The oncoming winter gave me a reprieve on Saturday and allowed me to go flyfishing on the upper Allegheny. The temperatures climbed into the thirties and the sun even shone for a while around midday. That’s when I stepped into the stream and faced the challenges: beyond me in the snow-kissed fields and on the wooded slopes were deer hunters; at my feet were the low clear headwaters and its wary trout; all around me was the wintry air that I hoped would not become uncomfortable.
I saw the fish right away. Among the pod of sizeable suckers were at least a few nice trout. I drifted an artificial egg (orange) among them and got a few looks but no takers. Upstream I got more rejections with the fly and with a small Egg-sucking Leech that I replaced it with. I changed the pattern colors with a chartreuse-colored egg and had an immediate strike. A hard-fighting rainbow. After another couple of hits on the green egg (fish that got away), I decided that today, at least, bright green was the favored flavor with these trout. An orange egg pattern might seem more natural to the human eye, and maybe orange is more successful through any given angling season, but here, at this moment, it seemed the fish were schooled in that famous book Green Eggs and Ham (Doc Seuss) and were willing to try new food.
I walked upstream on the snow-covered farm road then stopped to fish the Meadow Hole. Switching over to a streamer, I managed a few brief hook-ups, but the impact of a larger fly on this calm, clear water didn’t do much for the feelings of security among these fishes. I paused and watched the coming and going of the stream. I saw a rise form near the head of the pool, then another rise closer to the mid-section of the water. December hatch!
I couldn’t see the flies. Remembering the reports from Pine Creek that white midges often hatched in the cold November currents, I found the closest thing to a white midge in my fly box. But first I’d try a tiny #22 beadhead emerger. When that failed to produce, I tied on the #20 dry fly that had been chewed up several times by trout. I couldn’t tell what it was that I originally tied. It looked like a cross between a Trico and a spentwing caddis. Grey-bodied, with short white wings tied flat to the surface. If it once had a tail, it was missing. I tied the fly to a long, fresh tippet and a trout sipped it in on its first December cast.
The midge hatch was a short affair, sweet and unexpected. After the fly got a second and a third inspection, I brought it in, dried it off, then placed it on the water in front of me. It didn’t look like a “midge,” but who’s to say what a trout sees on the water. It was like a tiny smear of white jam, a one note emissary from a blues by Captain Beefheart: She serves me flowers and yams/ ‘N in the night when I’m full/ She brings me white jam/ ‘N I don’t know where I am…/ ‘N I don’t know where I am
Green eggs and white jam