Riffles and Runs

Yesterday’s sunshine reflects the big, brown water rushing to the Delaware in Hancock

It is eight o’clock in Crooked Eddy, and it is raining. It is thankfully not the heavy rain that brought our rivers to flood stage yesterday, though any rain is much more than residents and anglers particularly want to see. Watching the TV weather this morning, I listened dully to the tale of another cascade of storms headed our way for next week. Such is springtime.

We are fortunate, for this moderate flooding rarely damages property or threatens personal safety, though those of us eager to embark on the finest season of fly fishing will have to wring our hands and wait a little longer. We have not faced the ravages of tornados, wildfires or war, thank God, so an extra helping of rainfall ought to be greeted with a nod of quiet appreciation.

The forecasters say we can expect another inch and a quarter of rain over the next ten days. Barring concentrated localized downpours, that means that rivers will remain far too high for fishing throughout. The Delaware reservoirs are three to five percent over their capacities, those in the eastern Catskills a bit less, though all are spilling. The rivers below them will remain higher longer than the freestone rivers.

Unbuffered by a reservoir, the Beaver Kill rises with a dramatic spike in her flow. An hour or so before Noon on Thursday she flowed near 1,000 cfs, just after midnight reaching her crest in the range of 20,000 cfs! At 6:30 EST this morning the flow had receded to 3,280 cfs – dramatic indeed. The upper East Branch below Pepacton Reservoir remains above flood stage this morning, the reservoir dampening both the river’s rise and its fall. Where these rivers meet in East Branch, New York, the smaller upper arm of the East Branch Delaware is contributing perhaps twice as much water as the larger Beaver Kill, with her high flows sustained over a much longer period.

Today’s rain will likely cause all of our rivers to rise, for the soil is well saturated. Our forecast for Hancock predicts thirteen hundredths of an inch of rainfall, though the effect upon our rivers will have as much to do with the duration of the rain as with the amount. Stretching the inch and a quarter of the next system’s rainfall out over ten days will most likely cost us all of the fishing I had hoped to be doing over the second week of April. The tailwaters will remain too high for safe boating, and the freestoners too high to wade. That is Nature’s will.

There is warm weather coming too, just what I wished for next week. Another little tease the lady chooses to throw the way of the angler.

The vintage bamboo arches heavily against the run of a strong fish: concentration and bliss united! Our time is coming.

Age makes the waiting cut a little deeper, for we never really know how many bright moments lie ahead. I do acutely feel the loss of each potential day upon the rivers of my heart, though I am ever thankful for those I have possessed.

I spend a lot of time watching rivers, studying the peaks and valleys of the flow gage graphs, my anticipation building as the curves drawn to depict receding flows flatten. I interpolate the shapes of those curves over time, searching for windows of opportunity. Once in a while, one such window may open, and I will have rod and reel and waders close at hand. A couple of hours between stormfronts can be magic…

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