I fished the West and upper East branches of the Delaware every other day for two weeks, usually with Paul, who knows these waters better than I do, having lived in New York all his life. These waters are big and cold streams--converted to tailwaters years ago--with classic, abundant hatches and large fish. But wow, you can't imagine how difficult it can be until you've casted 12 different fly patterns to one rising fish for an hour without a single take. Of course presentation means a lot, but after making an entirely drift-free cast, you have to have the right fly in the right color in precisely the right size. And then the trout has already seen so many artificials, that it's attained an almost unbelievable level of discrimination. So I won't tell you about my daily take. Actually, the catching part was so unimportant compared to the rest that just being there was good enough.
Paul and I divided time between his half-mile of land on the East Branch--where we worked on pouring concrete for his pole barn--and flyfishing the West and Upper East branches. It had been so hot that the hatches were off and the fishing even more challenging than usual, even though the water temps vary from 48-the upper 50s on these upper branches. If you don't wear extra clothes, you'll be on the edge of hypothermia once the sun sets behind the mountains.
Here's two recollections that have nothing to do with catching fish, which I will remember far longer than the buttery browns that took our flies:
When Paul and I got into the truck, He told me that he'd met the French Canadian years back and had run into him from time to time. He said that he also knew of the man in the Town Car, and that he was in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimers. I knew then why Paul hadn't told the Canadian where the other man had disappeared to.
Hours later, and miles downstream, Paul and I headed toward a bridge that would take us to the parking lot where we'd left the truck. I was shivering and clumsy from wading the deep, swift waters, and I looked forward to making a sandwich on the tailgate of Paul's truck before driving back to Binghamton, where Paul lived. A fog hung over the riffles, creating a dreamlike effect. But not a fish was rising.
A man sat on the side of the stream below the bridge. It was, of all people, the Canadian holding a fine bamboo rod and a worn Bogdan reel, bedecked in well-worn waders, vest, and long-brimmed cap. I didn't recognize him at first, but then he turned and smiled his near-toothless smile and reported what we already knew--that nothing much was happening. He and Paul talked a few more minutes before we climbed the rocky slope where I'd fallen and bruised my elbows on the way down, and made our way across the bridge where the sandwich meat awaited us. As we stood, eating and talking about the day, the voice of the Canadian rose out of the twilight fog.
"Hey Binghamton! Will I see you on the river tomorrow? Will I see you soon?" Paul shouted back, "I will see you soon." But I knew that the three of us were thinking the same thing and treasuring the moment.