April Showers

Water all around and even in the air!

The rain is steady on my metal roof this morning, rivers and reservoirs already amply supplied. It is that time, a time for watching river gages and fretting over each additional drop of rainfall. Four days to go – will they be wadable?

It is true that I have a drift boat parked out front, though anyone who knows me will tell you I am a wading angler. I prefer to approach my rising trout on their own terms.

It seems certain that the boat will be my platform for the beginning of this dry fly season, and I will be glad to have it. I have missed too much fishing over my decades of spring fishing in the Catskills. High water tends to be a given come April, and that is why I scoured the area after retirement, at last finding a well-used craft. There are times I enjoy the serenity of floating.

I usually make a solo trip before the first hatches arrive. Drifting and looking over the river as I pass, noting where new trees have fallen, and deeper pockets where ice has gouged a gravelly flat. Once the mayflies appear these spots could harbor a good fish, sipping subtly where most anglers don’t expect him to lie.

I nearly made that float this week, though yesterday’s forecast convinced me to walk a bit instead, to try to find wadable water before the rains came and whisked it away. A fifty-degree day is less than comfortable in a boat on the breezy river, particularly when the damp breeze and rowing with muscles not used over winter work their dark magic on my arthritis. Tuesday outperformed though, with bright sunshine driving the temperature into the sixties. Too late I realized it would have been a perfect day for that first solo float.

I did wade a bit, watched the chimarra caddis and early stoneflies flitting about in that breeze, I even cast a dry fly; simply to enjoy the feel of a fly rod actually casting its long, graceful loop. The river is still too high to reach the places that the trout will rise once more insects are stirring and the flows are more accommodating to efficient feeding.

As the rain pushes the rivers ever higher, I am back to tying flies and making sure the boat bags are filled with the right flies and leaders for the long-distance bank picking game of early spring’s dry fly debut.

Red Fox, dun roosters, woodduck and turkey await the touch of magic that will seduce the shy wild trout.

My log shows forty-four dozen flies have issued from my bench since January First, so I am ahead of last year’s production, nearly double in fact. There has been an increase in experimentation as I whiled away the frigid months of winter. A new interest, the sparse creations of England’s North Country, has blossomed, and I have increased my store of tying silks and soft hackle feathers and learned some new techniques.

It seems a good day to delve into that new realm once again. JA has seen to it I have a fresh pair of coot wings for my soft hackling pleasure. Coot you see is the preferred substitute for waterhen which I believe is quite scarce even on the Continent. The Waterhen Bloa is a simple yet killing fly for imitating the olives, delicate spiders with a lovely image of life when deftly tied.

Some of the Catskills highly evolved wild brown trout will show far too much caution beneath a dry fly, even one delicately tied with silk and quivering fibers of CDC. Might a spider first tied a couple of centuries ago prove to be the convincer? I plan to find out!

The morning passes, and the rain continues its drumming upon my roof. Methinks the higher vantage point from a drift boat should give a better view to track a dainty olive spider in the film…

The Waterhen Bloa.

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