Another day in the smoke; certainly such conditions would bear the blame for anything unsettling that might happen, now wouldn’t they? I admit there was a different feeling than I usually get out on a beautiful Catskill river. I slept just fine overnight, but awakened feeling tired from a long day under that strange orange glow on Tuesday.
It was chilly for June, though that is not a complaint, particularly with the rain starved condition of our freestone rivers and streams. I wore a long sleeved sun shirt and a fleeced hoodie, yet turned back to the car when I began my walk toward the river for the jacket I had left inside. If the smoky haze contributed to my slight feeling of malaise, the lack of sunshine added to it.
From a fishing perspective, the day began wonderfully. I was standing in the edge of the river when a good trout smashed something buggy in a windblown bubble line several feet off the far bank. I eased out to provide some clearance for a full backcast, while tying on a juicy Green Drake comparadun. I knew the tall CDC wing would move enticingly from the influence of the rippled water and wind. I made my first cast short, an old habit sustained since it allows me to check the drift of my fly before placing it on target. The smooth Hendrickson taper turned over all fifteen feet of leader pleasantly, and the long undersized 5X tippet let the big fly drift and bounce naturally. The money cast alighted right in the middle of that bubble line and the fly danced atop the wavelets. I relaxed a bit as it passed the location of the rise, though thankfully I didn’t give up on that extended drift.
He came for it like it was the only fly in the river, with a tremendous geyser of white water, then bore down with his prize. I didn’t so much as raise the rod as simply hold onto it, and the trout was hooked firmly. The little Adams reel sang playfully as it’s serpentine handle spun with his energy and my rod bowed deeply. This guy was energetic, leaping high above the windswept surface three times! He switched directions manically, bored for the bottom of the deeper portion of the pool, and put his focus into ravaging my light tackle. The rocky bottom offering no release, he vaulted into the air again, streaked straight away and then leaped once more.
The living arch of the cane won out. I had him close for several frantic switchback turns before he tired enough to be led into the net. With gorgeously bright golden and burnished yellow flanks, heavily spotted with black and red, nineteen inches of wild Catskill brown trout finally surrendered my sodden fly. I could not have asked for a better start to the day.
That memorable encounter should have let me shed the negative energy and made the most of my day, but the worn feeling returned and I let it affect my fishing.
There are days when we all reap the liabilities of our own humanity, our imperfections. When it comes to fly fishing, the Red Gods smile and gladly help us endure the trials of such days. I think of them as foible days.
I traded offerings with one intermittent riser over the course of a couple of hours, sitting on a log between sessions, then rising, wading over and making a few casts. This trout appeared to be moving, though it wasn’t clear whether he was making a little circuit along a small reach of riverbank, or swimming about the pool on a wide ranging hunt. There would be two rises, generally soft, and then he would demure for fifteen minutes or more. As the afternoon passed, there came a time when he seemed to have settled down to a single lie, sipping choice tidbits. I rose, approached again and worked him thoroughly this time, only to finally have him take my fly with an unexpectedly solid plunk. The pent-up tension of this long engagement gave way to a classic overreaction by way of a rapid, overzealous hookset that whisked the fly from his vicinity before he could eat it.
And so the day continued in similar vein: wind rippled waters, impinged drifts from casting in those gusty winds, and missed opportunities whenever my concentration lagged. There was a light hatch of sulfurs, and several roving trout took advantage of it. The currents were tricky by the nature of the river muses, and the breeze made them more so. I missed takes, snatched flies away, watched the refusals pile up when the wind behind me lengthened my casts more than intended and compromised my drifts. Whenever I sought to take a break and tie on a new tippet, the gusts would intensify and bow the tag ends of the fine material from my fingers and tangle my fly line around the gear on my vest. Each event became a little insult to my usual careful angling technique.
Suffice to say that I was more than tired of the game by the time it ended. That first wonderful sky arching trout was the highlight of the day, and I spent the rest of it paying my dues a hundredfold for those moments of enjoyment. If the smoke clears though, I’ll be back to it again today with a smile!