Winter’s Greeting

The East Branch bends into Crooked Eddy on a frigid winter’s morn.

The white coverlet on the grass this morning tells the truth; that winter has come to the Catskills once again. No hope remains for a late autumn rush of southern air and sunshine, for rings upon the surface and trout on the rise! Autumn is often brief here, rarely reaching its end in accordance with the calendar. November tends to turn the tide in these mountains.

The wind had a deep bite as I walked to the Post Office this morning, making me nod in agreement with my earlier decision to forego a predawn trip to the deer woods. I am finding my tying desk more comfortable this day with a hot cup of coffee and my thoughts for companions. The thick leather cushions of my chair are more soothing to old bones than the cold metal seat of a tree stand.

Here I can dream the soft dreams of springtime, of Hendricksons and Blue Quills teasing fine trout to the top, all lit with the burnished tones of afternoon sunlight upon flamed bamboo and the soft, pewter patina of century old English reels. There’s a murmur along the bank there where a tiny dun flutters amid the chilled currents. It vanishes with a wink, subtly, though it brings a smile to my face much more than some splashy greeting would. My cast offers a replacement, a tiny dun made of feathers and fur, its hackles hiding the steel within. Will he take?

Those feathery duns are born of this place, more than 125 dozen of them this year alone. They proliferate in winter, though each must wait for spring or summer in its turn. Throughout the season more spin from the vise and find themselves stored in boxes to await their chance to meet the wary browns, the quicksilver flashing of the rainbows.

The hours pass slowly once winter calls, unlike the vanishing golden days upon bright water. Those are far too fleeting, the minutes washed away by the ceaseless current, never to be once more. Memory retains them as best it can; though memory is prone only to glimpses of these days, stills and shorts from the movie of life. For the angler, winter is the arena for memory.

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