The Sulphur Hatch

Some things cannot be explained. They can be mentioned, but they cannot be communicated in a way so that the other person understands.

Take yesterday. I awoke at 2 am, left the house before 3 am, fished 14 hours, drove a total of 4.5 hours, and pulled into the garage at 9:30 pm, tired but happy. But, that’s fly fishing.

When I explain such a journey to fellow fly anglers, they’ll smile, nod, and hear the story. At the end, they’ll have a puzzled look and ask, “You mean, you didn’t stay for the night-time spinner fall?”

Should I recount such a fishing foray to a “civilian,” I will see the other person begin to look at me with wariness. So, I now refrain for the most part from explaining my fly-fishing outings, as I feel I am going through enough social distance.

But, oh what a day yesterday was. Fly anglers live for the bug hatches. As small larvae in the water sprout wings and fly into the air, they are vulnerable. The fish know this. For a period of 30 minutes to one hour, if you’re lucky, you will be at the right place at the right time when the bugs take flight. It is possible to guess the hatches, but it is impossible to time them precisely.

But, a quiet river and a long day in the sun may suddenly transform to an infinite flotilla of winged bugs, each of which looks like a tiny sailboat. And, fish will be all around, seemingly out of nowhere, rising and porpoising to feast.

And, yesterday, fortune was with me. I was there for a Sulphur hatch, that famed bug also known as Ephemerella invaria. Speaking the Latin name seems almost holy, and to fly anglers that bug almost is.

Eventually, the stars can align, and when you are tight to a fish and feel that jolt of something alive electrifying your fly rod, you no longer have sad thoughts about the coronavirus or how unarmed African Americans are killed unjustly, and you no longer have worries for our country and the health of your family and friends.

It is just you and the river as the day’s heat eases, and it gets harder to see your fly as the minutes tick by and the sun sets, and you are in a glorious setting in which rising fish appear as a sign of hope and life, almost miraculous and like a gift from God. “I’ve got you,” you almost feel God saying to you. “This will cheer you up.”

After an hour last night, the hatch stopped, the fish hunkered back down, and all was quiet, except for the sounds of two anglers casting. I fished next to Charlie, who guides at a famous river in NY, and here he was fishing on a day off.

Charlie and I had each pocketed three fish apiece during the hatch. It was a lot of work for just a few fish, but it was an epic dry-fly session, one full of challenges and joy. And, it was pressure fishing next to a guide!

As I eased back into our garage, I was both tired and happy. I had never before fished a robust evening hatch, and I now know what fly anglers are talking about. As a parent with an intense day job, I usually fish early so that I can get off the water early and be home in time for family dinner. So, I miss the summer evening dry-fly action.

But, now, with all of our children much older, I have the freedom to start to push the boundaries on occasion.

It’s very funny, but there are cycles to a year of fly fishing as well as to each day. Fish get active and then don’t. And, it’s the same with a fly angler’s life. There are years when you can fish as a young person. When children come, it gets hard. And, in my case, I fished only once a year for a long, long time. Then, children grow up, and you get your personal time back.

Seasons and cycles. Each has its own positives and negatives. As I add more decades to my life, I’m looking forward to more evening hatches like last night’s epic Sulphur action.

“What would you like to do on Father’s Day?” Mrs. T. asked me this morning. I thought about it for a while. Then, I said: “Nothing, really.” You see I am feeling very content after such a day of fishing. I will do some laundry, clean up my gear, and retie some flies. I’ll enjoy a quiet day at home with the family. I’ll likely take a guilt-free nap, too.

Mrs. T. always makes homemade cards for the family. Here is my Father’s Day card this year. I had a beagle as a boy. Seeing these dogs always makes me happy.

Family, fishing, and beagles. What else do you need?

A Happy Father’s Day to all….

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