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Rivers so warm and brown they could be a latte

Tangled Lines

As we head into the end of August let us scrape off the mildew and assess the state of play for this fishing season.

We had approximately 80 kajillion inches of rain in July, which rendered the rivers and streams mostly unfishable. Also unboatable, and unanythingable except observation-from-a-prudent-and-respectful-distanceable.

August hasn’t been exactly arid, either. And we’re about to have a hurricane.

This was particularly annoying, as I had planned a Housatonic River smallmouth expedition with an actual boss fisherman who gets published in magazines.

I was aiming for the annual exercise in angling craziness, the White Fly Hatch.

The hatch deserves capital letters because it is rare and intense. Only a handful of rivers have this particular bug, which comes to life for two glorious weeks right around the beginning of August.

It’s an evening hatch, by which I mean it really gets going as it gets dark and the angler can’t see much. 

Housy anglers were way ahead of the rest of society on masks, by the way. Standard White Fly Hatch gear includes a mask so the angler doesn’t get a mouthful of Epheron leukon. (They are not tasty to humans.)

If you’re in a good spot, the hatch is thick. So thick it is commonly and accurately compared to being in a blizzard. With no pants on.

Every fish in the river goes crazy. And in a normal year, in the Housatonic, that means primarily smallmouth bass, as the trout are generally hiding out in witness protection due to the low flows and high water temperatures in the river, which they dislike.

But we needed a wadeable flow. Some water clarity would have been nice, too. But at the time the river looked like one of those cappafrappacino things they sell at Starbucks. 

The gent in question did turn up, and we did fish outside the Trout Management Area, and neither one of us did much. 

The white flies were out, but the smallies were not coming to the surface, for the white fly or anything else.

Last week, in a classic move, I decamped to the Catskills for a couple of days, only to find that it was — rainy! And the streams were — swollen and discolored!

It seemed that the only chance for cold, clear water was in the Delaware River system. So I drove around the Pepaction reservoir to Downsville, N.Y., and the East Branch of the Delaware, which is fed by cold-water releases from the reservoir.

The area by the covered bridge was deserted, except for a woman sitting in her car and pecking at her hand computer.

I suited up and waded in. Then I waded right back out. 

Silly me. If the water is 50 degrees, you really can’t wet wade.

I knew that perfectly well, and even brought waders.

I blame COVID-19 for this mental lapse. It couldn’t possibly be ordinary bullheadedness.

Anyhoo, I spent the day prowling around the East Branch, not even seeing any signs of fishiness until late afternoon when I managed a couple of small browns rising to Light Cahills.

In a debrief with an angler who knows the area well, I was informed that August on the Delaware system is strictly a dawn and dusk proposition.

OK. Now I know.

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