While passing the time during my self-imposed hiatus from my daily angling routine, I chanced upon some computer files holding fishing logs. I typed these up at times, since I brought my laptop along whenever my fishing trips coincided with a deadline for my newspaper column. The pages from April of 2013 brought the memories flooding back of one particularly challenging spring in the Catskills.
I had come to West Branch Angler, my favorite home away from home, upon receiving news that the Hendrickson hatch had begun. As that special magic I call Mark Luck was working, I arrived to plenty of cast defeating wind and three days of troutless splendor. The West Branch failed to offer a rising trout, not unexpected since there were no Hendricksons in evidence that first day either. Pounded by rains overnight, I fished other rivers each of the next two days, encountering more (less?) of the same; that is to say neither bugs nor trout. It looked like another of those difficult years from the outset.
On Monday I returned to the West Branch, witnessing a blizzard hatch of Hendricksons in a gale. Fighting that wind, I managed to convince two decent trout to eat my flies rather than one of several hundred thousand naturals. I considered those fish hard earned to say the least. The wind moderated somewhat on Tuesday, though Mark Luck still raised it’s head and separated me from the first twenty-inch class brown of the season prematurely. I had put my best mojo to work early that morning, tying a few size 16 reddish CDC sparkle duns after breakfast at the Lodge. Fishing hard through another amazing blizzard of mayflies I netted two pretty fish. The largest, at twenty-one inches renewed my faith in the same-day-fly magic that has served me well for many years.
With the weather deteriorating, I headed south after that hard day’s fishing, put in three days at the office, and returned to better prospects on Saturday morning. The afternoon warmed into the seventies under a bright sun and I found little choice but to fish among a crowd. Pushed out of one of my favorite haunts, I walked the opposite bank of the river to find some space, then waded out into the sunshine.
While anglers up and downstream flailed away fruitlessly at nearby rings, I sent long casts down and across to the first mid-river risers. They were nice trout, but not the big boys I had hoped to tangle with. As it turned out, the trout I coveted were in tight to the bank behind me.
I stalked those shallow water boys carefully, and took all three, including the fellow pictured above. Walking out after the hatch I was taken aback, then laughed as some overly intense guy ran up to me asking “was that YOUUU down on the SHADOWS?”
Wind and weather returned to an unfriendly status, and the bugs and risers vanished for two more days. Tuesday was my last day, cool and dry, with the wind finally laying down once more. I switched locations again, needing to get away from the crowd. I saw no Hendricksons that afternoon, though I did find four good fish daintily sipping along one favorite bank. The flies that had attracted their attention were Blue Quills initially, and later the upright spinners of the same little spring mayflies. I missed one trout, then had him come back and drown my second chance cast without taking it, but I was money on the others in that group. The little guy measured a full twenty inches, while his buddies taped out at twenty-one apiece. What a way to conclude my second round of Catskill springtime magic!