When the weather finally turned irresistible for the craft of venturing into the stream-lined depths of mother nature, I got on the West Branch Genesee and, later, the main stem Genesee. There, among the hills and hollows of the dual-state watershed, I made my evening peace with the caddis fly. For three nights straight, I was ready for the Grannom fly (Brachycentrus americanus), and the hatches were spectacular.
The West Branch is typically narrow, rocky and alder-lined, but the dark gray caddis was fluttering moth-like from the surface, and the wild trout were punchy drunk with expectation. I was reeling in a small brook trout when I was saw the golden flash from a larger fish beneath it. Releasing the little fellow, I decided to try a Muddler Minnow for the bigger trout. Before I could tie the Muddler on completely, though, the wild fish, a lengthy brown, made an unsuccessful but gorgeous leap while chasing a Coffin Fly (Ephemera guttulata) that sailed low overhead.
This was the kind of stuff that passionate anglers live for, though I don’t know many who are willing to sacrifice their ease to fish this kind of brushy water to obtain its sweet reward. I abandoned the Muddler Minnow for an imitation of the Coffin Fly and quickly put the brown trout on the line.
On each night of the Grannom hatch, I was greeted by the Vreep! Vreep! shrieking of the great-crested flycatcher and the quieter, weepy notes of the alder and willow flycatchers as these songbirds posted nesting territories along the stream and took their share of hatching insects. A fly-fishing lover of birds could go bonkers in a place like this.
On the second night along this headwater stream I hooked and lost a large fish in addition to catching and releasing a lot of smaller brown and brook trout. The big one grabbed the drifting Grannom fly and fought me hard, flipping in all directions till it tangled line and leader in an undercut and freed the artificial from its lip. I like to think that specimen was 17 inches, plus.
The third night I was down below Genesee village where the headwater branches all converge to form the main stem of the river in New York. The Grannom was hatching by 6 p.m. and only intensified as night came on. As if gravity was giving up the ghost, the wild and stocked trout rose with the emerging insects.
Fishing the river with a nine-foot four-weight rod was calm and leisurely compared to nights of casting on the headwaters, but the Grannom fly, the songbirds, and the willing trout were equally exciting. In a day or two, this caddis hatch would be over, and the fishing would be downbeat for a while.
The Genesee angler will be happy if the fly box held a reasonable imitation of the caddis, or be frustrated by refusals if the imitations lacked a similarity in color, size and profile. Either way, the angler will be ready when another late spring season sends its dark gray caddis to the world beside this river.