August so soon… it seems it was just barely June. Another Catskill summer is flying past, and I am enjoying everything but the day long heat. They’re expecting nineties today, and I have already done my fishing and have settled in to catch up on writing, tackle tinkering, even getting in a bit of practice for the Hardy Cup on Saturday. There are probably a few flies I need to tie as well. The fan is washing me with cool air, and there is plenty of ice cold beer in the fridge.
It has been an interesting week so far, and I got a rare August opportunity to catch up on some really great dry fly fishing. I went looking for some new water to salute the arrival of August, and I was very glad that I did.
Every once in a while, you plan something out in your head and then get to execute it perfectly. That means the weather doesn’t jump up and bite you that day, there isn’t a surprise kayaker’s convention, a family of mergansers doesn’t decide to have a splash fest in the water you chose to angle, etcetera.
I took a long walk along the river and found my little piece of heaven right where I’d hoped. There were a few soft rises ahead of me, and I studied the surface to select a fly. Mornings this time of year you can find some variety in the drift: leftover spinners, tiny olives, small caddis, tricos, perhaps even a few small terrestrials. What I found on this morning was olives. Not a lot of them, but it turned out just enough.
I cannot tell you the species, but the mayfly in question is one I have seen before in the summertime, though not usually in large numbers. If you see them on the water, you note the dark wings and the dark olive back and sides. If you look closer, you should see that the legs are pale and yellowish. If you don’t pick one up though, you will miss the most important characteristic. The underside of these little olives are pale, a yellowish olive. I have presented many standard blue-winged olives to trout rising to this hatch, with little success, so I finally tied a pattern specifically for them.
I started out fishing to some moving risers in a weedy flat washed by a fairly strong current. The tricks the undulating weeds played with the drag-free drift I sought reminded me of my spring creek days. The action was short-lived, and I never got the chance to see what those trout were taking, with nothing visible on the surface. My attention was drawn to the main run of the river by the loud thunk of a taking fish nearby. Pale olives were drifting down, and a number of trout had taken stations in the gentler flow of mid-river. I knotted my POP to a long 6X tippet and started working on the nearest bulging riser. Choosing to go down to 6X was about to cause me a great deal of trepidation.
The trout came for a natural right next to my dry fly and I managed to resist the urge to zing it off the water, lifting it gently only when it was well past my fish. My next cast settled perfectly into his chosen line of drift, and he bulged the surface smoothly and sucked it in. Oh Lord did I have a battle! This was no ordinary brown trout. This was one of the special ones you don’t expect to be out there feeding in a group. Brown trout like this fellow tend to be solitary.
We danced the dance for a long while, my fish running and pulling drag, then dogging and head shaking to rid himself of this offending mayfly. I had him close several times, my old four weight doubled into a half circle as I tried to give the trout as much pressure as that 6X tippet could take, and not a touch more!
I will add the Pale Olive Parachute to my standard summer fly box. Twenty-five-inch wild brown trout don’t make stupid mistakes. When they are feeding on a hatch, your fly had better be a good match. Nothing celebrates high summer like a trophy brown!
My nerves got the better of me after releasing that brownie, for I missed a couple of takes thanks to overly quick reflexes. I broke one off on the take too! The olive hatch subsided and gave me a little time to regain my composure. It wasn’t a long hiatus, for sulfurs began to appear within fifteen minutes.
I took the time to tie in a brand new 6X tippet, then selected a size 20 100-Year Dun to deal with the trout rising to the sulfurs. It was a nice hatch, particularly so because it was somewhat unexpected. I had a wonderful afternoon while those little yellow duns were on the water!
There was one fish that I fought for a long time. Several close looks made it clear he was over twenty inches long. He was finally a rod length away, coming in with the net in my hand, when the hook simply pulled out. Ah, that. Yes, it has plagued me this season, when big fish have been encountered far less often than expected. We cannot control how the hook holds in the trout’s mouth, and sometimes it doesn’t quite hold long enough.
I wasn’t complaining as the last rise dissipated that afternoon. I had landed and released browns measuring 25, 21 and 20 inches, along with a 14 inch fattie who seemed out of place in this run of river. Come to think of it, that one was rising on the other side of the river late in the hatch. Maybe he did stay clear of the middle of the river for his own safety.
If I had fished perfectly, I could have taken half a dozen big brown trout I guess, but I do not claim to fish perfectly. I guess you could say that remains something to aspire to, a goal never actually to be reached. To my mind, this was a perfect day of fishing. I enjoyed the river, the weather, and “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. What more could one man ask for on a balmy summer day?