Hope Box

Hope Box Flies: The time of year to slip a little box of dry flies into a shirt pocket; something to compete with the wets and streamers that winter rivers demand…

Well, here we are just two weeks before my countdown ends and there is snow in the forecast. No matter, for I have been tying dry flies. Certainly, there are always dries in my vest, no matter the season. When the clock of the season has but a few clicks left though, I have a habit of stashing a little Hope Box in a shirt pocket. This was the week that I tied the flies and organized that box.

In the center, half a dozen CDC olives are nestled in, the most likely flies to see action. Around them are arrayed a few specimens for the other early hatches: Little Black Stoneflies, Quill Gordons, Blue Quill Parachutes, and Hendricksons. It isn’t uncommon to see a rogue band of any of these spring mayflies suddenly bobbing on the current, not a hatch, but a handful of early duns that could be a week or more earlier than the rest of their kin.

There is a new pattern of mine well represented, the Catskill Adams. That one is the perfect tannish, grayish, buggy looking fly, the kind you chose for a few searching casts to the corner where you saw, well, something. It’s clearly not a rise, none of those lovely concentric rings in the water, but perhaps a little swirl or a subtle boil underneath; the kind of thing that tugs at my heart and says there is something alive over there. The Catskill Adams looks enough like any number of early season bugs to draw a trout’s interest should anything at all make him look up.

This has been the coldest winter I have spent in the Catskills, with lots of sub-zero days and nights, fierce winds and heavily iced rivers. My off-season fishing was spotty as a result. I fished into November until winter appeared, and then there was a little warmer trend in the first half of December. I took a really nice brownie mid-month, swinging one of my movement flies, and then the long, difficult cold spell that almost makes one regret living in these mountains: almost.

This December brownie kept me swingin’ through the worst chill of a long winter.

There was an honest February warmup, just when my spirits were at their low ebb, and I was freed for a cherished few days of fishing. After two frigid months the sun appeared, and a little rain came down and whisked the ice from the rivers. There are still blocks of it perched on scattered riverbanks even now. One cast, one swing stood out, a beacon in the wasteland of winter; the cast that brought a monster brown to hand. Shaking as he shot from my grasp, his wild energy gave me just what I needed to power through the rest of winter!

Winter at Crooked Eddy

Things begin to get busy over the next week: the Angler’s Reunion, the Catskill Cane Revival and hopefully, a few hours spent along a wadable Catskill river with a bamboo rod in my hand and that little Hope Box there in my pocket. If I am lucky enough to be walking along the right riverbank at just the right time to see one of those early flurries of wayward mayflies, I know that a trout could rise. Probably just once, but that’s enough to give me a casting target and feel the hope swelling in my chest! Its always especially nice to get an early taste of dry fly fishing.

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