It was a tough week last week. Up at the crack of dawn, gear up, head out to the water, check the flows, the temps. Trudge out to some old reliable spots to see how the course of the streams may have changed over the winter and after spring runoff. Hike out to explore some new water. Hike and fish from sunup ‘til after dark, then drag myself back to camp where I can have a bit of dinner and a couple sips of whiskey next to the campfire. Crawl into my tent. Curl up in my warm bag. Then get up the next day and repeat the same grind. Fish and fish and fish. For five days straight.
These are the sacrifices that I make to keep this enterprise going. I gotta make sure I keep my skills sharp, right?
Do you know what that does to your shoulder? Casting a fly line for 8 hours plus every day? And then pulling in 18” rainbows and 20” brown trout? Of course, they’re all not that big (okay, a lot of them were), but the weather is a warming up and even the 14”-16” fish have a pretty good spring in their proverbial step right now. I won’t lie, I was pretty sore at the end of the week.
And the bugs. Don’t get me started on the bugs. March Browns, Gray Fox, Sulphurs, Golden Stones, Olives, Spinners. And Caddis everywhere. Tan Caddis, gray caddis, shad caddis. It’s like a buffet table for hungry trout in the Catskills right now. Sure, these guys don’t bite like the Adirondack black flies (or even land on you really), but you still have to figure out which one the rising brown on the opposite bank is eating. You might have to change flies a few times to catch it!
On day number one, I thought I’d lost my mojo, and that Greg and I were gonna have to get out of the guide business altogether. The first fish of the day was a 16” brown that grabbed a size 10 March Brown emerger, and I thought all was right in the world. But alas, the trout gods were not with me that day, and I only saw 3 other rising fish all day (caught 2 of them). That just isn’t gonna cut it.
But on day two, things turned around. Maybe my mojo wasn’t gone after all. Maybe I just needed a full 24 hours out of the city to harmonize my chi with the flows of the upper Delaware River watershed. After coffee, I walked into an old favorite spot and took my time. I watched the water. I looked for bugs in the air. I turned over rocks on the bank to identify underwater insects. Remember, this is hard work, people. Finally, eased, in tune, but nervous with anticipation and harboring the seeds of doubt from the day before, I began to cast. Slowly, close, methodically covering the water, calmly, not just racing to get my fly to where I thought the fish would mostly likely be. No more hurrying, just casting out the preconceptions and trying to be one with the water.
BANG! It might have been the third cast, the sixth, or the tenth, but it didn’t take long. Fish on, fast water, rod bent double, line screaming off the reel. Let him run, reel in, run, leap, reel in, bring fish to net, remove size 18 pheasant tail from corner of jaw of respectable size brown trout. Release unharmed. Relax for a moment. Check rig. Regroup. Cast again. Two steps downstream. BANG! 18” rainbow launches out of the water. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Dear reader, I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. In fact, I don’t really remember the rest of the details. I was back in the zone. Locked in. How many fish did I catch over the rest of the day and the next three? Couldn’t tell ya. But it was a lot, and there were some big ones.
After a week of some serious research and development, I can say with a great deal of confidence that barring some cataclysmic event, it looks like we’re gonna have a real good fishing season. But man, my shoulder is sore.