ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

Another Catskill fall

By TONY BONAVIST
Posted 10/21/20

Fall means different things to different people. Under normal conditions, fall means back to school for students and the beginning of another work year for teachers. Sadly, the virus has interrupted …

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ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

Another Catskill fall

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Fall means different things to different people. Under normal conditions, fall means back to school for students and the beginning of another work year for teachers. Sadly, the virus has interrupted that process all across this nation. Nevertheless, in the country, the leaves have turned or are turning. In the Catskill Mountains, leaves are ablaze with the reds, yellows and oranges of maples, ash and oaks that are rooted in the slopes. That means, for the folks that enjoy driving into the hills to gaze at fall colors, the pilgrimage has begun, with vehicles from all over the state. What better way to spend a glorious fall afternoon than driving the back roads, taking in the colors and stopping for a late lunch or early dinner at one of the many restaurants that dot the region? That’s what a lot of people do in fall.

But not fly fishers.

For us, as anglers, it’s a different time altogether. While we all enjoy the cool days and the beautiful foliage that fall brings, it is a sad and melancholy time for some. I know it is for me. All too soon, as October begins to fade, the trees are bare, all the leaves down. The rivers are quiet now; the hatches over with brook and brown trout on the move to their spawning grounds. Some of us, the die-hards, will fish on in those sections of rivers that have extended seasons. For them, it will mean bouncing nymphs along the bottom or swinging streamer flies through the slower runs. It is difficult fishing at this time of year for those anglers inclined to brave the cold, and perhaps some snow, to seek their quarry.

Those of us who have camps on the river will join friends by a campfire, grill some brats and burgers over the coals, and recap the fishing. My crew and I will reminisce about the season and our good friend who, at this time last year, stood here with us in fine fettle, holding court by the fire. He was a robust man, great fly tier, one of the Catskill’s best—a fine fisherman and companion. And now, one year later, almost to the day, his spirit has gone to be with the great river god in the sky. There, the flies always hatch and the trout always rise. We will miss him; I will miss him.

For me, as the shadows lengthen over the home pool and another trout season draws to a close, it is time for reflection. It is a sad time; my time to remember three old friends that I shared the camp and river with for so many seasons. Each fall, I can never close the camp for the last time without recalling all the years we spent at the Rivers Edge and at Peaceful Valley, where we stayed and fished through all those seasons.  Those were good years—carefree years, healthy years. The fishing was excellent, competition minimal. Almost every week during the season, once the river was fishable, we would all meet near Woodstock—Willie, Frank, Heidi and I—to begin the long drive to camp: Frank with his ever-present pipe, puffing away; Willie, a coffee in one hand a cigarette in the other; Heidi brought the food; I drove. I don’t know how many times we took that route, but it had to be hundreds. All three are gone now; I remain the last of the four. So, it is not an easy time for me, with memories of those three friends as another season ends.

 We’ll go to camp one last time—my two friends and I—and secure the trailer, check the home pool with more than a little sadness, then begin the long drive home. Rods will be cased a last time—little coffins until the next spring. Waders and vests will be hung on pegs, fly lines cleaned, reels stored in pouches. Soon the snow will fly, wind will rattle the shutters and we’ll hunker down for another Catskill winter. Just one more year in the history book of time.

Another season’s end.

Another Catskill fall.

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