So, at last my own personal countdown has reached its final milestone: thirty days remain until that lovely second week in April, the week when I can expect to walk the riverbanks with some confidence in finding a rising trout to draw the interest of my dry fly. The signs have been mixed of late, reminders of winter closely followed by hints of spring, but clearly the time is near.
On Sunday last, I languished on my porch as the late afternoon sun streamed in, driving my thermometer to an unexpected seventy-five degrees! On Tuesday there was snowfall throughout the day, Crooked Eddy awakening yesterday to a white world, yet by afternoon I was on that porch again in streaming sunshine, tending the grill. We are told to expect a larger snowfall again tomorrow.
Sitting there as the grilling steaks hissed and crackled, an unseen bird serenaded me repeatedly. I closed my eyes with that sun on my face and listened, imagining a greening riverbank and a freshly hatched Hendrickson mayfly alighting on my hand…
Thirty days, and now the work begins with a new urgency. The boat must be readied, fly boxes sorted and the right gear for the new season stocked in the boat bag and tackle bag. The flies tied over the winter must be transferred to their correct boxes. The fly pouches in my vest will need to be restructured, the streamers swung through winter afternoons put away, and the early season dry flies fluffed and readied for their debut.
I shall make a better attempt at storing the experimental flies this season. I set aside a fly box for them this time last year, and then it never found its way into the vest. A few flies were taken from it at various times and stuffed in my regular boxes making them difficult to locate at those magic moments. Experimental patterns are intended for the trout that ignore the normal, proven imitations that stock my regular boxes. I see no other path to determining if their designs, wrought of some new theory or line of inquiry, are better, truly more effective improvements over my standard fare.
Other than the classic Catskill patterns, my boxes hold few flies one might see in another’s fly boxes. In truth, even my Catskill standards are most often tied with my special blends of dubbing, color matched to the parade of mayflies and caddisflies I have observed over three decades of angling these Catskill rivers. Not to say that my flies are revolutionary, their forms and styles are not unique, for hundreds of fly tyers have similar ideas, witness the same hatches, and no doubt ponder the same responses of the trout. An individual tyer’s flies have subtle differences, though to us these subtleties are the stuff of legend.
Last evening, I enjoyed John Shaner’s presentation of two framed collections of historic flies recently cataloged from the CFFCM’s archives. Among the treasures discussed and reviewed were flies tied by Theodore Gordon and Herman Christian. I smiled at the flies with single canted wings included in both collections, inspiration for my own 100-Year Dun. This style of tie seems to have largely disappeared for a century, the Catskill school evolving with the upright divided wing construction Gordon observed in Frederick Halford’s flies from England. That has provided me with a perfect opportunity to show the trout something different during many past seasons!