Autumn Rain

Summer’s final day passed gently, in solitude and beauty. The fishing was mostly uneventful, though I enjoyed my time on the river as always. Walking slowly upriver at the end of the afternoon I luxuriated at the feeling of the sun on my shoulders, acknowledging in my thoughts that few such moments may remain in this fleeting season.

Autumn’s first winds blew some welcome rain into the Catskills before dawn this morning, and I listen to it’s patter on my roof as I write. Flies have been tied and fly lines cleaned before breakfast with a thought to tomorrow’s fishing, when I hope one of my best friends will emerge from his long respite and join me on the stream.

JA has a beautiful new bamboo rod to christen, lovingly completed some months ago, and I pray the Red Gods will smile upon him and bring a very memorable trout to hand to commemorate the occasion.

There is no doubt that the dry fly season is winding down as autumn comes nocking, though there are gifts bestowed upon anglers at this lovely if somewhat melancholy time of year. Insect hatches do occur as the leaves rush to color and then eventually fall, it is simply that they are even more ephemeral than in spring or summer.

Autumn low water at Cadosia Riff.

For me, summer departed in a quizzical manner, the phenomena my friends and I know as Mark Luck reaching a pinnacle in theory. Upon stepping into the river, I brushed some vegetation and dislodged a plump October Caddis. The big fellow plopped onto the water and fluttered, bringing a smile to my face. Though I know the species inhabits our Catskill rivers, I cannot recall ever seeing one that I could positively identify, and it was good to watch that one drop in to say hello.

I had two appropriate flies tucked into a small box in my vest and chose one of a pattern I have guarded closely for more than a decade. Understand that an October Caddis is a formidable fly, for it is tied on a big size ten dry fly hook, with large fluttering wings, a plump dubbed body and equally large hackle. My leader was freshly rigged for a 5X tippet. I knew I should have cut the leader back, retied a proper 4X point to deal with the air resistance of the fly, but I hate to waste the time and that expensive fluorocarbon material, so I didn’t. My four weight Maurer wand seemed to cast that big fly to distance with ease, so I accepted my choice rather smugly.

I was working the scene of a couple of dubious past encounters and honestly not expecting any response. At one point I cast long to lay my fly tight to the bank and lost it upon touchdown. I looked, squinted to employ my best eye, and nothing. I assumed the fly had sunk from the repeated immersion of stripping it back after long, downstream casts. While I was straining to find my fly on the water, I heard a solid plop, the rise of a very good fish. I caught the rise in the corner of my eye, much nearer to me than the bank I had cast to and well to my right. Upon retrieving my fly to cast to that fish, I instead retrieved an empty leader, the 5X tippet weakened by repeated casting of such a large, air resistant fly. I realized that the fly had separated from the tippet on its way to the bank and likely fallen into the nearer line of drift, resulting in that rise.

Now I cannot guarantee that things occurred as I have related, but there wasn’t anything else on the water eliciting rises from any trout, much less any big ones, and the timing upon my realization and consideration of the facts was perfect. Of course, I cast to the location of that rise multiple times after re-rigging, though not with my special October Caddis, my lone sample serving as his free lunch. I hope that trout enjoyed my untethered fly; so much so that he will eagerly accept another, the next time securely knotted to a 4X point!

Is he smiling with gratitude for the free lunch?

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