The holiday cheer has depleted, like many blow-up snowmen scattered across front yards everywhere. The cold has now settled in, just as part-timers settle into their pool chairs in …
The holiday cheer has depleted, like many blow-up snowmen scattered across front yards everywhere. The cold has now settled in, just as part-timers settle into their pool chairs in Florida.
January here in the Catskills.
Last month’s dreams of sugar plums dancing have given way to dreams of rising trout, turkeys gobbling on the roost, mayfly hatches and the fresh new foliage. Fall flashes before us briefly, but winter loves to linger.
I don’t wish to rush winter away. It creates the work of shoveling and fridged scurries to the car to warm it up and almost slipping on ice as you head back inside to the warmth of the kitchen. Yes, but more time squirrel-hunting as well, and to get back into ice fishing. Opportunities to fill the freezer with fish and small game and put boots to the snowy ground. Even with that said, during my walks around Narrowsburg, my mind is daydreaming of spring.
Fly fishing in the winter is enjoyable, but not nearly as fun for me as it is during the other remaining three seasons. Pausing to dry and warm hands, dodging ice chunks headed downstream in your direction, or even just having a warm enough day for there to be water to fish.
Despite the DEC’s changes in trout fishing regulations, I’m not going to be fishing the smaller tributaries. To give them the break they deserve. I won’t judge anyone who goes out and does so (unless you’re targeting spawning trout in redds; then you’re an ass) but it’s not for me. I wish to still have my own opening day and not fix something that isn’t broken.
I look forward to starting my own personal journey into fly-tying. I look forward to more conversations with my friend John Bonasera, known by many as Catskill John. I’ll often send him a text as my mind wanders to trout. A question or idea that is always met with an interesting and intelligent response. I’ve learned a vast amount of information from him, from the basic tips and ethics when I first started, to more skilled and advanced practices as I grew into the activity. Knowledge and history of tied flies, insect knowledge, history and memories of waters we enjoy spending time on. He has been an incredible help in this journey and the conversations are a great distraction from the howling winds outside my window.
In late May and early June of last year, the dry-fly fishing for me was incredible. I would rush home from work to get a workout in and shower up and before I knew it, I was back in the car with tunes blasting from the radio, ready to be back on the water. Waders on and gear’d up, I’d hit the stream and wait with eagerness for trout to start feeding on the surface on hatching mayflies. During a hatch of the green drakes, I was grinning from ear to ear, casting big flies to actively feeding trout; it was productive and meditative. Settling into a slow and peaceful casting stroke and being truly present in that ecosystem. You can get locked into tunnel vision sometimes, targeting a specific fish and finally, with that right cast and perfect presentation of your fly, it convinces that fish to eat it and the walls of that tunnel collapse and the rest of your senses explode with all of those beautiful surrounds that are there.
One evening it was becoming dark, and after catching a good amount of smaller fish, I watched a larger one start to feed on the surface on the opposite bank near some large boulders. Sipping away on easy meals the same way I enjoy sipping on Kentucky bourbon. After many casts to this fish, I just could not get it to eat my fly.
Fifteen minutes went by and my fly was no longer visible on the water. I was casting and hook-setting by faith now and not by sight. Then finally I set the hook on its rise and was ecstatic when I felt pressure from the end of my line. Then my reel went screaming as the fish took off. Finally, after a few minutes of playing the fish, I landed it in my net. A roughly 18-inch brown trout, with unique patterning to it: I recall the richness of the colors and the large dark spot at the base of the tail.
I admired the fish and took a video of the release, watching it swim off into the darkness. I stood up and noticed the moon shining brightly over the mountain on the opposite side of the water, then shining its beam on the bank as I stood there listening to the peepers echo their chants from all around me. I skipped and sang my way back to the Ford just like a young boy getting off the school bus after his first kiss.
I long for the days of warm. Creedence Clearwater Revival playing from a speaker on the porch, charcoal snapping from the grill and beers being cracked. Packed bars with standing room only, dancing with a woman you just met. Morning coffee in the yard under the sun and thought of barn cats waking up from warm beds of dry hay. The sound of an old screen door swinging, the good times at river clean-ups. As a child, I spent a lot of time walking the streams through the woods, either with a cane pole or a traditional rod, and now as an adult I’m still carrying on that tradition but with different tackle. Fly fishing will return and I’m more eager than ever. Sitting down to write about it and to replay memories after a January snowstorm feels warm and pleasant right now.
Brandon Kent lives in Narrowsburg, NY.
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