Waiting For Snowflakes

Snow backdropped my first day of fishing for 2021.

They are in the forecast this morning, those snowflakes, a sixty percent chance they say. Here in Crooked Eddy the temperature hovers near freezing before the dawn. New York’s deer season opens tomorrow morning, and Thanksgiving comes around in another week. November is my prime non-fishing season.

Our rivers remained high this week and got another boost from last evening’s rain, and the forecast I just checked predicts Tuesday’s high to reach all of thirty-four degrees. November in these mountains, trying once again to tease us with winter.

Winter is a long proposition here in the Catskills, certainly from the dry fly man’s perspective.

I actually fished quite a lot last November. I had a fever it seemed, a need to fish on through such a crazy year as 2020. I found the solitude I crave, though little in the way of fish. I am no longer comfortable with pounding the bottom out of the rivers, that old weight chucking, high sticking, leader watching drill. The beauty and grace of the dry fly simply captivates my soul, and I no longer have the temperament to make such ugly work out of my fishing. I swing lightly weighted flies a bit in winter, searching for that one active trout, trading productivity for the peace of remaining along bright waters for these five long months.

Until snow and ice rule the mountains, I will wander there and hunt the whitetails and the grouse. The trout can rest until the seasons wane.

The limestone springs once lured me to bright water throughout the winter.

I whiled away many a cold and snowy winter’s day upon the limestone springs of the Cumberland Valley. The chance for a tiny hatch and a rise of trout seemed always close, and there was the Master’s art of “sculpinating” to fill the long hours with intrigue. There is an intense excitement in teasing leviathan from beneath an undercut bank at one’s feet, or watching same dart from invisibility beneath the waving water weeds as that black fly settles in a sandy pocket in between. Streamer fishing as practiced on the wide Catskill Rivers leaves me cold after so many heart stopping moments with monsters at arm’s length.

There’s a pale golden tinge above the mountains to the southeast as the day begins. None of those crystalline flakes are wandering with the wind. There are days here when icy squalls come from nowhere amid a clear blue sky, winter bluffing, promising it’s power for another day. I have seen them even in May!

I have spent little time at the vise these past few weeks. The urgency is quelled. I did tie six Hendricksons for April, my 100-Year Duns; a small act of hope. I took my river walk yesterday, just before midday. The sun shone and warmed the air to sixty degrees, and I walked in shirtsleeves. On my way back upstream I saw a single gentle ring out there upon the surface. I stood and watched then, waiting for a glimpse of the beauty I enjoyed for seven months. The moment fleeting, and not repeated, though it did not fail to touch my heart. Evidence of the river’s farewell until springtime?

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