I hear them outside my window as I write this morning, the howling winds of autumn! We are braced for heavy rain once again, though we neither want nor need it. This week has featured a rolling forecast, with that threat of rain moving into the future day by day, and today seems to mark the point where reality catches up with predilection.
Summer’s last kiss came with a warm but rushing wind yesterday, as my best friend and I tried to get a few hours more fishing out of his seasonal visit. Between us, a single trout was raised before we surrendered to the inevitability of the swirling gusts. I surmise that splashy greeting was a refusal born of an imperfect drift, with those winds as much in control of our fly lines as we were.
We had enjoyed a gorgeous day on the Neversink when Mike arrived on Monday: perfect air temperatures, a hint of breeze, and clear, cold water beneath the bluest skies! It was so perfect, the trout took a day off to travel and relax. In a pool where I stalked a dozen risers just a week before, we found no evidence that a trout of any size even lived nearby. I can only assume that the rush of high water separating those two trips caused the trout to relocate and modify their habits, for the measurable conditions on each of those days were nearly identical.
We visited a couple of different pools, finding barren water at the first location, and a lone angler walking the bank at the second. We left him to his sport.
Mike had his heart set on a float trip, though the south winds made me shy from heading my own boat down the upper mainstem of the Delaware. I made that mistake once on a southeast wind, dragging my boat more than a mile back upstream when the winds turned due south and intensified. Mike cajoled guide Ben Rinker into a day’s fishing and invited me along.
We covered some beautiful water and fished hard most of the day despite the lack of fly life and rising trout. Ben worked his usual magic on the oars to position us for success when a few risers appeared late in the afternoon. Mike managed a pair of trout, and I had one halfway to the boat when it shook free, all smaller fish, but welcome. We fished a lot of prime cover throughout the day, but the high water seemed to have caused the trout to relocate from their summer haunts. Still we enjoyed the challenge and good company. I had not fished with Ben since June of 2015, and our reacquaintance was welcome.
So summer passed away without the epic catches I hoped for. Change is a constant on rivers, and even the most successful patterns succumb to it. I had hoped that the great fishing I had enjoyed would hold until Mike arrived, but it was not to be.
So what will autumn bring? Judging upon past experiences and this season’s dearth of significant hatches, I expect that rising trout will come as a premium, earned through hours of observation and careful stalking, at least if the more typical low water conditions return. If the eventful rainfall episodes continue into winter, well, I prefer not to ponder that eventuality.
I am a dry fly fisherman, my choice and my passion. The encroachment of late autumn and the inevitability of winter may force me to angle below the magic surface of bright water, but I will fight that turn of the season with everything I have, wringing each spectacular moment from these last weeks of the season of the dry fly.
Alas, the rain has arrived…