The Cusp

The last week of April is upon us and the early spring I had anticipated has vanished. It was barely in my grasp for a moment a week ago: Quill Gordons, rising trout, and the solitude of a quiet reach of river. Trout were played, landed and released, and the outlook was promising until winter swept back through these mountains.

The snow vanished as quickly as it came, and I fully expected to venture out, until snowmelt raised the flows, chilled the water and banished me from the rivers. There have been rumors of a few Hendricksons, but I hear no tales of fine brown trout brought to boat side. Streamers the reports are saying, endless hours of lobbing heavy flies to the banks in cold, muddy water. It is not the springtime of my dreams; and so, I wait.

A Dyed Wild 100-Year Dun, waiting still for a trophy brown to quietly sip Hendricksons.

I tried to fight the current and the chill yesterday, wading in as far as I dared. One stubborn trout was splashing the odd mayfly, coming from deep water amidst a boulder field. With the side wind, he remained just beyond the limit of my ability to make an adequate presentation. Ninety-foot casts require concentration, and a magical mix of power and delicacy, for the fly must alight softly. With the wind whipping, the cast must be low to the water, where the gusts may drive it into the surface. I was not surprised that I failed to garner the interest of this lone riser. I expect the few flies he vaulted to the surface for were moving excitedly, the strong attractant necessary to bring him up in such cold, heavy water.

Just now I thought about these difficulties. I have no reason to expect an end to windy days for they are common in a mountain spring, and the preponderance of high, cold water seems to be unending. With little hope for better conditions, I turned again to the bench.

Motion is oft the key, so I used my best efforts to maximize the attraction of a Hendrickson emerger.

This emerger uses a number of effective tricks to present itself as a vulnerable, struggling mayfly trapped both in and out of the surface film. The Antron shuck is ragged and long to add some motion to its brightness. Tied long, it can be trimmed on the water should I feel it necessary. The dyed wild turkey biot gives natural color and segmentation, and the ribbed fibers will collect air bubbles. The legs are partridge hackle, wrapped soft hackle style in the middle of the dubbed thorax, then swept back, again for maximum movement. Long casts require long retrieves, so my emerging wings are heavier than normal, using a pair of CDC puffs. The puff feathers will move with the wind above and move with the current where their fibers touch the surface. I wish I had had this fly yesterday, tied for those stray Gordon Quills. Just maybe…

At least working on a fly with a little boost helps me get through the long afternoons, for the rivers have been rising all day. I took my river walk this afternoon to find the East Branch high and muddy once more. It was clear just the other day. There is little snow visible on the slopes surrounding Hancock, yet there is still plenty in the high valleys it seems.

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