A Winter’s Afternoon

There’s a chill in Crooked Eddy despite the sun…

There’s a chill here in Crooked Eddy and growing colder despite the glorious winter sunshine. Well covered up for my river walk, I felt the bite of the wind upon my bare countenance walking back homeward. I realized we have passed the first month of winter, a milestone for those of an angling persuasion who count the days until rising trout might accompany such a stroll along bright water. There are eighty remaining by my count.

The wind heralds the onset of another cold snap, the kind that brings us subzero dawns, a thing I never welcome. That contemplation put me in the mind to celebrate the cold snap with a chilled glass of my favorite brew, called coincidentally by the same name as that all too familiar meteorological phenomena. My gratitude to Mr. Koch and company.

A Cold Snap to the cold snap: may the subzero readings be kept at bay!

Before my little snack and break I decided this was a good time to tie a few dries to salute the later turn of spring, that lovely May/June period when the larger mayflies whisper their hellos on balmy afternoons and calm, comfortable evenings.

I have had such wonderful results with my 100-Year Duns that I have continued to tie more of them, being sure to have some on hand for most every hatch. The varying shades of woodduck and brighter hackles caught my eye, and I spun some Light Cahills and a pair of March Browns.

A brace of March Browns and two brace of Cahills; ready to float down to the surface above some discriminating golden flanked warrior.

I first tied this style of dry fly for the largest of hatches, our Eastern Green Drake. The pattern evolved gradually over a number of seasons, and all have proven to be the right medicine for trout which delight in ignoring or refusing my more conventional offerings. Old Gordon was onto something! I find a timeless grace in the long, canted wing. The fly sits the water provocatively, the canted hackle turns serving to support the offset weight of the fly. I love to watch them float down a quiet thread of current!

Eighty days is still a long time, and there is no promise that spring will warm the rivers in time for my personal opener. That is why there are flies to be tied and rods that wish for a gentle polish. I am well into my winter reading, with Harry Darbee’s Catskill Fly Tyer beside my big leather chair today. I can find it difficult to commit my attentions to one off-season activity for long periods, so on certain days I will jump from the tying desk to the reading chair and back. River walks help calm my spirit.

I find a perfectly serene state of calm with a river flowing around my legs, and there is really no long-term substitute for that. Bright water is its own state of perfection. It has a mystical ability to allow us entry for a time, a chance to become as the trout and the mayflies, part of the magic of the river!

My friend snapped this photo, coming gently upstream late in the afternoon to find me battling a prodigious brown trout. I had no idea he was even near, locked as I was in our connection through that golden arc of cane. The fish would exceed five pounds! (Photo courtesy Michael Saylor)

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