Nor’easter

Beautiful, but frigid days have come often this winter. So much for the predictors and the mild, La Nina winter they promised.

Storms seem ever more commonplace, and often more severe than those recalled from seasons past. We are fortunate this time, our Catskill mountains being too far inland to suffer the heavy snows and wicked winds that this current nor’easter has brought to the Atlantic coast. Here we wait and hope for spring to come; bright, warm and early!

Spring can be a fitful season, particularly in these mountains. Even half a day’s drive south, in my old haunts, Mother Nature can send some strange and conflicting messages.

I remember one April out along the Falling Spring, when I had the day free to prospect for the little limestoner’s wild browns and rainbows. The morning had been mild enough in it’s beginning, but as the Noon hour approached the wind rose and the clouds gathered into a heavy, dark mass. Suddenly I saw a yellow mayfly rise from the surface. Within moments there were more of them, pale yellow bodies and blueish dun wings like our late May sulfurs, but these unseasonable mayflies were a full size fourteen!

The winds began to whip the water about the same time the trout began to rise, and I fought to make a delicate cast with my dry fly. My excitement was palpable as I worked over a good rainbow while the wind cut into my neck with an icy blast. The temperature had dropped ten degrees or more when a snow squall came hurrying out of those black clouds as I played my fish. The wild weather seemed timed to the wild, unexpected fishing, and I caught four very nice trout before the last violent snow squall petered out. The sky lightened and the surface of the little stream was still. I saw no more size fourteen sulfurs that spring, nor in any future years, though I’ll always remember the day it snowed sulfurs.

Sunlight washes the last stone arch bridge over the Falling Spring Branch on a gorgeous June evening.

The West Branch Delaware welcomed me to an early, mid-April hatch of Hendricksons more than a decade ago. By the time I traveled north to West Branch Angler, the warm weather that started the fishing had turned. It was windy and wet, wild weather, with the kind of chill that made me huddle into the high collar of my fleece jacket and cinch the hood of my raingear down tight. Once the hatch had begun though, it was bent upon continuing, despite the falling water temperature.

The fishing was challenging, the wild winds playing havoc with casting accuracy and fly presentation, but the trout I caught were big, hard fighting browns that warmed me from the inside. What a way to start a season! Ever try to put a Hendrickson comparadun one foot above a bodacious brownie sipping in the thin, flat tailout of a pool in a gale? I had one explode in inches of water when I tightened and leave a hell of a wake as he took my line far out into that pool one afternoon, then streak away as soon as my fly neared the surface the next. The same lie – perhaps the same fish? I’ll never know.

A Dream Caught West Branch brownie.

Just two short seasons ago I was out searching for some semblance of a quiet pool, protected from the thirty mile per hour sustained winds. It was hopeless! I stopped on the road above the Beaverkill and saw the Hendricksons bobbing in the waves, and two or three big trout pounding them with explosive rises. I parked and waded in, but the winds were relentless. The pool was open to the full force of the gale, and the frequent gusts touched forty miles per hour. The storms give, and they taketh away.

Evening storm clouds on the Delaware.

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