I parked 20 feet from an old black truck at a pull-off by the river. I began to pull on my waders when I saw two fishermen with rods and nets returning to their vehicle. Before I knew it, I heard the husky round-faced angler saying to his partner, “I know that guy from somewhere.”
Looking up, I finally recognized the speaker: Phil, Jr., along with his nephew Jake. Phil’s dad had been a fine companion whom I’d fished with on the Genesee, as well as on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc for a three-day outing some dozen years before.
“Oh yeah, Phil! How’s it going? I’m Walt… Franklin. It’s been years!”
“Yeah, it’s been a while, hasn’t it… Jake, remember Walt? He gave me those Griffith’s Gnats to save our day when we were out on the Willow that time. Dad was fishing downstream, near camp. The trout were fussy as hell, but the Gnats were what they wanted.”
“I remember now, ” I said. “A great visit with your family… So, any fish today?”
“There’s always a chance to find one. At times like these, especially when the weather’s nice, we’ll take it, right? Even without the stockers. Upstream, you might find a wild fish or two, and there’s often hatchery trout from Pennsylvania. But due to the virus, hatchery drivers aren’t distributing with their usual help from volunteers. Their buckets are getting emptied mostly at the bridges.
Fishing could be spotty this year. Still, whenever I fish down through this section, I think of you guys, especially of your dad. He sure loved the river and its wildlife. Loved to tie those soft-hackles and match them to the hatches. Loved to help out anybody who took an interest in the sport… He really had it down.”
“Definitely. He was good. And probably fishing right now. Up there, if you know what I mean… But since he died, I haven’t gotten out a lot…
Jake and I, well, we were laid off from our jobs last Friday. With this staying home and being distant, and all, we’ve been going crazy and just needed to be on the river.”
“Yeah, for sure… Economies are grinding to a halt; we’re making decisions left and right. Fatigue sets in, morally and physically, so there’s reason to be out here, aside from the typical enjoyment that we get.”
Those tiny gnats I happened to have on a June day long ago were floating in my thoughts. Those miniature #20 hooks, wrapped with peacock herl and grizzly hackle, rose there sympathetically. It wasn’t even April yet.