several evenings ago, though on a reach of river still far too warm for trout fishing.

The first version of my 100-year Iso, with a biot body. Today’s featured my Halo style of body with a mixture of hackle: barred dun and cream. I haven’t decided if I like the mixed colors. Although the Isonychia duns have creamy back legs and dark front ones, I have never tied a fly that way, a fly like the old White Gloved Howdy. The technique is much better when applied to a conventionally hackled fly than the canted parachute hackle of the 100-Year Dun if your aim is to imitate the legs of the insect.

I have yet to offer a 100-Year Iso to a Catskill trout, as this is the second consecutive season in which I have failed to encounter the hatch. In truth, the Halo Isonychia has been so effective for me, it is my go to fly during the typical timeframe for Isonychia mayflies, whether I see any or not. The fly has produced fish for me in both of these hatchless seasons.

This handsome fellow was all over my Halo Isonychia, fished in fast water in early morning. Evening flies can be good patterns to try on morning’s after, even of you don’t see any naturals. Trout can respond to flies of the season any time of day if they are in the right mood and state of activity.

I don’t plan to tie a box full of the new duns, there are plenty of Halos already in my vest, but I’ll welcome the opportunity to drift one over any trout I see rising to Isonychias. I have some special memories of those big claret mayflies.

Brightest among those past days is one Mike Saylor and I spent on a difficult reach of water. It was the last day of our trip, and we had encountered tough conditions and very few rising trout during our previous days and nights on the water. That last morning brought heavy skies and hundreds of Isonychia mayflies drifting on the surface throughout the day. The trout were the typically difficult wild Catskill browns so they demanded our best. We landed twenty-one brown trout between fifteen and twenty inches long, and had any number of others jump, cartwheel, thrash and throw the hook. There is a picture in the corner of my desk with me holding a big, wide bodied fish that I really worked hard for, the last fish of the trip.

Another spring I floated with Ben Rinker and had a heart stopping Iso encounter. It was early in the float, just below The Jaws, and I was casting a big Iso Comparadun to likely looking cover as we drifted. We were talking casually and I mentioned to Ben that I was surprised that some of his smallmouth weren’t coming up from all of the wood I was hitting with that big dry fly. I no more than got those words out of my mouth when the head of a huge rainbow rose out of a tangle of branches and gulped my fly. Of course I overreacted due to my lack of attention and missed the hookup!

I hope we have a nice September hatch. I am looking forward to some beautiful late summer and early autumn days along the Mainstem, fighting hard running Delaware rainbows with an Isonychia in their jaws!

Autumn color lines the majestic Delaware River

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