With no expectations, I headed out late this morning for another warm but misty encounter with the rivers of my heart. I am convinced that the season has exhausted it’s complement of mayflies, but I carry the Thomas & Thomas bamboo, the Hendrickson dry fly rod that accompanies me to greet the season each spring. If nothing else, the day was intended as a farewell tour of some particular haunts, a ride to visit various pools on various rivers, hoping against hope to find the ring of the rise. It is time to pay homage to those reaches of water where I find sweet solitude.
Our unusual weather pattern persists, with 62 degrees at dawn and a high of 64. Our river temperatures have been rising steadily for several days, and now mimic the perfection we hope for each spring. Our flows are low, typical for October, as the rain showers have been brief, enough to keep the day damp, with mist wraiths hanging atop the mountains, but doing nothing to increase the current.
The first stop proved my forgone conclusion: no flies and thus no rises, and it was with that resolve that I walked down to the second pool. No rod accompanied me, for I expected nothing, but my mood would change once my gaze studied the current. Retrieving my tackle, I waded in and knotted a tiny olive dun, assuming there were a few about to elicit the soft rise I had seen. I saw little on the water, but a ring here and then there told me there had to be something. The rises seemed to be singles, confirming there was no significant number of flies, so I continued on to position myself for the one good rise that drew me there for my farewell.
This pool has been the first visited in springtime, quite often surrendering some early evidence that the hatches were in que. When I spied one small mayfly flying past, I snipped my dun and replaced it with an emergent pattern one size larger. The smooth, effortless reach of the classic Hendrickson offered that fly to the next single riser in time to attract his interest, and I turned his bonus mayfly into a sting! That 16-inch trout bucked at the resistance of the cane and I enjoyed each moment until I twisted the fly from his jaw. No others would rise thereafter, whatever feeble hatch of flies having ended as quickly as it appeared. I changed the fly and probed the old favorite places anyway, building up to my bow of thanks and farewell until April returns.
I visited a handful of pools along several miles of river, visiting all but one which had it’s own crowd of hopeful anglers by Noon. No flies were encountered, no rises seen despite my wishful intentions. With a shower wetting me as I ducked into the car, I said my last goodbyes and drove on.
I found myself alone on my last reach of river for the day, the somber tones of autumn welcoming me to a mist laden pool. I stood for a while and watched, but there was nothing showing on the quiet surface save drifting leaves. I began with a twenty olive, and though there was no rise to cast to, a retrieve of my cast hooked one playful little brown. Come back to see me in a few years I thought, as I gently removed the hook.
I changed the little dun for a terrestrial, and then for an October Caddis, thinking I might attract one old fellow not yet drawn to the spawning gravel. My efforts proved fruitless.
There are times made for certain flies. A few days ago I had tied two 100-Year Duns to match an 18 Blue-winged olive, and I decided I would end my farewell tour with one of those patterns. An olive is a fly that should be around on such a day even if it isn’t. They are often the first and last mayflies of the season, and this season seemed wholly finished in my mind. I relaxed and waded slowly downstream, casting to lies remembered from dozens of years on this water.
From a distance, I had seen a pair of splashes along one stretch of bank, a good fish chasing minnows was my thought. an hour must have passed by the time I drew within casting range of that area, and I studied each raindrop that fell, dimpling the surface. When the ring appeared, there was no doubt that a good fish had found some morsel worth the effort. I lofted the line once more, lengthened it and let it unroll softly out there until the fly alighted. The answering wide, soft ring beside that shallow bank was magic!
Sometimes when we believe the end has come, we find something we did not expect, something like a deep throbbing bow in a lithe shaft of classic cane. I relished the gift, cherished each turn of the reel handle, each rasping note that escaped the old Hardy as that brownie resisted what was seemingly preordained. Less than a week until Halloween, the hatches finished for the year, and yet that trout and that little fly met in time and space as I said my farewell to another Catskill dry fly season.