ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

The last day

Posted 11/15/23

It was October 15, the last day of trout season in the Catskills. That was a few years before the implementation of the new trout stream regulations, which went into effect in 2021, and now allow …

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ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

The last day


It was October 15, the last day of trout season in the Catskills. That was a few years before the implementation of the new trout stream regulations, which went into effect in 2021, and now allow year-round fishing with a number of stipulations. Anyway, with a long winter looming, Roger and I decided to take one last trip to a favorite pool in the hope of finding some late-season olive mayflies and a few rising trout. 

We had fished this piece of water on a number of occasions in the past few years, with some very fine brown trout coming to net. I even landed a large rainbow just at dusk on one outing, that took me well into the backing twice. 

For October, this was a warm sunny day, with a light breeze coming upriver. Indian summer in the Catskills. There was a nice hatch of olive mayflies on the water. Roger decided to fish the head of the pool, where he once caught a four-pound brown. So that spot held fond memories and perhaps some expectations for him. 

I waded downriver, where a large streamside willow leaned over the water. A location where I almost always found a few good trout sipping flies right next to the bank. A difficult place to get a decent, drag-free float because the current next to the bank, where those wily trout always fed, was slower than the main flow. Then there was the low branch that made it difficult to place a fly accurately without snagging a low-lying limb. 

On the positive side, it was possible to wade fairly close to where the trout fed, because of the cover provided by the tree. 

Fishing this spot was never easy, but every once in a while, I would get it right. The fly would land accurately, without drag, a nose would appear and the fight would be on. I seldom caught more than one trout under that tree, but the few that were hooked and landed were in the 18-inch-to-20-inch range. 

Once there was a 24-inch female, during the Hendrickson hatch, which was by far the largest trout I ever caught on a dry fly. That fish made several long runs, and jumped twice before Roger had it in the net. 

So on this last fall day of fishing, Roger and I waited with anticipation for the first rises. The ever-present soft breeze caused a slight ripple on the water’s surface, the wavelets sparkling in the afternoon sunlight. The olive mayflies floated along unmolested, bobbing along on the little waves. 

The trout did not rise. There was just enough breeze to put the trout off their feed. I don’t know if the trout cannot see flies when the surface is disturbed by even a light wind; nevertheless, trout either stop rising with the slightest breeze or never start. That is especially true when small flies like olives are hatching. 

In contrast, trout will sometimes rise when the surface is affected by wind, if large flies like Hendricksons or March browns are on the water. Those large flies in windy conditions can bring vicious, slashing rises and big trout to the surface. 

Unfortunately for us, the breeze held steady, the flies continued to hatch, but no trout rose. We waited until the sun disappeared behind the mountains to the west, with the hope the breeze would die. That often occurs as nightfall approaches, but not on that day. 

So it was with more than a hint of sadness that we decided to call it a day and wade to shore, frequently looking over our shoulders, just in case the wind stopped. Once back at the car, rods cased, waders off, we reflected on the season. In summary, we agreed that it had been a good year on the river with excellent Hendrickson and pale evening dun hatches; several nice trout landed. At the same time, we both felt the beginning of the melancholy that descends on our group of anglers as another season comes to an end. It will be a long winter, with no fishing and several months before another Catskill spring and the trout rise again. A time to reflect; tie flies; invite friends to share a meal of pot roast, potato pancakes and gravy. 

To help pass the time, there will be lunches in Downsville and Andes to catch up. Then we’ll wait. 

I think that trip to the river with Roger on October 15 was the last time we fished together, because my good friend and fishing partner passed the following summer. Now there are just fond memories as another fellow angler that I shared many days on the river with, is gone from our little group. Roger makes two members, as another season ends, and age and time catch up.

trout season, catskills, fly, fishing, angling, last day


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