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The last green drake


August 21, 2013

Boyd Corners Reservoir is the uppermost New York City reservoir on what was once the West Branch of the Croton River. Its outlet flows for barely a half mile before it empties into West Branch Reservoir.

Barbara and I spent many happy hours learning how to fish with a fly on this short stretch of water. There, in 1950, I caught my first trout on a fly. That fish took a Brown Bivisible, which was the only dry fly I was capable of tying.

It was also on this water some years later that for the first time I deliberately released a trout that I had brought to my net. An article in Field & Stream by Ted Trueblood, urging fly fishers to release some of their trout, was the inspiration for that act. Trust me, it was not easy for me to do this. A 12-inch brown had socked a Light Tiger streamer fly early one June morning. After a strong flight, it lay in the cords of my net. I kept both net and fish submerged in shallow water. Part of me wanted to snap its neck, then proudly bring it home to show Barb. However, Trueblood’s words had made a strong impression upon me. I very slowly lowered the net into deeper water, enabling the trout to slip out over the wooden frame of the net and swim away. When we were young, Barb and I had eaten so many trout we should have sprouted fins and spots. Today I cannot recall the last time I killed a trout.

One June evening while fishing this water, I observed a large, lone mayfly flying back and forth over the stream. It was easy to identify this fly as being a Coffin Fly. A Coffin Fly is the sexually mature state of the Green Drake mayfly. This life stage of a mayfly is referred to by fly fishers as being a “spinner.” It was very rare to ever see a Green Drake fly on Boyd Corners Outlet. Green Drakes are burrowing mayflies. The substrate of the Boyd outlet was not conducive to the activities of burrowing insects. The chances of this spinner to find a mate were slim to none. I did not realize it at the time, but I was undoubtedly watching the last Green Drake ever to fly over Boyd Outlet.

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In the last week, the best fishing partner I have known has suddenly suffered a serious setback to her health. Even as you read this, we are packing our belongings in order to return to Texas. Barbara wishes to be treated by Dr. John Adams, an excellent oncologist, located in Arlington, TX. Our Catskill fly fishing adventures are over for this year. Once upon a time, I saw the last one of the Boyd Outlet Green Drakes. Now, until my fishing partner is strong enough to once again say, “Let’s go fishing,” this will be the last of the Complete Tangler columns.