Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Flat

There's a nondescript span of river that has been something of a fish factory for as long as we've waded its currents. It's a genuinely special run that rarely sees a bug chucker; in all the years I've fished the Flat (yes ... capitalized, proper noun ... she's special enough to be given a name) I've only ever met one other angler there, and he was using spinning gear and moving too quickly to be particularly effective. The Flat is like the very ordinary friend of the most attractive woman at the party in that she's often ignored in favor of water that appears more promising. Like that plain looking woman, however, the Flat will pay off in droves if you just give her a little of the attention she so deserves.

The Flat is about as long as a soccer field, which - for those uninitiated heathens amongst us - stretches roughly 20 yards farther than an American football field. At the head is a short but powerful riffle; above that riffle is a very deep pool. Below the flat is another large pool, this one shallower and longer than its big brother at the head. We've caught fish - big fish - in both of these pools, but our efforts have always focused on the the flat water in between the two.

Imprinted on the parchment of my memory is the indelible impression of the first trout I ever saw rise on the Flat: a brown of some twenty-two inches. The fish first appeared in the pool below the run, but with relative quickness he worked his way to the tail end of the Flat, slurping hendrickson spinners as he went. Perched on a bank high above the water, I watched until I could no longer play the part of spectator. The fish swallowed my spent wing pattern on the first cast, and fifteen years later I still frequent the run looking for rising fish.

And even though the Flat's fish will crush stripped streamers - and I don't use the word "crush" euphemistically, the strikes are decidedly vicious - it is the dry fly fishing that brings us back. The best of the Flat's fish rise like they do nowhere else on the river, which means the Flat may be the river's best dry fly water.

Nose, back, tail ... Nose, back, tail ... Nose, back, tail.

The dance begins with the emergence of the season's first hendricksons, and generally continues unabated until the sulphurs begin to thin. I spend the better part of the winter chasing steelhead if only to help me get through to the spring and rising fish on the Flat. It is amazing - simply amazing - to think that I can be completely isolated from the world, and casting parachute emergers to large, wild brown trout, less than one hour from the capitol city of New York State.  

That's the thing about the river, and perhaps it's the same for any river. Each run is a galaxy, vast in its way but still only a very small part of the much greater universe. The Flat, the Falls, Converse, the Bends, Betsy's Run, Confluence, the Bridge, the Pullout, and Ballpark ... each run and pool, each riffle and each flat, has its own particular charm. We fish them all in their respective seasons because we've spent a lifetime learning those seasons.

And as the Flat's season reaches its height and hendricksons give way to sulphurs, I find myself thinking that there are much worse ways to spend a lifetime than by wrapping bits of fur onto bits of wire, standing waist deep in icy water flowing through a river bed that was carved by the last ice age, and watching fish rise out of their element and enter ours, to feast - however briefly - on the bounty provided by a river that so nourishes us both.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was an enjoyable post to read. Its great fun making a connection to a river with names and memories for a 'hook'. These things seem to help them take on life and meaning.
Sounds like an awesome place--"The Flat".