Since boyhood, I have always counted October as one of my favorites. Along with May, I annually prayed that I might be released from the chains of working responsibilities for just these two most glorious months of the sportsman’s year. Retirement has finally answered those prayers, and I am grateful for full enjoyment of the gifts of both spring and autumn.
October is the quieter time among these Catskill Mountains, the crowds of visitors dispelled, youngsters back to school. Oh yes, the occasional report of a shotgun echoes between the ridges, but it is a welcome sound to the sportsman, reinforcing his anticipation of luck as he wonders of another who has found it.
The rains of September have passed, and our rivers are low once more. Thankfully their water temperatures are ideal as the wild trout turn their attention to propagation of the species. With the expected early autumn upon us, I have seen signs of an early winter. Just over a week ago I heard one river guide suggest that anglers eschew the upper West Branch, as his sport had caught a brown trout that week that was “ready to dig” her spawning redds. Early in September’s final week I was surprised by the newly formed kype on the countenance of a special old male I had seduced to the fly. I have not seen these signs of spawning in past Septembers. Nature tells the trout when it is time for their business.
I wish the trout well as they tend to their tasks and will give the browns some rest that they might succeed to further the wonder of their kind.
I bade them farewell for a time just the other day, stalking quietly away to avoid the intrusion of a pair of noisy, careless anglers whose appearance nixed my plan for an afternoon of solitude. My patience was rewarded with a beautiful dark, bronze flanked prize, testing the cane of my Menscer Hollowbuilt! I released her gently and quickly with my wish for many healthy fry swimming up through the gravel next spring.
October weather can be as variable as spring, but everything looks promising just now. Pleasant days lie ahead, with cool nights to bring that welcome crispness to the morning air and keep the waning flow of the rivers cold and vibrant. That special time has come for morning walks in the grouse woods and afternoons on the Delaware! The rainbows in the big river should have all thoughts turned toward feeding opportunities prior to their winter movements to the spawning areas. They can be tough to find in the miles of wide, shallow flows, but the low water invites long walks along the graveled banks, searching prime areas with a jaunty Isonychia dry!
I shall not think of winter. It will come in it’s own time whether I am ready or not. I will keep my thoughts right here, focused upon the glories of October in the Catskills!
Hand-rubbed walnut and blued steel, or time polished varnish over amber cane and the soft mirror of worn nickel silver, all enhanced by the amber glow of autumn sunlight; these are the colors of the sportsman’s trappings. Lovely in their own way, each with a special meaning that speaks to our hearts, they cannot compete with Nature’s colors of the season, the forests’ sunlit canopy aflame! Our trappings are but accompaniments, artifacts that channel our bliss back to memory then beyond, to future dreams.